When Compassion Became Partisan Politics

Credit: New York Times / Redux / eyevine

A professed Christian Tweeted the following at me last night:two 

Bro, I respect you, but serious question: are you on the DNC payroll?

After I let him know that if he indeed respected me he probably wouldn’t have asked that “serious” question to begin with, he replied that he was concerned that I was just repeating “Democratic talking points.”

I asked him to think about why he felt that way, realizing that he’d fully exposed the problem in his initial 280 characters.

His comments were telling, because they illustrate exactly what has happened in America over the course of the Presidential campaign, the election, and the first two years of Trump’s Administration: Republicans have so lost the plot, that affirming anything remotely compassionate or decent now feels like a political stance against them. Empathy seems like an act of defiant resistance—and in many ways, it now is.

Advocating for sanctuary for refugees,
Protecting immigrants from Government harassment,
Marching for full equality for women,
Demanding affordable healthcare for every human being,
Opposing the proliferation of assault weapons,

Affirming religious freedom for all traditions,
Fighting the degradation of our planet and the gutting of our public schools,
Defending our Press so that it remains free,
Standing with LGBTQ students,
Championing the vulnerable, the sick, the poor—
These have somehow become partisan politics. And the simple reason is because the leaders of the Republican party (most of whom claim to be Christians), no longer care to be burdened by the heart of Jesus, the basic goodness he preached, or the people he poured out his life for.

And so his values now seem offensive,
his words are convicting,
his very life feels confrontational.
The extravagant love, overflowing compassion, and sacrificial generosity that marked him are foreign to their ears and threatening to their sensibilities.

My online critic further lamented my use of “partisan hashtags,” which again is revelatory:

Echoing #StillShePersisted, born on a night when white Republican men silenced a female Senator for attempting to the read the words of a black woman, in opposition to the Cabinet appointment of a white supremacist—became just partisan politics.

Boosting #TheResistance, a massive, worldwide movement against racism, bigotry, discrimination, abuse of power, and neglect of the vulnerable—was dismissed something out of the “DNC playbook,” (even as my very usage underscored its transcendence of such small things.)  

That either of these terms or the values behind them now feel like partisan politics to Republicans instead of a defense of the inherent value of all people, should be a red flag to those who are paying attention. It should be an alarm, warning them that things have gone sideways—especially to those folks who claim faith.

I’ve been a registered Independent since the first day I could vote. I’ve always seen the validity of both parties, and up until this year I’ve never written about a candidate or political party or called out a politician by name.

But these days everything has changed. Now, the faith I grew up with has been fully commandeered and bastardized, to the point where silence is simply not an option. And if speaking the very words of Jesus, if reiterating his compassion and generosity seem like partisan politics to those of you reading this who identify as Republicans—well maybe that’s a you problem. If someone aspiring to be a loving, empathetic human being, causes you discomfort—that should give you great pause. 

Maybe the truth is that equality, diversity, justice, and compassion are indeed now solely “Democratic talking points” because you have gone all-in with someone and something that Jesus would rightly be horrified by. Maybe you really no longer aspire to loving your neighbor as yourself. Maybe your expression of faith is lacking something essential—like the love of Christ. Perhaps the absence of decency and mercy in your midst have left him no choice but to head elsewhere, joining the religious of every tradition and the non-religious who together are affirming these things.

I really don’t concern myself with my beliefs being interpreted as a political statement. Jesus’ life was exactly that. It was a bold, relentless defense of the vulnerable, the poor, the hurting—the least. Non Christians understand this. They recognize that it was an unapologetic affirmation of the value of all people; not just the wealthy or the powerful or those of a single pigmentation or homeland. Honestly, how anyone labels it or who gets credit are too small of considerations. They’re a waste of my time.

Borders? Walls? Bans? Home raids? America first? Healthcare cancellation? Just where on earth or in Heaven or Hell is your Jesus in these things friend, because I believe practically speaking, he’s invisible. I don’t recognize him there. And I wonder just how speaking for anyone who is not white, cisgender, Christian, and American, became a threat to the GOP and a challenge to the professed party of Jesus? 

So yes, my dear Republican Christian friends, maybe homeless refugees and sick children and the working poor and black lives and fewer guns and universal healthcare are indeed now “Democratic talking points”.

And if they are, then you should take a long look in the mirror, let your knees hit the floor, and ask Jesus just why that is. Maybe some repentance is in order.

As for me: I know where my heart is, I know where my loyalties lay, and I know that I can sleep at night because I know that love is a nonpartisan decision and I am choosing it.

You can call it political all you want, but I know it’s the most spiritual declaration I’ve ever made. It is a declaration of Life.





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416 thoughts on “When Compassion Became Partisan Politics

  1. Can I have a show of hands of how many of you posting supportive comments have actually housed a refugee in your own home. Don’t you think setting the example yourselves would be a lot more honest than just vilifying people who want to be sure those that are coming across our borders are coming with honorable intentions. We have so many in our own country that need to be cared for, yet we want to bring in those from other countries and give then so much while we do a lousy job of caring for our own citizens. To say a person doesn’t have compassion because they are leery of others who have not experienced our culture and refuse to assimilate to our culture when they live here is naive. Go live in Feguson, MO and then preach to me about how compassionate you were to those you lived amongst. Set an example before your accuse others of not being compassionate.

    • You can ask that but please remember for some of us we are lucky to house ourselves. Some of us are living below the poverty level…. WAY BELOW the poverty level. Many of us don’t actually have a home to share. I’m staying with a friend because I cannot find a place to live that I can afford. $700 to SHARE a room is the going rate and after bills are paid there’s a mere $50 for food, medication and transportation to the Dr. Go ahead and assume that everyone who writes messages of support isn’t doing their part to help. You didn’t stop to think that not everyone is able to house themselves much less a refugee! And you should really do a bit of research and see just how much immigrants and refugees ADD to this country. They pay into taxes and yet don’t get a tax return. They pay into Social Security and will never see a penny of what they put into it. Crime is the same or even lower in communities where there are any immigrants. You’re sounding sanctimonious! What have you done to either help the poor in Feguson, MO? Have you housed either a refugee or an immigrant? Who said they don’t assimilate into society? That’s a bunch of bull. I can tell you’re listening and believing the lies you’re being spoon fed and asking for more lies as you gobble the lies down. It says so much about you that your angry at people who are upset that INNOCENT CHILDREN are being taken away from their parents some being taken thousands of miles away from their parents and the parents don’t know where their children are or when if ever they will be reunited. It seems you’re OK with that these children will SUFFER the rest of their lives from what is being done to them. So yeah go ahead be smug but why are YOU not upset over what is happening to these children?

    • I have not taken anyone in my home, but I have supported immigrants causes , given clothing, participated in setting up and donating to auctions to raise money for bail, rent, food for immigrants and their families. Donated to Native American causes-all here in MY COMMUNITY. I believe that the vast majority of immigrants are just like us and wish us no harm-after all, we get enough harm from our “own” people.

    • I have had many refugees in my home until they could get their bearings.. mostly Afghan refugees from the Russian invasion. I would gladly take more, of any nationality, but I haven’t got the physical stamina at nearly 80 and am helping several family members who have fallen on hard times.

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  3. The first question is, when did Christianity become all about pointing out the faults of others? Because when Jesus taught, he taught the exact opposite.

    It might make you feel like a “good” person to point out the sins of others. It might make you feel good when a bunch of people “like” what you say about them. Jesus said people will know his disciples by their love, not by their moral superiority.

  4. Like so much of what’s wrong with America, this rot began in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected. Jimmy Carter was an example of a true humanitarian, but Reagan was the face of what would eventually become American Christianity in the 21st century: a mixture of public piety and exaggerated flag-waving machismo.

    America’s big social problem right now is that compassion is seen as a form of weakness. Men who self-consciously describe themselves as “Real Men” always seem to feel that it’s manly to sneer with contempt at the weak, and people who need help could be described as weak.

  5. Compassion became partisan politics when we refuse to discuss the role of government. I m a centrist Democrat looking for some parsing out of proper and legal roles for our government and state and private institutions. First, if it’s not the role of government to be Jesus then whose role is it? The Church . Then someone has to MAKE the church do the compassion. What about separation of Church and State? You can’t cherry pick that when it’s convenient. It’s not the role of government to be the church. BUT the church isn’t doing compassion on a large enough scale. They’re busy spending their money on bigger and more beautiful structures tax exempt. So guess who it falls on to be Jesus because of the lax Christians;? The Feds. SOMEONE HAS to help, and it’s not even their legal or constitutional role.

  6. Why is caring a thing that only Snowflakes do? What the heck am I being called a Snowflake (Capital S) for? I am not sure why there is a fault in my version of Christianity .I remember hearing that there were different versions as a child. Back then, I was told that there were Methodists and Baptists. Later I heard about Catholics and Protestants fighting.Then , I heard from a dear Presbyterian friend that Baptists(Which we were at the time) were kind of judgemental. As I went to a Baptist College, I learned the horrible truth that Baptists can be judgemental.I became Presbyterian.Now, I hear that there is a divide in religions because of race.That was one of the reasons I left Baptists behind.I’m not sure how to fix the mistakes that people make. Most of the Republicans I knew growing up were Episcopalians , but there were some in the Presbyterian church. In our church politics was not supposed to matter.But, maybe it does.

  7. If it wasn’t such a heavy read. The content does burn the blood in my vains. The unbelievable cloak of comfort, disrespect and detachment that pins the public today, is all done face bent on an illuminated screen as the last period touch you feel a sense of completeness. Never having to face harsh advercities. But your shallow reportior will soon change when advercity digs into your vein.
    This is not you Sir that I’m pointing the finger at. It’s for the closeminded Neanderthals walking these streets.

  8. As an immigrant myself, albeit almost seventy years ago- a refugee child born during bombing raids by the Allies but blessedly welcomed into a DP camp in the American sector and later on to Canada (after my middle-aged father had to spend a year alone here digging ground for a dam so that his family could come over). I’m not whining- more loyal citizens than my parents and siblings never existed – but I find the first comment SO ironic. Why do the people who resist the arrival of immigrants because we don’t do enough for “our own” poor – or our indigenous peoples- then vote for leaders that don’t support any of that local compassion? Their legislation seems to have the purpose of putting more into deep, overflowing pockets and calling that “nationalism”.

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  10. Thank hou, Pastor John, for speaking out on behalf of those of us who have never forgotten Jesus’s teachings. The only good I can find in this awful mess of a planet (besides the like-minded folks who do indeed represent the Majority of humans) is the knowledge that God IS indeed watcbing, and He sees it ALL. Bless you.

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