Charity challenged and compassion deprived

Charity challenged and compassion deprived

Remember that pre-war account of the ocean liner leaving Nazi Germany with many Jewish passengers aboard, how they were fleeing a genocidal tyrant? Once at sea they thought they had escaped because they expected no trouble landing in some friendly port somewhere. It did not matter where. Certainly the famously hospitable United States would let them in. But port after port refused them entry. The countries were afraid of antagonizing Hitler. So, since self interest took over, the refugees had no option but to return weeks later to Germany and to the camps. We cannot understand how people in a civilized world could send innocent people to their deaths because they seemed to represent some kind of distant threat. It is reminiscent of the worshipful church community singing so loudly it produced not hymns but a group-scream to drown out the sound of the nearby trains taking people to the death camps.

Wonder no more. Self-interest just committed the same sin, again at the cost of human lives, when it did not have to happen. The national electorate of the United Kingdom voted 51.9 percent to exit the 28-nation European Union because Brits resented the thousands of Afghans, Syrians and Iraqis pouring into Europe in fear of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Television saw to it that no one could miss the human tragedy of refugees risking death on rafts and on foot. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed a million desperate people, British voters turned thumbs down on what would have been a few thousand. And many Europeans scorned Merkel because some of those refugees she welcomed could migrate to the other EU nations because of the EU open-border policy.

Right-wing populism said voters had to protect their own people even if at someone else’s expense. Cold hard thinking put money above life. Rigid selfishness triumphed the way 30 pieces of silver outweighed an innocent man’s life.

Why do we hear “liberalism” so mocked and jeered when right wing extremism so regularly executes innocent people because they cost too much? Even abortion, defended by many “liberals,” is actually a “conservative” goal since many unwanted pregnancies are unwanted because of their price.

I contend that God punishes by having the sinner taste the bitter fruit of what kills someone else. We witness our children rejecting our faith because they can see through the self-interest of our country club version of it, emasculated of the social concern that impassioned Jesus. We try, but we cannot drown out the vibrations of connectedness with suffering people who may or may not have the same color skin or passport, even as we stop our ears and eyes from their misery. With all our technological sophistication we find ourselves charity challenged, compassion deprived, uninterested in people who are different from us, not of our tribe. Yet we gasp at the cruelty of Hutu tribalism against the Tutsis of Rwanda.

The day after the stunning, unexpected Brexit vote, Britons started immediately to ask what they had done as markets worldwide tumbled. The media talked of a do-over vote. Parliament convened about it. But nothing happened. Within days the market indices hit all-time highs. The U.K. is just far enough away to allow us to be sanctimonious about those selfish, uncaring Brits and their coldness to people in real jeopardy. But we need to remove the log from our own eye to see about getting the speck out of someone else’s. We need to ask why we accept the rationale that calmly tolerates our U.S. homelessness and hunger and discriminatory hiring that we would not find in the U.K. But our national priorities are so different from theirs, with no moral compunction about lavishing two thirds of our discretionary federal budget every year since World War II on arms, with little left for left-leaning concerns. No wonder after every gun slaughter we regularly fail to enact gun control here in the compassion-deprived United States of A-massacre.