Earlier this week a fellow News Virginian columnist talked about the need for Christian involvement in politics. The thrust however was the need for “conservative” Christianity. Huh? Are there competing Bibles, one written by Bill Buckley and another by Bernie Sanders? I hope not.

Earnest seekers of God’s forgiveness, and hope of salvation, want to be conformed to His will. They will seek the full truth of Scripture and not just the parts they agree with.

This week’s haunting picture of a young father, failing to keep himself and his 23 month old daughter safe, when seeking a better life for her, will live with me forever. And be a constant reminder of how Christians can be split on an issue that should unite all believers.

A lawyer presented a question to Jesus that was not of small importance: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In response Jesus shared a parable:

On a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho a man was beaten, robbed, stripped of his clothes, and left for dead. Two men, a priest and a Levite, though knowing of the Jewish obligation for compassion, crossed to the other side of the road to avoid the distressed man. Instead a Samaritan, one for whom the Jewish world would have had the lowest expectations, chose to do the extraordinary.

He gave immediate care, he moved the assault victim to a nearby inn where the man’s care was paid for in advance with a promise for reimbursement for any costs beyond the initial down payment. A loving, caring, man he surely was.

Jesus’ parable message was clear, “love your neighbor” without qualification and without delay. And His instruction to the lawyers just as unambiguous, “go and do likewise”.

In church I remember the congregation being asked: “who are you in these passages?” And then, “who do you want to be?” Still good questions.

But another question generated from that earlier column, and recent events, is this: Do “conservative” Christians inhibit or give cover to politicians who reject what I believe is a consistent part of the Gospel message: compassion without borders.

The deaths of Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter, Valeria in the Rio Grande, as they sought their own Jericho, cannot be ignored by loving Christians or even merely sentient humans. Trying to place blame on Democrats, the Samaritans for many today, is misplaced. I instead believe if blame is to be assigned, it needs to fall in some portion on “conservative” Christians who have enabled, if not demanded, we be as the priest and the Levite by walking away from a human suffering rather than addressing it.

A clear distinction of the difference, between a loving Christian leader and an uncaring man of wealth, was provided by Virginian Jerry Falwell Jr. Theologian Russell Moore had weighed in on the treatment of immigrant children in our government’s hands.

“The reports of the conditions for migrant children at the border should shock all of our consciences. Those created in the image of God should be treated with dignity and compassion, especially those seeking refuge from violence back home. We can do better than this.”

To which Falwell Jr. responded: “Who are you @drmoore? Have you ever made a payroll? What gives you authority to speak on any issue?”

I would offer that Dr. Moore has the right of a U. S. citizen and the authority of God’s written word to assert compassion for our neighbors. Calling for love and dignity for little ones is also directly from Christ: “suffer the little children to come unto me”.

When people believe their grand world standing has given them the authority to overrule Jesus’ spoken word, they have gotten too big for their britches. When “conservative” Christians see poor people as “bad hombres” and want to build walls instead of bridges, they are rejecting the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations”.

Who can the last and least look to, if not the richest nation in the world, for relief? If the country President Reagan called that “shining city on the hill” will not shine its light on desperately poor families, what’s the point?

Are Christians in rejecting universal, unqualified, love becoming salt without saltiness, good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot? Of course if one is wondering “how can it be made salty again?”, the constant Christian response, even after 2,000 years, is still this: love your neighbor as yourself.

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Tracy Pyles, a former chairman and member of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors who lives in Augusta County, is a columnist for The News Virginian. His column is published Sundays.

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