‘What role does faith play in your life, your public life and your private life?”
This was a question Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren was asked recently at CNN town hall. In her reply, she focused on Jesus, saying, “When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
“I was hungry and you gave me food,” she said. “I was thirsty and you gave me water. I was in prison and you visited me. I was naked and you clothed me.”
“That passage is not about you had a good thought and held onto it,” she said. Thoughts about “good things” are not enough, she said. “It does not say, you just didn’t hurt anybody, and that’s good enough. No. It says, you saw something wrong. You saw somebody who was thirsty. You saw somebody who was in prison. You saw their face. You saw somebody who was hungry, and it moved you to act. I believe we are called on to act.”
This means “there is God,” she said. “There is value in every single human being.”
Around the same time, Philadelphia archbishop Charles J. Chaput was speaking at the University of Mary in North Dakota, at their vocations jamboree. (They are old friends of mine there, and I am on their board of regents.) “Time is precious,” he said. “Time matters. It matters because we really have so little of it in any life, and if we misuse it, we never get it back. I’ll be 75 this year, so I’m old. Many of you here tonight are young. In a sense, I’m already the past. You’re the present. Time and experience separate us. But when we listen to and learn from each other, we make a future for the gospel by using our time well together in the world.”
We can’t be reminded enough of this, can we? Days go by so quickly, and how are we using the time?
Chaput also quoted C. S. Lewis describing Christianity as a “fighting religion” and explained: “Our weapons are very different from the hatred and violence of a battlefield, but the combat is just as real. Spiritual warfare has a long and biblically rooted tradition in Christian life because Satan is real, evil is real, and there’s no neutral ground in the struggle for the soul of the world. In the end, we’re either with God and for God, or we’re against him. We need to choose.”
Around the same time, too, I got into an Uber in Manhattan and somewhat mysteriously the driver delivered a discourse on angels and hell. “People are lying and cheating and stealing and murdering. It is evil, and it is everywhere.”
My Muslim cab driver named Mohammed continued: “The angels are everywhere too and only do what God wants. The angels are writing everything down. They are keeping a book. They have the record. God will be the judge. Everything you do matters to your going to heaven or to hell.”
“People do go to hell,” the driver continued. “People don’t want to talk about this. People don’t want to know this. We must talk about this. We must know this.”
This has everything to do with the early ongoing presidential season and our political lives. Because our political lives can’t be separated from our lives as a whole. There’s no other way to live that makes sense. And that’s why, yes, I can’t help but be stuck a wee bit on Elizabeth Warren saying that “there is value in every single human being.”
This is not a Democrat-versus-Republican thing. We all have our faults. This is a humanity thing. “There is value in every single human being” is a meditation for us all because there is more we all can be doing. And in a particular way we should be shaken right about now in alarm by the ongoing debates about third-term abortion and the survivors of abortion. Presidential candidates (Beto O’Rourke, the latest, as I write) look as though they are set to run with talking points about women making decisions for themselves and their bodies. We need to start honestly looking at the faces of children on sonograms and the adult survivors of botched abortion attempts who have survived. These are humans with value. And until we are honest about this — until politicians are brave enough to challenge the Planned Parenthood establishment that has a stranglehold in a particular way on the Democratic party — Warren’s words will be just words.
Don’t get me wrong, Republicans — the pro-life movement has miles to go, too. On adoption and foster care and helping women get on and stay on their feet. But it is the Democratic party that has, at times, waged war on women’s care centers and some of the other frontline helps to women and children. Democrats are being loyal to an ideology that simply doesn’t value all human lives. Right now, they are being fairly open about it in the abortion-survivors debate.
Elizabeth Warren and I probably agree on very little. But that passage stirs me, too. It makes me think about love, and it makes me think about hell and God’s judgment. If this were to be the presidential cycle during which we honestly thought about that, what a difference it could make.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.