By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER -- 'Tis the season for Christians to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We reflect on that manger scene more than 2,000 years ago, and we look with wonder on all that our faith and the grace of God has given us.
I join in the spirit of this season, but I also feel a sense of loneliness and sadness when I think about what modern day Christianity has proclaimed as the legacy of our Prince of Peace.
Since my husband and I appeared in Michael Moore’s ‘SiCKO’ this year, we have become even more aware of the inconsistencies between Christ’s message of love and healing and what is preached today in many, if not most, Protestant Christian churches in the U.S.
Pastors, including our own in a small Wesleyan church here in Colorado, pray for our troops and for those in war zones thousands of miles away (as well we should) but will not pray for this nation to care for its sick or its poor. Oh, yes, at Christmastime we may take up special offerings for the unfortunates among us, but we dare not talk about the greed and the profit-mongering that strips the weak of any regress or respect.
In the most conservative, right-wing churches, pastors openly pray about political issues, and the anti-abortion issue tops the list of those purported to be the will of God and his son, the Christ child. Apparently, God wants to protect the unborn American babies but cares not about an Iraqi or Afghani child or mother or father. And the Christ touted by this breed of modern Christian would just as soon allow the sick to die as ask each of us to care for one another or truly love one another, as the Bible taught me many years ago.
I have heard a message of universal and loving care for the sick preached in a church in North Carolina where the African American congregation knows more about hurt and suffering than most of my suburban neighbors can even imagine. But in my own church, we whisper about my participation in the movement to provide universal health care to all – we speak in hushed tones as though we fear the godly might learn of a leper in their midst.
But then I remember what a dear friend of ours preached in her church many years ago on Christmas Eve in 1993. We went to church services that evening to try to reconcile our hurt about a horrific crime in our neighborhood pizza parlor, where our young son Russell worked. Four of Russell’s co-workers were shot and killed and another seriously wounded by a disgruntled worker. Russell had just punched out and come home when the former employee staged his rampage. We were so grateful Russ was spared but struggled with the reasons why the others were not.
Mother Carolyn Davis, Episcopal priest, preached that night that Christ was not born into a perfect, sin-free world. No, she said, “Into this mess He was born.” And she said He came to bring hope and love and the message of true peace among all men and women. Into this mess, indeed.
So this year, I welcome my Christ, once again, into this mess where we seem to be so stuck on selfishness and vanity and greed and where we are often so certain that we are better than those who suffer. And I welcome Him again with hope for a brighter future where the principles of his love are not threatening but embraced in a nation and world so deeply in need of healing.
And, yes, I pray for the day when my church family returns to the true meaning of God’s message for all, where healing the sick and loving the poor is a sign of our strength and our love not of our neighbors’ weakness.
Merry Christmas to all my ‘SiCKO’ friends and family. And to my fellow Americans who know in their hearts and souls that we are better people than what we have been showing one another in recent years, I wish us all a more compassionate and a more prosperous new year. I believe the two ideas are forever intertwined, and as a Christian I believe we can share both with one another. In fact, I think that’s what my Christ hoped we would do – even for the least among us.