The Other Beatitudes

Like all of you, I have heard the beatitudes many times, and I am sick and tired of hearing it proclaimed. No one ever really pays attention to what it means. We like to hear it, but we seldom seem to make any of it truly matter. Instead, we who claim to be Christians, are often living by values other than those Jesus lived by and taught. When did we ever live our lives believing poverty and suffering as “the way” to happiness and prosperity? When have we preferred leaders whose passion for truth and compassion toward their neighbor was the high point of their political career? Why do we measure their character by their record on punishing criminals and their defense of gun rights instead of their record on peacemaking and their defense of human rights

I propose we revise and reconfigure the beatitudes, so they better reflect the values we already live by. That way, we might as well uphold in principle what we already abide by in reality. It appears Jesus got it all wrong, or his version is just impractical and impossible to implement. No, I have not gone insane. I am being cynical on purpose.

Blessed are the rich, for they can buy the kingdom of heaven at a discount price, sell it for a profit, and benefit from a tax cut on their capital gains.

Blessed are they who despise the poor and those who suffer, for peace of mind is but a click away on their TV remote control and radio dial.

Blessed are the arrogant, they can obtain what they want with intimidation and the use of force.

Blessed are they who disdain what is right and just, with outrageous bonuses, stock options and other financial perks they will be satisfied.

Blessed are they who show no mercy for society’s outcasts, they will be upheld as defenders of justice and of society’s highest moral values.

Blessed are the peddlers of indecency and obscenity, they will be held in high esteem, popularly acclaimed for their achievements, and grow rich with material wealth.

Blessed are the quick to embrace violence in response to conflict, who choose war, abortion and capital punishment, they will be hailed as patriots, defenders of women’s rights, and protectors of victims unable to defend themselves.

Blessed are they who scorn patient diplomacy, dialogue and restraint, they will be acclaimed as guardians of order and common sense.

Blessed are you when they praise you, extol you and honor you for advocating distrust and the politics of personal destruction in the name of faith and patriotism, rejoice and be glad, for the success of your efforts will bear abundant fruit in the next election cycle.

Jesus wasn’t being cynical when he taught the beatitudes. But his words strike to the core of our being. If we are serious about the beatitudes, we must witness to our convictions in our interaction with one another. Jesus shows us that God is concerned about how we treat one another, and God’s concern rises above economics, partisan politics and self-respect. The politics of God is the politics of the beatitudes. We are disciples of Jesus Christ, and our faith directs us to seek the greater good of all people with an eye to the values and principles that Jesus lived by and taught. These values fly in the face of many of society’s values. So when we stand before God to account for our lives, will Jesus be willing to identify us as one of his own? Or should we cling to the hope that our politics will gain us salvation?

from Sunday Homily (c) 30 January 2011

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