My heart sank when I heard Mitt Romney's videotaped comments to a group of wealthy campaign donors. I had wanted to believe that he was a good, kind, spiritual man -- even though I disagree with his politics. I think Jesus' heart must have sunk, too, to hear such cold, condemning words from the lips of someone who professes to be a Christian. But apparently Romney prefers to just worship Jesus, rather than follow Him.
I understand. Every Christian knows it's much easier to worship than follow. It's easy to say "God bless America"; it's hard to go into the military and put your life on the line for her. It's easy to write checks to your church; it's hard to extend your generosity to the thousands of people whose jobs you outsourced. It's easy to help out friends and neighbors in times of need; it's hard to be compassionate to the millions of needy people you don't know personally. It's easy to act pious in public; it's hard to really be Christ-like when you're hanging out with your über-rich friends behind closed doors.
What would Jesus say? I'm not a biblical scholar, but I do know that Jesus has a lot to say about the poor, hungry and needy. Jesus tells me that I AM brother's keeper -- it is my job to help those who may have lost their way and ended up homeless, hopeless and poverty-stricken, no matter how they got there. Jesus tells me to judge not, lest I be judged -- it is my job to help others, not judge them as "victims" who refuse to take responsibility for their lives. Jesus tells me to love my neighbor as myself. And He doesn't just mean my literal neighbors; he means everyone. There is no doubt about Jesus' message when He says, "What you did not do for the least of these you did not do for me."
Jesus has strong words for those who profess to be men of faith but don't walk their talk. Consider Luke 11:37-52, notably verses 42-44:
"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it."
This last verse is especially harsh, basically saying that "anyone who comes into contact with you defiles himself just by your presence."*
Jesus offers explicit advice for those who aspire to power and leadership: He tells us that the meek shall inherit the earth -- it is a leader's job to be humble, not arrogant. Jesus tells us that those who seek to lead people must serve them. And Jesus cautions us against personal, ego-driven ambition: "What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?"
Alas, Mitt, the more you talk -- in public and in private -- the more we see who you really are. Makes me sad. I want to cry when I hear your cold, cruel comments about those who don't make enough money to pay income taxes -- the elderly, students, soldiers fighting overseas, the working poor, single-parent families, the long-term unemployed, the disabled. I think Jesus must be crying, too. Mitt, oh Mitt, have you learned nothing from all your years in church?
Years ago, when I was traveling in North Carolina on business, I noticed the marquee in front of a little white church, and its message has stuck with me ever since: "Those who deserve love least, need it the most." So I'm trying to love you, Mitt, I'm really trying -- even though you don't seem to love the 47 percent of Americans who need it the most.
I love you, Mitt, because Jesus tells me to love you as my brother -- but I'm praying you never make it to the White House.
*Special thanks to Brian Wendt for contributing the Bible verses from Luke.
BJ Gallagher is the author of 'If God Is Your Co-Pilot, Switch Seats' (Hampton Roads).