"It doesn't matter who I displease." Say what?
In Shelby County, Tennessee, a $400,000 grant for family planning services for the poor has been awarded to an organization other than Planned Parenthood for the first time in 35 years.
Instead, Christ Community Health Services, whose mission is "to provide quality services in the name of Jesus Christ," and who does not perform abortions or provide emergency contraception, will receive the funding.
Abortion politics and debates aside, what struck me from this story was a quote from one of the County Commissioners who voted on the decision, at a community debate between supporters both of Planned Parenthood and CCHS. In response to concerns about a Christian organization receiving the funding, which in turn would require non-Christians to receive services from a religious organization, Commissioner Terry Roland said:
"You know, you want to label me a religious terrorist but that's fine. As long as I please God, it doesn't matter who I displease."
This is the part of the article where I stopped and said, “Say WHAAAAAT?” (Picture it happening in this high pitched voice.)
Maybe it’s my background with the Jesuits and Ignatian spirituality that tripped me up here. According to Ignatian spirituality, finding God in all things “is rooted in our growing awareness that God can be found in every one, in every place and in everything. When we learn to pay more attention to God, we become more thankful and reverent, and through this we become more devoted to God, more deeply in love with our Creator.”
The attitude that the way your thoughts and actions affect others is somehow unrelated to pleasing God seems a little odd. To me, if you’re going around displeasing people left and right, you probably aren’t pleasing God very much in your blatant disregard for others. And what is this attitude really saying? That you can do whatever you want to whomever you want as long as in your mind you are pleasing God?
Jesus taught us to love our enemy (see Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27). This is not an easy message (as we’ve been reminded recently, Jesus’ message was challenging to those of his time, as it should still challenge us today). No one is perfect. It’s much easier to love those who love us in return. As we certainly see in today’s political climate, it’s much easier to agree with someone who shares your same political beliefs than engage in debate over differences while remaining civil.
Jesus’ words don’t mean that we’re going to (or that we have to) agree with everything that everyone says, but his message does mean that if we don’t, we are called to see God in others anyway and avoid breaking them down by disregarding or dismissing them.
As Thich Nhat Hanh says in Living Buddha, Living Christ (Riverhead Trade): “Loving God is loving the living beings we see and touch in our daily life. If we can love them, we can love God.”