Today, I was a guest speaker at a predominantly white United Methodist Church in one of the more prominent suburbs of Atlanta. After my allotted time, one of the members began to highlight some of the issues that we are having in America. This member mentioned that they were not able to retire because of her taxes going up due to America taking care of refugees and immigrants. She did not feel that it was “fair” that she was not able to retire because “she had to pay for their healthcare, their housing, and their schooling,” especially considering the fact that she had to pay for her own schooling and she didn’t go to a prominent school. Her words truly gave me pause and reflect on the belief I have that goes beyond privilege to a justification for ensuring that others are not entitled to have it better than her.
From a Christian viewpoint, this is very disturbing. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus clearly says that if you have done something for the least of humanity, consider yourself doing it for Him (Matthew 25:31-46). Our faith drives us to die to ourselves, daily. When people are hungry due to lack of food, homeless due to lack of shelter, or dying for any reason, why do we not feel sympathy? Why do we lack the empathy to care for those that are suffering, because we don’t feel that they are entitled to have the opportunity to have a better life than they currently have? You want to talk about fairness. Is it fair that the families that are living among rubble and devastation are not welcome in your home?
From the 15th century to present-day, those in power continue to invade the lands of and subjugate the Native Americans for their own personal gain. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the world stood by as America’s vibrant slave trade stripped Africa of millions of souls.During WWII, a very powerful man and his followers decided that a group of people did not have the right to exist and needed to be exterminated. There were many people that did not agree, but this is the same as disagreeing. Not agreeing with someone, coupled with inaction, is at best indifference, and worst case, complicity. Even today, gender privilege allows a white male to make crude and crass comments about women and it be dismissed. I think the saddest part is watching the women adopt the same dismissive attitude and defend this behavior as an isolated incident, in light of many other words and actions used by the same individual in the same vain. I don’t consider this distasteful just because I have a wife, a mother, and two daughters, but I am offended as a human being for all women. I think the excuse of this being “locker room banter” is disturbing on so many levels.
Entitlement and privilege go against the grain of followers of all the faiths that I am aware of. The four Noble Truths or Dharmas in Buddhism teaches the acknowledgment of suffering in the world and then provides the pathway for its followers to end suffering. The Hebrew word for justice is much more than what we define as justice. The origin of the meaning is based in the merciful and charitable justice that G-d shows us (Shoftim). Contrary to the stereotypes, Muslims are on the quest for peace with all of humanity and believe that killing one person is the equivalence of killing all of humanity (Quran, Surah 5:32). The Baha’i faith talks about the oneness of humanity. “Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. In another passage He hath proclaimed: It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 249.) And finally, the Christian faith, Jesus left us with two commandments. The first greatest commandment is to love the LORD with all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul (Matthew 22:36-40).
A common interfaith thread is the Golden Rule.
Peace and blessings upon you all.