Sunday 6th September 2015 - Discrimination Dressed Up
James 2:1-11, 14-17
James has often been called the "Practical Letter". It's a letter about doing. A letter which reminds us that the Christian Faith is about what we DO just as much as about what we believe. In his letter James writes about many things and today is no exception. He is writing about something we read in the papers and see on TV every day- discrimination. He uses the context of a wealthy man vs. a poor man coming into Church and how each might be treated. That example might not be so relevant to us but the subject certainly is.
Discrimination is really just choice. We choose hundreds of things every day. Some discrimination is proper. We need it for our safety and protection. If we drive to church, are we discriminating against public transport? Yes we are but that is a trivial case. If we advise our daughter not to go out with a man who has a reputation of being physically violent to the women in his life, are we being discriminating? Yes but with good reason. What about the bigger issues?
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
I have always been a preacher who says the pulpit is no place for political partisanship. I uphold that today because both major parties are equally culpable. I believe that the way this country treats those seeking asylum and are seeking refuge here is monstrous. On the one hand we have thousands of people from the UK and the Pacific Islands who overstay their visas and live here quite happily, although illegally, while those who risk their lives, give their life savings to people smugglers to escape the terrors in their own countries are treated worse than criminals. We need to be clear here. These people are NOT illegals.
The UN has declared the people have every right to seek refuge in another country if they are being persecuted or their life is in danger. That persecution might be religious, political, cultural or economic. They are NOT queue jumping because there is no queue.
Both parties use the excuse that we are saving many lives that would have been lost at sea. It is really a case of "out of sight, out of mind" . The life we condemn them to live on Manus Island or Nauru is not much better than what they left. If we have to persist with off-shore processing (which is a mis-noma because no-one is actually being processed) why don't we spend the money, process them within 2 years and then either welcome them to our country or send them back if they are not genuine refugees? We are now learning of the horrors of what is really going on in these places.
The Bible has a lot to say about the treatment of foreigners. There are many appropriate verses. Here are just a couple to get the gist of what the Scriptures teach.
Lev. 19:33-34 When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born.
Malachi 3:5 So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me, says the Lord Almighty.
Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Our discrimination against these people is, in my view, nothing short of shameful. Our Federal Government and Opposition, who both boast many Christians among their ranks, should take James' advice and put their faith before their politics.
The science for climate change is irrefutable. There is not one major scientific organisation in the world that doesn't believe the activities of humankind do not significantly add to global warming by producing far too much C02 that is warming our planet to dangerous levels. The burning of fossil fuels is the greatest contributor to these emissions.
Our PM is one of a small handful of world leaders who doesn't go along with this. He has been pressured into announcing Carbon reducing targets which are among the lowest in the OECD and is still a strong supporter of encouraging fossil fuel production while slashing support for renewable energy production. With our climate, Australia should be leading the world in wind and solar power. Denmark and Germany now produce over 50% of their power needs from renewable sources. It can and should be done.
We are told we are stewards of God's creation but attitudes like Australia's will permanently damage the planet for future generations. We are being unfaithful and disobedient Christians by acting this way towards our environment.
The Bible may not talk directly about Climate Change but it does lay down principles for believers to put into practice. I don't believe we have the right to say, "This is a Christian country so this is what the Government should do”. As Christians however, we believe that God has ordered the Creation and humankind in such a way that there are optimum settings or best choices we can make to maximise God's ordering of things. We do have a right to encourage our Government to look to these ways.
James concludes today’s reading by giving us all, Governments and peoples alike some sage advice: What good is it, my brothers if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can that faith save him? … faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead.
Surely a dead faith is no faith. That can never be our option. Amen.