Remember the Beatitudes

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
 For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
 For they shall be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
 For they shall inherit the [a]earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
 For they shall be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful,
 For they shall obtain mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
 For they shall see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
 For they shall be called sons of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
 For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

—Matthew 5:1-12 (NKJV)

Kurt Vonnegut, an atheist and a humanist, is not someone I usually look to for religious views. He never showed disdain for those who sought the comfort of religion but instead acknowledged church associations as a type of extended family. Vonnegut proclaimed he was a “Christ-worshipping agnostic” and sometimes called himself a “Christ-loving atheist.” Vonnegut was an admirer of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, particularly the Beatitudes, and incorporated it into his principles. In his 2005 essay collection, A Man Without a Country, Vonnegut wrote:

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

Vonnegut has a very valid point. In 2003, Roy Moore, then Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice (for the first time), installed a 5,280-pound granite block monument (that broke the floor) of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building in the dead of night (done without the consent or knowledge of the eight associate justices and later caused him to be removed from office for the first of two times). Moore never mentioned the Beatitudes, the basis of Christ’s message, but instead focused on the Ten Commandments. Moore’s actions over the years clearly show that he does not follow the Beatitudes. He prefers media attention to faith. As Governor Kay Ivey’s spokeswoman said last week when asked about Moore filing a lawsuit against Ivey over the mask mandate in Alabama, “It appears this is another attempt to garner some press attention.” Moore is known more for his hate and outrageous statements and actions than for his devout Christianity, which he apparently does not possess.

The United States would be a better place if Christians followed the message of Jesus and did not pick and choose only from the sections of the Bible they want to follow and ignore those they deem inconvenient. Just as Trump supporters pick and choose what they want to believe about him and his policies, the conservative Christian Right picks and chooses what they want to follow of the Bible. Trump is doing the same thing with the Constitution. I have no idea where Trump gets inspiration and comfort, but I don’t believe it is the Bible, or he would be a very different person. He seems to lack all morals, and he is too erratic to have a foundation for his ever-changing belief.

In contrast, when Joe Biden seeks inspiration and comfort, he turns to his faith. His speeches are woven with references to God and biblical language. When Biden spoke to the faith-based anti-poverty group the Poor People’s Campaign, he described the United States under President Trump as a “nation in the wilderness.” Biden told the group, “All of you remind me of how Scripture describes a calling born out of the wilderness. A calling to serve, not to be served. A calling toward justice, healing, hope — not hate. To speak the good news and followed by some good deeds. It’s not just enough to speak the good news, but good deeds.”

This wasn’t a one-off religious reference; this is how Biden routinely speaks. He launched his candidacy by referring to his campaign as a “battle for the soul of the nation.” It was the central theme of his primary run and remains a core belief of his campaign. If elected, Biden would become only the second Catholic president in American history. It’s not a detail he highlights, but people who know him well say his Catholic faith is central to how he sees the world.

Biden carries a rosary in his pocket and attends Mass every Sunday, while Trump plays golf. Trump supporters dismiss Biden’s faith even though he is described by all who know him as a deeply devout person of faith. Ironically, even though we have a president who has shown no sign of being a Christian, especially a deeply devout one, Biden will likely lose the states in the Bible Belt. Biden has framed this election as a clear moral contrast between Trump and himself, but many of Trump’s supporters see Biden as amoral only because he is a Democrat. However, Biden is running perhaps the most overtly devout Democratic presidential campaign since Jimmy Carter in 1976. 

During Holy Week this past spring, the campaign released a video in which Biden spoke about faith seeing best in the dark, juxtaposed with images of the coronavirus pandemic. And when he delivered a eulogy for George Floyd and called for racial justice, he spoke of growing up with a Catholic social doctrine that taught him “faith without works is dead.”

Biden’s faith informs his values, and, in turn, his values shape his politics. Biden focuses on faith, rather than religious doctrine; he prays with voters, rather than proselytizes. And yet for some religious conservatives, all of that pales in comparison to the single issue of abortion. Trump has tried to portray Biden as a heathen. Last month the president attacked the Democratic nominee for being a man “against God.” And more broadly, Trump and his supporters have made religion a cultural issue, painting Democrats as the party against religious freedom. The struggle for Trump in defining Biden as a godless man is that Biden’s faith has been in public view for decades.

To heal the United States, we need a president that believes in the tenets of the Beatitudes. We need someone who believes “faith without works is dead.” James 2:14-17 says:

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

For four years, Trump has relentlessly pursued an economic agenda that rewards wealth over work and favors multinational corporations over small businesses. But middle-class Americans have been largely left out. Trump has not only refused to deliver for struggling working families; he is now pushing for another misguided tax giveaway for America’s wealthiest families. That’s the fundamental difference between Trump and Biden — Trump is focused on further enriching billionaires like himself, while Biden wakes up every day asking how he can help the middle and lower classes in America.

Biden cares about the weakest among us, those who are in the most danger. It is a moral failing and a national shame when children are separated from their parents and locked away in overcrowded detention centers, where the government seeks to keep them there indefinitely. It’s shameful when President Trump uses family separation as a weapon against desperate mothers, fathers, and children seeking safety and a better life. It’s disgraceful when children die while in custody due to a lack of adequate care. Trump has waged an unrelenting assault on our values and our history as a nation of immigrants. Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” This is a recurring theme for the ancient Hebrews. They were told to remember their treatment/enslavement by the Egyptians and not do the same for foreigners in their territory. 

Unless your ancestors were native to these shores, or forcibly enslaved and brought here as part of our original sin as a nation, most Americans can trace their family history back to a choice–a choice to leave behind everything that was familiar in search of new opportunities and a new life. Biden understands that is an irrefutable source of our strength, like the original, though unofficial, motto of the United States says, “E pluribus unum”—out of many, one. Generations of immigrants have come to this country with little more than the clothes on their backs, the hope in their hearts, and a desire to claim their piece of the American Dream. It’s why we have been continuously able to renew ourselves, grow better and stronger as a nation, and meet new challenges. Immigration is essential to who we are as a nation, our core values, and our aspirations for our future. Biden will assure that we never turn our backs on who we are or what makes us uniquely and proudly American. The United States deserves an immigration policy that reflects our highest values as a nation. 

The challenges we face will not be solved by a constitutionally dubious “national emergency” to build a wall, separate families, or deny asylum to people fleeing persecution and violence. Addressing the Trump-created humanitarian crisis at our border, bringing our nation together, reasserting our core values, and reforming our immigration system will require real leadership and real solutions. As Deuteronomy 10:18-19 says, “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” As the Hebrews were strangers in Egypt, so were all of us once strangers on this continent. We need someone who will fight for the justice deserved by the foreigners among us today.

Matthew 14:14 says, “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”  Jesus was the Great Physician. He was a healer and cared for people’s health, both physically and spiritually. In Luke 10:9, Jesus commands his disciples, “And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” We currently have an administration that is attempting to take away millions of Americans’ healthcare as they attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I won’t pretend that the ACA is perfect. It needs reforms, especially in healthcare costs and the control insurance companies have over treatments doctors prescribe to patients. However, we know that there are parts of the ACA that are vitally important. As president, Biden will protect the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes every effort to get rid of this historic law, including Republicans’ efforts and efforts by Democrats. Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance, he has a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate.

For Biden, this is personal. He believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they can access affordable, quality health care. He knows that no one in this country should have to lay in bed as I do at night staring at the ceiling wondering, “How am I going to pay for the treatment I so desperately need?” Biden knows there is no peace of mind if you cannot afford the care you need because of a pre-existing condition because you’ve reached a point where your health insurer says “no more,” or because you have to decide between putting food on the table and going to the doctor or filling a prescription. 

In Matthew 25:34-36, Jesus says, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’” We must help feed the poor among us. Eating well should be a right, not a privilege. We need a government that will help make nutritional and healthy foods affordable to all Americans. Biden believes Americans should have the ability to have secure housing and live in a safe community. Housing should be a right, not a privilege. Tens of millions of Americans spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing – leaving them with nowhere near enough money left over to meet other needs, from groceries to prescription drugs. Americans need someone who cares and who will help make the United States better for all.

Finally, Biden believes that every human being should be treated with respect and dignity and live without fear no matter who they are or who they love. During the Obama-Biden Administration, the United States made historic strides toward LGBTQ+ equality—from the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to Biden’s historic declaration in support of marriage equality on Meet the Press in 2012 to the unprecedented advancement of protections for LGBTQ+ Americans at the federal level. But this fight’s not over. Donald Trump and Mike Pence have given hate against LGBTQ+ individuals safe harbor and rolled back critical protections for the LGBTQ+ community. By blocking the ability of transgender individuals to openly serve their country, denying LGBTQ+ people access to critical health care, proposing policies allowing federally funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender people and federally funded adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples, and failing to address the epidemic of violence against transgender people—particularly transgender women of color—the Trump-Pence Administration has led a systematic effort to undo the progress President Obama and Vice President Biden made. With Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, the Religious Right is gloating over the possibility of taking away all of the gains made in LGBTQ+ rights. Brian Brown, a co-founder of the hate group National Organization for Marriage (NOM), said in an email that the Supreme Court nomination would “pave the way for the restoration of marriage to our laws and scrapping the illegitimate, anti-constitutional imposition of same-sex ‘marriage’ on the nation.” He went on to say:

It will mean that religious liberty will be restored to its rightful place as a foundational constitutional right, and that the fake “rights” that are constantly demanded by the left – including special rules for homosexuals and the so-called transgendered – will no longer see the light of day.

We need protection of our rights, not someone who will work hard to destroy our freedoms. Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett will be a disaster for our rights. Barrett is also a profoundly conservative thinker. Barrett makes clear that in matters of constitutional interpretation, she would not hesitate to overturn decisions with which she disagrees. On Barrett’s chopping block could be the right of same-sex couples to marry; the existence of affirmative action programs at colleges and universities; the constitutional protections against discrimination based on gender that Ginsburg made the center of her career; the Affordable Care Act, which she has publicly criticized; and environmental protections and other regulatory efforts enacted as part of the congressional power to oversee interstate commerce. Our rights as LGBTQ+ individuals depend on electing Biden as president.

Biden wants to bring about a better United States. Trump has worked for four years to divide this country and tear it down. Trump has ignored the duties of the president and has ignored the fundamental values of democracy and freedom. Biden will answer the call to be the kind of leader the United States needs in a president. He will be guided by his faith to take care of all Americans and bring greater equality to all. He will not use religion to oppress us. He will value democracy and freedom as he has for the past 50 years of service to this nation. We need a man who has faith. We need a man who has morals. We need a man who believes in the tenets of the Beatitudes. We need Joe Biden as president. Remember the Beatitudes in all you do, that includes when you vote in November.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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