I’m sitting here watching the funeral mass for Sen. Ted Kennedy and I am crying as the priest reads from Matthew 25.
In short, this passage from the New Testament is why I am a Democrat. I realize not everyone is Christian or religious or spiritual, but this passage transcends faith in my view. It really gets at the heart of the human condition and what it means to me to be Christian (and for me, what it means to be a Democrat).
In it, the Gospel author relays three parables told by Jesus. (For those not familiar, parables were the stories Jesus told to make a larger spiritual point.) Each story builds on the next, but in summary, Jesus is trying to tell us that we have a responsibility to make the world a better place for those less fortunate than ourselves. Christians call this building the Kingdom of God here on earth. Democrats call this helping the little guy.
The passage’s crescendo is in verse 40:
The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Sen. Kennedy, through his legislative actions, helped fulfill the promise of this passage. Indeed, Sen. Kennedy sought to build the Kingdom of God here on earth — he certainly took care of, “the least of these”.
His faith informed his his politics and his life.
Was he perfect? No.
None of us are. But did he strive to make the world a better place?
In his eulogy for the Senator, President Obama captured this theme. He said in part:
We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God’s plan for us.
What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings.
This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy.
I’ve had several conversations with church friends over the years about politics. Many of my church friends don’t share my politics, but they share my faith. Because of my faith and what Jesus asks believers to do for the least of these, I seek to have my country, through the officials I elect, to help the least of these.
For me, that means helping the poor, the uneducated, the imprisoned, the elderly, the handicapped, the less fortunate. It means protecting the environment. It means showing compassion to the downtrodden.
My church friends who are Republican don’t believe that’s the role of government. On a certain philosophical level, I agree with them, except that means that the faith community has to step up to help the least of these.
In the course of our country’s history, our faith community, which I love and am a big part of, has done many great things, but we haven’t take care of all of us.
Our government has done a better job at this. And for my fellow believers, I ask, if we have the ability, through our votes, to help the least of these as Jesus commanded, why wouldn’t we? Do you want to face God and tell Him why you didn’t support those who sought to help the least of these? I don’t.
Does that mean Democrats have all the answers or are the “Christian” party? Of course not. But given the choices before me on Election Day, I will always seek to support those who pass and promote and sign legislation which helps the, “least of these”. (Sometimes those folks are Republicans — in the Civil Rights movement, many were.)
But what does this mean for those who aren’t religious or who don’t share my faith?
At it’s very basic level, this philosophy — helping those less fortunate — helps all of us in our society. What kind of country do you believe we should strive to be? One where only a few have the benefits of education and healthcare and clean air and clean water? Or one where we all share in that? For that matter what kind of world do you want to live in? Imagine what we could accomplish if we shared our resources to help all of us.
Isn’t that worth pursuing? I think so.
That was Ted Kennedy’s view of the world and I share it.