If you were told by your doctor to lose weight, you’d likely do what most people do: exercise more and eat healthier food. Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak have a better plan in mind:
Step 1: Start a fitness blog, collecting the best arguments you can find against obesity.
Step 2: Comb the Bible, Pope Francis’ Tweets, and the work of your fellow bloggers, for the choicest quotes on the deadly sin of Gluttony. Then post them in the comments threads of every article that seems relevant — such as blatantly fattening recipes that foodies selfishly post on their blogs.
Step 3: Spend at least four hours on Facebook and Twitter each day, sharing links and memes on the importance of physical fitness. Post photos of celebrities who have fallen out of shape, with snarky comments about the likely effects on their health and their careers.
Step 4: Write your congressman, your senator, and the President about the need for national legislation restricting the use of high fructose corn syrup in foods, and healthier school lunches in public schools.
Step 5: Add witty pro-fitness bumper stickers to your car.
Step 6: Join an activist group that pickets restaurants which refuse to post calorie counts.
That makes sense, right? Your doctor would be pleased, and you’d quickly see the scale numbers slide down.
Of course not. Jones and Zmirak, however, say this is exactly the approach that many “social justice” folks take to tackling poverty. With a Bible in one hand and a blog post about redistribution in the other, these folks are sure they will eliminate poverty via social media, bumper stickers and meetings. Jones and Zmirak want us to remember exactly what that Bible does and does not say about how we are to help the poor.
Our Lord did not organize the local zealots into a pressure group, and use them to force the Romans to redistribute wealth to the poor. When he met with Pontius Pilate, he did not lay out a program of land reform based on principles of Christian distributism, demanding for every Jew forty acres and a mule. Nor did he advocate any other social legislation. What a missed opportunity! No doubt Jesus had other things on his mind. (It was a very eventful week.) But still, you might have thought that Christ would have used his few minutes of “face time” with the Roman procurator to put in a good word on behalf of a minimum wage, or higher taxes on the Sadducees. Those fatcats.
If, as a Christian, you take the call to help the poor seriously, you have to…help the poor. Feed them. Clothe them. Hire them. Jones and Zmirak remind us that, as Christians, we are called to do the “demanding and particular.” We cannot delegate it our elected officials, blog about it, or assume that having the right bumper sticker will fulfill the command to care for the poor, the widowed, the orphan. We are required to be good citizens, utilize our civic duties to make sure that the most vulnerable among us are safe. However, hoping that yet another government program will alleviate us of our duties is a grave mistake. No government program feeds both body and soul, and as Christians, that is our call.
If we don’t really believe that, we ought to drop the “Christian” label altogether and just get on with running services for the poor along the lines of animal shelters, which focus on vaccination, spaying, and neutering.
Facebook rants, hashtag campaigns, meetings about how to get more people involved in social justice: these can be “busy-work” distractions. Feed a hungry person. Listen to a lonely soul. Bring Christ to a suffering human. That’s the faith and justice we are called to.