POSTED ON JANUARY 25, 2012:
Love Letters/Hate Mail
I greatly appreciate Mr. Hamilton's "On the Cuspidor of a New Year" (UTW Dec. 29-Jan. 4). When Oklahoma's U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe decided to insult Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender military personnel last month, he must have thought "what a great CHRISTmas gift for my constituents." I am sure some Tulsans were pleased he picked on the gays. Perhaps he did it in honor of Jesus' birthday. Holidays are supposed to be about loving your neighbor, caring for the suffering among us, and doing random acts of kindness like paying off a stranger's layaway at Kmart.
So Mr. Hamilton focuses on the obvious result of Senator Inhofe's remarks. Everybody got hurt by his thoughtless words. No one was left out of the friction as community leaders scrambled to see what side they should pick and talk radio fueled the fire of bitterness and a city was divided. But the holidays are over and what came of Senator Inhofe's well placed Grench attempt to still the joy of the holidays? Thank you Mr. Hamilton for pointing out the value of diversity and inclusion, because the gays of Tulsa went on about their "agenda" (Inhofe's words, not mine).
The very week he insulted the gay community they raised thousands for needy Tulsans, served meals to the hungry, collected pet food for destitute pet owners, stocked a community food pantry, purchased presents for those on fixed incomes, and the next week they attended their houses of worship as multiple faith traditions were observed. The Dennis R. Neill Equality Center was opened every day in December and even hosted a New Years Eve Party for those in recovery from alcohol and drug abuse. The help line took calls from the isolated, abused, battered and suicidal. All of this was done during the holidays. All of this is done every day at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center. And all of this will be done in 2012 as the members of Oklahomans for Equality will continue to fulfill their mission to seek equal rights for all marginalized people and serve the citizens of Tulsa.
Truth In Packaging?
For many, it seems the terms "Christian" and "Conservative" are synonymous. But I continue to be struck by an apparent disconnect between the attitudes of many who call themselves both, and the actual teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. This was driven home again on Tuesday night (January 17) during the Republican Debate in South Carolina.
In discussing the appropriate Presidential response to America's perceived enemies, Newt Gingrich stated, "Andrew Jackson knew what to do with his enemies -- he killed them." (The fact that some of Jackson's "enemies" were likely the ancestors of many Oklahoma residents who count the Creek Nation in their heritage is a whole other discussion.) Gingrich's tough-guy statement received a raucous, enthusiastic cheer from a large section of the debate audience.
Gingrich no doubt considers himself a Christian, and given statements of support Gingrich has received from such conservative evangelical leaders as Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Atlanta minister Richard Lee (who called Gingrich "the only forceful Christian candidate who can at this point be elected and cleanse the White House next November") it is safe to assume that many of those cheering Gingrich also consider themselves Christian.
But to be a Christian is by definition to be a "follower" or "disciple" of Jesus Christ. And doesn't that then mean that the teachings of Christ - the things He actually said were important for his followers to know and to do -- will form the basis for their beliefs and actions? If Jesus said, "Here is the right attitude to have" or "This is the kind of action you need to take in this situation," then doesn't it make sense for those who say they are his followers to exhibit those attitudes in their speech and express them in their actions?
The words of Jesus recorded in the four New Testament books that chronicle his life on earth seem to make it pretty clear how his followers should feel and act toward anyone they consider their "enemy." And Christ's teachings differ markedly from the attitude expressed in Mr. Gingrich's invocation of Andrew Jackson:
"You have heard it said 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven."
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."
"So whatever you wish others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength and all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."
"Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword."
Killing your enemies seems to be conspicuously absent from Jesus' teachings.
Maybe Mr. Gingrich really is a follower of Christ. Maybe he doesn't really believe Jackson's approach is the best. Maybe he just said what he said for effect in Jackson's birth state. Maybe his cheering supporters don't really believe it either. Maybe they just were caught up in a moment of nationalist and political fervor.
Or maybe Gingrich and his friends are further proof that "Christian" and "Conservative" are often far from the same thing.
--Keith S. Francis
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