Thursday, July 28, 2011

Limiting Compassion

Thursday, July 28, 2011 -- Week of Proper 12, Year One
Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, and Henry Purcell, Composers, 1750, 1759, 1695
To read about our daily commemorations, go to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, 976)
Psalms [70], 71 (morning)      74 (evening)
2 Samuel 4:1-12
Acts 16:25-40
Mark 7:1-23

"For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.'  But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, 'Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban,' (that is, an offering to God) -- then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on.  And you do many things like this."  (Mark 7:9-13)

Corban is property dedicated to the Temple.  Some people have avoided their responsibility of financial support for their parents by dedicating their money and resources for the parents to religious purposes.  Jesus objected to that practice.

Jesus tends to be critical of abstract principles if they get in the way of practical compassion.  He doesn't like religious observance unshackled from generosity toward one's neighbor.  He sees our responsibility toward our neighbor as outweighing our piety, purity, or convenience.  He really wants people to do good toward each other, and he expects us to sacrifice to that end.  No excuses.  Even religious excuses.

I think of the story of the Good Samaritan.  The healing of the lepers and the other unclean figures -- the woman with an issue of blood, the Gerasene demoniac, the Cannanite woman's daughter, the Centurion's child.  Jesus touched and cared for the outsider and the unclean.  In doing so, he violated the teaching of scripture, especially as it was interpreted by religious tradition.

How do we use religious or abstract principles to ignore or marginalize people or to excuse our unwillingness to be responsible for their welfare?

For many religious people, women who have an unwanted pregnancy are unworthy of their compassion.  Some religious people regard people of other religions as outside their responsibility, except as objects of conversion.  Refugees or immigrants who cannot get papers are sometimes treated criminally.  Occasionally families will reject another family member for religious reasons.

I find it troubling that many legislators are using the debt ceiling as a wedge issue to attack and compromise our government programs that most significantly address our responsibilities to our elderly, our children, our poor, the sick and the ill. 

Jesus tended to run over excuses that rationalized greed or limited compassion.  Jesus taught that we are responsible for all other human beings, including those who are of another nation, race, or religion.  Any time we are mean in the name of God (or of country, or especially in the name of money), we are probably skating on thin moral ice in Jesus' world.



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Miriam Lonon said...

A Hindu friend once introduced me to the concept of "Mata, Pita, Guru, Deva". Mother, Father, Teacher, God. As he explained it, God wants nothing to do with you until you have fulfilled your obligation to your parents, and also your teacher, who is to be honored as a parent.

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is "using" it Lowell. Obama and Ried are using it to get past the elections and the republicans are using it to force some real change, you know that change that Obama lied about. And all those government programs are NOT for the poor, sick and ill. That is just a huge straw man.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Miriam -- that's a lovely Hindu custom. Thanks.

Greg (I'm assuming that's who "Anonymous" is) --
Let's be clear about what the debt ceiling is. The debt ceiling is a statutory limit on how much the federal government can borrow to pay its bills that it has already incurred or will reasonable owe in the near future. It is paying for past expanses, not future ones.

In the past 50 years, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 78 times -- 49 times under Republican presidents, 29 times under Democrats. President Reagan holds the record -- 17 raises of the debt ceiling during his term.

Traditionally, the minority party whines about overspending or undertaxing, then the debt ceiling is raised -- because we already owe the money, and not to do so is self-destructive (downright stupidly so).

Where did the debt and deficit come from? Mostly Republicans, especially George W. Bush. At the end of the Clinton presidency, we had an annual surplus of $86 billion.

Mr. Bush introduced new government policies of $5.07 trillion, and he cut taxes massively (most of those benefiting the wealthy). When President Obama became President, the budget office projected $1.2 trillion deficit for 2009 based on Mr. Bush's policies and the effects of recession. Mr. Obama's stimulus packages and other spending has added a total of $1.4 trillion (note- compared with Bush's $5.07) in additional spending -- BUT, most of that is temporary, one-time spending.

Look at the chart that will be published with my Sunday column in the paper, and you'll see -- the long-term deficit is caused by the Bush tax cuts, the war, and the recession (triggered by deregulation of the financial industries).

The people who caused the deficit and the debt ceiling are using it -- they want to dismantle the constructive things that government does -- Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, etc.

They need to humbly accept responsibility for having overspent their credit and pay the bills they accrued -- then let's have a conversation about reversing the disastrous and failed policies of the past decade.

At 12:45 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

A P.S. for Greg.

You are correct. Not all government programs that are being threatened are for the poor. Social Security and Medicare are for everyone -- no exceptions. Medicaid is 100% for the poor. Pell grants (which seem doomed) are income based, as are many programs that will be cut in the current proposals.

The wealthy have created an enormous debt and now they ask the poor disproportionately to pay it. That's what's happening.


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