By Rep. Darrio Melton
In the past few weeks of the Alabama Legislature, we have heard debate on everything from reciting a government-written prayer to posting the Ten Commandments in public schools and on government property. The bills’ sponsors are calling it religious freedom. I’m calling it selective Christianity.
You see, we have debated school prayer and the Ten Commandments, but we have spent very little time discussing how we can make health care more accessible to all Alabamians. We have spent even less time discussing how to make sure that our neighbors are not going without food or shelter. We have spent hardly any time discussing how to bring new, better jobs to Alabama.
Many state legislators are willing to come to the microphone to support legislation that sounds good in a newspaper clipping, but they are seldom willing to come forward and support legislation that does the work we were instructed to do as Christians.
At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned us to “beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
But that’s not the only guidance Jesus gave us for how to live our lives as Christians. Jesus healed the sick and cured the lame without asking for their Blue Cross Card. Jesus fed the 5,000 without asking for a drug test or community service hours.
If our state legislators were truly Christians, they would follow Christ’s teachings. In John 14:12, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do.”
Late night comedian Stephen Colbert can even see the hypocrisy. “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it,” he said.
Legislators in Montgomery want you to know they are Christians by their resounding displays of religion, but you would never know their faith by the works they perform or the votes they cast.
In 1 John 3, we are warned against just this: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Jesus called us to love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. He told us whatever we do for the least among us, we have done for Him. He instructed us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
He never said anything about putting the Ten Commandments up at the DMV.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.