Michelangelo detail

TO: Members of the Republican Caucus of the United States House of Representatives
FROM: The Almighty
RE: The Poor

Many of you are fond of invoking my name on behalf of your political causes, at times rather dubiously, so I know you know who I am. But after yesterday’s vote on cuts to the food stamp program, I can’t help but wonder if you’ve forgotten who I am and what I ask of those I’ve created.

Let me offer a few reminders.

You might ask Rep Jackie Speier if she’s read Ezekiel. Her comparison of congressional per diems with SNAP per diems matches how Ezekiel went after The Powers That Be in his day in Jerusalem.

Speier: “One member was given $127.41 a day for food on his trip to Argentina. He probably had a fair amount of steak. Another member was given $3,588 for food and lodging during a six-day trip to Russia. He probably drank a fair amount of vodka and probably even had some caviar. That particular member has 21,000 food stamp recipients in his district. One of those people on food stamps could live a year on what this congressman spent on food and lodging for six days.”

Ezekiel: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” (16:49)

I’d call $3,588 for six days “excess of food and prosperous ease.”

Maybe you should re-read what I told Zechariah, and pay particular attention to the part in bold:

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. (7:9-10)

Maybe you should recall what I told Moses about how he and his people were to live, telling them that as they ran their farms, they should do so with the poor in mind:

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:9-10)

Maybe you should recall the story Luke told about one of the days Jesus was dining with some of the powerful in the community.

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. . . . When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. (Luke 14:1, 7-13)

Or perhaps you should think about the song Mary sang when the angel told her she was going to bear a child. Speaking about me, she sang,

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.  (Luke 1:50-53)

For the record, I believe members of Congress fall into the category “powerful” and “rich.”

Let me close with a word about terrorism I understand you folks are very concerned about this, and I share that concern. Where we differ, however, is who we might affix with that label. Like you, I get communications from my constituents, and some of them are really powerful. Let me direct your attention to one I’ve published before (Psalm 10):

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor– let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.

For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart, those greedy for gain curse and renounce the LORD.
In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out”;
all their thoughts are, “There is no God.”
Their ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of their sight;
as for their foes, they scoff at them.
They think in their heart, “We shall not be moved; throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.”
Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under their tongues are mischief and iniquity.
They sit in ambush in the villages; in hiding places they murder the innocent.
Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert;
they lurk that they may seize the poor;
they seize the poor and drag them off in their net.
They stoop, they crouch, and the helpless fall by their might.
They think in their heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

Rise up, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed.
Why do the wicked renounce God, and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”?

But you do see!

Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers; seek out their wickedness until you find none.
The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations shall perish from his land.
O LORD, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart,
you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more.

My friends, I’ve seen what you did in cutting support for the poor and needy while trumpeting your own power and flaunting your wealth. You spend ever more for weapons of war, while cutting the scraps you give to the poor into but crumbs.

Maybe I’ve been too subtle for you, so let me be blunt:

I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.  (Amos 5:21-24)

Justice. Righteousness. These are the things that matter. And until you’ve got that straight, you can keep your pious prayers and sacred songs to yourselves. You’re obviously praying and singing to someone else, not me.