An Inaugural ReflectionDate: January 22, 2017 By: Fe Anam Avis
‘For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Matthew 25:35-36
Jesus was especially concerned for those who were desperate. He was particularly concerned for the ways that physical deprivation (hunger and thirst), illness, arrest, and isolation beat down the soul. It is significant that several of these, chronic illness, arrest, and isolation, often lead to suicidal desperation. Jesus could just as easily have said, “I was considering suicide, and you listened to me.”
With the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, this election cycle is over. It is time to turn our attention from the politics of that election, which have been divisive, to the needs of our community which is unifying, at least for those who follow Jesus. Ministering to the desperate is not an option, whether liberal or conservative.
So how are we doing with this call of Jesus?
If you are a progressive and believe the government has a larger role in caring for the desperate, you are failing. Since 1955, state resources committed to mental health have decreased from $262 billion (current) dollars to $31 billion, a drop of 88%. This incredible decrease has occurred across all administrations, Democratic and Republican alike.
If you are a conservative and believe that local communities, including faith communities, should be bearing more responsibility in caring for the desperate, you are failing. Nearly 50% of the members of faith communities are being impacted by suicidal desperation, but those needs are being ignored. Our research suggests that pastors are living in a bubble. Lay persons indicate that they are three times more likely than a pastor to encounter a person who is considering suicide. Another way of saying it is that a person who is considering suicide is three times more likely to tell a lay person than tell a pastor.
Whether you are a politically conservative disciple of Jesus or a politically progressive disciple of Jesus we all have one thing in common: we are failing to follow Jesus in this call to mend the brokenhearted. Church members admit this shameful realty: 37% of them indicate the church is basically going through the motions of religious activity.
The good news is that thousands of church leaders are beginning to exercise leadership to care for the most desperate among us. Among them are those who are rolling up their sleeves, attending a Soul Shop™, and leading their people to minister to all those impacted by suicidal desperation. The critical issue now is not whether we unify around supporting or opposing President Trump. The critical issue is whether we will unify around Jesus in caring for the desperate whatever the path we choose in doing so.
Anything less is an evasion of our divine calling, choking on the proverbial flea and swallowing a camel.