If American Evangelicals Could Learn Compassion

If compassion could be learned, I’d hold a weekly Compassion class for American Evangelicals.

I wouldn’t charge them a penny.
I wouldn’t try to up sell them exclusive content.
I would gladly give it all away without reservation.
There would be no hidden fees or prerequisites.

No one would be turned away.
Anyone wanting to learn to care, would be welcome there.

Lesson planning for the class would be an easy gig.
I wouldn’t need to generate a single piece of content.
The Compassion Curriculum’s already been prepared.
All I’d need to do was to provide it for them without adornment:

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matt 5:7

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.  Matt 5:42

 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  Matt 25:35-36

Love people the way you wish to be loved. Matthew 22:39

Proclaim good news to the poor. Proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind. Set the oppressed free. Luke 4:18

Have mercy on hurting people.  Luke 10:36-37

If compassion could be learned, every week we would gather to dwell upon these words, aspire to them, let them sink deeply into the marrow of who we are.

If compassion could be learned and empathy taught, and if American Christians gathered weekly around a clear, compelling call toward these things—they would surely find them, wouldn’t they?

You’d think that gentleness toward others would be almost involuntary after a while. They’d all have to become people helplessly burdened for the most vulnerable, for the hurting,
for those who have less than they do,
for those seeking sanctuary and refuge,
for the different and the outcast and the beleaguered.

It would be unavoidable wouldn’t it?

Eventually, they would surely learn to give a damn, wouldn’t they?

If compassion could be learned and if we gathered—American Evangelicals would undoubtedly leave the classroom every single week and run out into the world, passionately driven to notice and to love the least in their midst, because we’d prepared them well.

It would be indescribably beautiful how such people might alter the planet.

It’s a shame Bible Belt Christians don’t have an opportunity for such weekly education in how care about other people;
no compelling example to emulate,
no model of what a life of mercy and kindness looks like,
no way of figuring this out together.

Because if these Christians did have access to such resources,
and if they attended week after week, sometimes for decades,
and if after all that, they still emerged with contempt for the poor and for foreigners and for the hungry,
if they still feared people who looked different or worshiped differently or came from another country,
if they still resented those whose needs or challenges are greater than their own,
if they still harbored enmity for all but those who seem most like them,
we’d have to assume that either compassion could not be learned—or they simply did not want to learn it.

We would have to conclude that empathy is not teachable—or simply failed the test of we’d prepared them for.

Come to think of it, since Christians have been left with such clear instructions on how and why we should care about people, maybe the expectation was that we could learn this stuff;
that the heart could be taught to bleed on behalf of other people,
that selflessness was an attainable goal,
that other people were our responsibility,
that we could be moved to move toward suffering to alleviate it.

Maybe the expectation was, that this tangible mercy was actually the truest and only measurement of whether or not we’re worthy of the name Christian.

Either we can’t learn, or the teachers or the students are the problem.

I wonder who is failing here.

 

 

 

 

 

17 thoughts on “If American Evangelicals Could Learn Compassion

  1. Pingback: If Compassion Could Be Learned, I’d Teach American Christians – Appreciating This Complicated Life

  2. Thanks John. I’m glad compassion can be learned for i have been learning it. People like you help me to see my blind areas. Thank you for being you. Keep on giving. May God bless you in this season of your life.

  3. I think part of the issue is the lack of consequences for lack of compassion. How do we reverse this? We find out that American taxpayers pay millions of dollars in settlements for bad behavior by Congress. How in the world does that make sense? They can do bad things, the taxpayer pays, and their bad behavior is hidden from those who pay the price. That is obscene! Where are the consequences? I don’t care if they are Democrats or Republicans, male or female. No wonder they spend most of time working on donations instead of thinking about consequences their actions cause those they are supposed to serve.

    We elect men who have been accused by numerous women of bad behavior because of “whataboutitis” as if one person getting away with bad behavior makes it ok for others. Is that how we raise our children. Or, they use the Republican propaganda flag of abortion. The thing is screaming about abortion shows 0 compassion. It costs the screamer 0, especially when the screamer shows 0 compassion once that child is born, 0 compassion for the woman whose story they have no interest in, and 0 interest in the culpability of the sperm donor. It is a political arrow that the Republicans have used like true marksmen going for the kill. Political theater – especially when we know that at least one asked his piece on the side to abort a child he may have fathered. I wonder how many others say one thing and do another? Many on both sides – if what we are seeing now is any indication.

    For all those who honestly believe that wealthy and powerful people would never do bad things – please stop extending a grace that many have shown us they do not deserve. They live on a different planet and few understand how most Americans live their daily life raising their children without nannies, worrying about getting a job or losing a job, worrying about being attacked for who they are or what color they are, worrying about making that house payment or rent payment or putting food on the table, or losing everything if they have because of a major medical issue, cleaning their own toilets and scrubbing their own sinks. That would take compassion for others.

    Those of us who voted for Clinton have felt the consequences for 30 years. The Clintons have been in the news all that time, millions of tax payer dollars have been spent to go after them. Our President has used them as part of his bully tactics for years and seems to have accomplished doing almost all of the things himself he was so vocal in condemning in others. Also, who knew just denying things while polishing your halo and calling numerous women liars gets you 0 consequences for conservatives – you know the party of family values.

    We know no man can have an abortion and no woman can display their penis or rub it on anyone. Yet who pays the consequences for those acts and receives 0 compassion from many.

  4. As American Christians we pay taxes so our government can go overseas and kill other people. I’m not sure where it says Jesus would be ‘okay’ with that. We still do it. We have for over 200 years.

    We pay for prisons and the people who put people in those prisons. Where does it say Jesus is ‘okay’ with us imprisoning our fellow man for drinking underage, or smoking a blunt?

    We pay for the defense of our borders which includes telling outsiders they are not welcome in our country except under special circumstances and we’ve been doing it for a damn long time.

    See, American Christians understand our government is empowered to do decidedly un-Christian things to keep us safe and our society orderly because we are created from a series of compromises called the Social Contract.

    As an example, you are not allowed to give away a room in my house to a family in need … even if I have a spare room and you don’t. It isn’t yours to give and things such as property rights are something American Christians understand.

    Some American Christians want our government to do more for those who have less. Other American Christians would rather the individual do God’s Work, not the State … because the State is inheritly non-Christian and created by compromise, not Christian dogma, or doctrine.

    That means the State cannot simply give away that spare room in my house either to that family in need. They have to respect my property rights as well (baring wackiness like Eminent Domain). In turn, that means God is relying on ME to give that spare room to that family in need and no one else. Thus I have to decide to obey Christian doctrine, or not … not you, or the State.

    **

    Then there is the matter of making the State do something it wasn’t created to do ~ public charity.

    Disaster relief – yeah, sure as the overall economic welfare crippled by the disaster is often something only a Federal government can address.

    Public health – absolutely as such things can cross state borders very rapidly.

    National Defense – says so in the Constitution.

    Kindness and Compassion – … those are distinctly human virtues and belong in strictly personal endeavors. My Daughter (16) just started working with Habitat for Humanity with no urging from me, or my wife, and I couldn’t be more proud.

    **

    To me, the darkest part of this post is the ‘My Way, or the Highway’ mentality toward Christian virtue.

    To be a truly Godly person you should give everything away to those in need – there are plenty out there. Hold nothing back. Be the example for others to measure themselves by.

    How that matches up with your obligations to the rest of your family ~ I don’t know.

    Anyway, if your not giving your all, how much are you holding back? Are you giving your tithe? What if your household expenses make it impossible to pay even 10% of what you bring in ~ are you now no longer truly Christian … because you refuse to give up things like … electricity … or heating oil?

    Once upon a time ~ not so long ago ~ we accepted people were giving what they could, had reasons for not giving more, and didn’t measure them against one another in some effort to shame, or silence them.

    I honestly don’t give a damn about those people who go to those gold-plated Mega-Churches. That’s between them, their pastor and God.
    I don’t care if someone thinks abortion is murder and I’m not a Christian for supporting a woman’s choice. They aren’t Jesus/the Holy Ghost/God Almighty so they don’t get to make that call either.

    I am an American Christian because I say so and I have made my peace with Jesus Christ and accepted his Message.

    I also find this charity/piety-shaming really rather sad.

    • Giving to charities and volunteering to work for them are great things, but all they can do is small compared with the need, so Government needs to make up the shortfall.

      I heard of a multi-millionaire who said that he should pay more in taxes to help those in need. As a result, people would tell him, “OK, just give that money to charity instead.” In fact, we was already doing that, but he pointed out that the other multi-millionaires he knew were not so generous; and that they only way to provide the needed help was by taxation.

      Also, some employers pay such low wages that employees are forced to accept Government assistance to make ends meet. A solution would be to enact a living minimum wage; but in the absence of that, there’s no alternative to Welfare to make up the difference.

      Bottom line: People are not generous enough to substitute charity for Government assistance.

      But someone will say, “Those people are just lazy scroungers. They don’t deserve Welfare at the expense of decent, hard-working folk. Leave my money alone.” Well, then, I guess we should shut down all the charities, too.

  5. This is what I know to be true , love is the way, or you can say compassion is the way. If these so called American Christian do not know this, then they are not following Christ and they are not Christians at all, but perhaps a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  6. Of course, we Christians do, theoretically, attend such a classroom every week where, theoretically, such is the curricula we are taught over the years.

    Either someone is choosing to teach a different subject matter or there are those who refuse to learn it.

    It always comes down to choice because God created us with free will. We can choose to hear God’s Spirit or we can choose to block the Spirit.

    I know the choice I make for myself is to hear God’s Spirit and I freely admit that there are times when due to circumstances that seem as if they justify it to me, I have blocked that still, small voice. I also freely admit that I am always wrong when I do this.

    The Bible teaches us that it is always wrong for all of us who bear the name “Christ” to block it. Sadly, too many of us do.

  7. I have some compassion:

    “Hi President Trump. I’m Robert Mueller. I know who you are, and I saw what you did. I am coming after you—and your little dog too.”

    Now that’s compassion on a grand scale!!!!!!

  8. I agree John. But do you know where this teaching would end? It would end with the first asshole who raises his hand and says:

    “Before this goes too far, we need to establish a list of criteria for sorting out who DESERVES compassion and who DOES NOT DESERVE compassion.”

    Unfortunately, I saw this play out in my high school years ago. Our principal (now deceased) was a devout Southern Baptist. Vanderbilt University developed a program that allowed economically disadvantaged high school students to become college students early before graduation from high school. The selection committee chose a young black student. The principal threw a fit about it. Why? There were many other disadvantaged white students who DESERVED to gain early admittance to Vanderbilt. That was the word he was reported to have used—DESERVE.

    I would choose to change what you have written by using the term “Unqualified Compassion.” Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus or anyone else in high Christian position dole out various forms of compassion based on who DESERVES it or by any other sort of “means test” or “qualification criteria.” Why is that? I think it is because compassion comes from a heart that loves based only on what it sees and senses—-and is by its very nature spontaneous from within—one heart to another heart. That is how love and compassion work.

    • You make many good points, but my much simpler response would be that John need not change the term to “unqualified compassion” because while true compassion may lead to different results in different situations, it is never qualified.

  9. As a Christian, I have learned through the teachings of Christ, that we are not to be the judge of others. It is not up to us to make laws restricting abortions or birth control to others. We should not treat fellow human beings, who are also gods children, any differently. “Do in to others as you would have them do unto you!”Not all people think as we do, but is up to God to be the judge not us!
    “ He who is without sin cast the first stone. “

  10. Great list above , but what makes a christian is
    Commitment, loyalty, Trust in , Belief , Faith in the saving grace and need for it .
    This is Jesus Christ Followers
    NOT Church Goers
    as I believe , trust , follow Jesus Christ I grow in the knowledge, grace, humility of his grace
    This is not so in Church.
    Churched is not the same a True Believer
    Dont get the the 2 confused
    Not all who say Lord , Lord are true followers of Christ
    Love not the world or the thing s of the world , for you can only serve on master , either GOD or MONEY
    That is why The bible is clear about what a christian is.
    NOT churched
    Follower of the Bible, Truth, Holy Scriptures
    Living a Life of Holiness and being at peace with all mankind , not following them. Not doing the sin they do , not following false lies, deception , and unholy living.
    YOU have to choose for YOUR self who , what, why you follow who you do.
    Choose YOU this Day whom you will serve.
    God or Money
    God or man
    God or religeon
    God or positions
    God or Politicians
    YOUR choice , Make it count , as you dont know when you will die, and have to give account for every thought, actions, deed, you do.

  11. In a new stunning act of compassion by a Republican plutocrat, Chuck Grassley, long serving Senator from Iowa, has shared the secret of why all of us who are not multi millionaires have failed in our adoration of the money God. Who knew the maybe 2 glasses of wine I enjoy a year and the maybe 2 movies I go to a year, along with the what I like to call “my cheap but tasteful it’s the thought that counts” birthday and Christmas gifts I buy for my best friend, my daughters-in-laws, and my granddaughters is what has held me back all this time? This info is too late in the game for me. Before this we were told that it is because we are stupid or lazy or both.

    And I can never forget the wise words of George Bush Senior after his recession had lingered so long – I am paraphrasing – What is the matter with you people. Spend your money. That is the only way you get out of a recession. – A recession where our family went from a 2 person income to a 1/2 of 1 person income. I will not bore you with the soul crushing details.

    I am among the “takers” (another Republican jewel) who partakes of Social Security and Medicare. I am also among those millions who live on less than $75,000 a year. Maybe we should just hope to meet our maker before the eight years are up. With the rising costs of health care and future tax increases that just might be the straw that breaks our back. I am a saver and I do not have debt and have always tried to live on a strict budget. I just never had the surplus money to invest in someone else (which includes the working class) doing something else, somewhere else and sit back and enjoy the results of increased profit margins. Any increase in wages has always been followed by an increase of the costs of products. We are all stuck on a life long hamster wheel.

    The compassion just trickles down just like the Republican’s 30 pieces of silver.

    The Republicans really need to change the words pro life to pro fetus because while the fetus is sacrosanct, teenage girls and women are fair game to any conservative creeper. From Bill O’Reilly to Donald Trump to Roy Moore, any woman who dares call out bad behavior of a “conservative” are all big fat liars while accusations of those not considered conservative are met with glee and outrage.

    As you can tell I am not really feeling peaceful right now, but I will always pray that you are.

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