I reread my e-book copy of “The Violence of Love” by Oscar Romero on Tuesday morning in honor of his martyrdom on March 24, 1980.
He was the archbishop of San Salvador and was assassinated while celebrating Mass.
His assassination came from the order of Salvadorian death squad leader and future president of El Salvador, Roberto D’Aubuisson.
As I leafed through this collection of Romero’s quotes, I felt his love for God and the people he had been called to shepherd.
This warmth was contrasted by the words I heard the night before from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
In his Fox News interview, he suggested he and other senior citizens ought to be willing to exchange their survival, to sacrifice themselves to stave off the possibility of an economic collapse.
He went on to say, “We can’t lose our whole country; we’re having an economic collapse.”
I pastor a congregation in central Texas with plenty of senior citizens. As I got up the morning after Patrick’s comments, I prayed for them, led them through a virtual devotional and continued making hard choices alongside congregational leadership to best show them God’s love as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As I was mulling over the contrasting perspectives, I returned to Romero’s words.
“To try to preach without referring to the history one preaches in is not to preach the gospel,” he said. “Many would like a preaching so spiritualized that it leaves sinners unbothered and does not term idolaters those who kneel before money and power. A preaching that says nothing about the sinful environment in which the gospel is reflected upon is not the gospel.”
His words were much needed conviction and reminded me how easy it is to lose perspective in these times of uncertainty.
Patrick’s perspective exposes a pervasive idolatry of our world: the elevation of the stock market and money over the very real lives of people.
To make the stock market and our financial portfolios a greater priority than certain groups of people betrays our common humanity and their inherent dignity as God’s image bearers.
I am worried about the economy too. I have anxiety over how our city’s shelter-in-place protocol and how the nation’s physical distancing policies will impact our nation’s citizens and even my congregation’s finances.
Despite these worries, I am drawn to Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Our love of God, and our love for the image of God in others, will constantly be challenged when we prioritize the market over public health.
I hope that Patrick, a self-professed Christian, and others of our faith will take the teachings of Scripture seriously.
Indeed, we read in James 1:26-27, “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
A core aspect of our faith is caring for the most vulnerable among us, in these days it means we prioritize those who are most at risk and leverage our own fiscal stability for their good.
In the days ahead, we will continue to be pressured to devalue others in the name of economic considerations.
Should these pleas grow louder, I hope my fellow Christians will remember our primary citizenship is in the kingdom of God.
I hope we will remember we are called to pray and live for God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Hear Romero’s words echo the gospel’s. “The present form of the world passes away, and there remains only the joy of having used this world to establish God’s rule here. All pomp, all triumphs, all selfish capitalism, all the false successes of life will pass with the world’s form. All of that passes away. What does not pass away is love.”
If we truly want to love our world and future generations, we must live into the teachings of Jesus, regardless of the cost. This value set, this legacy, is the only one worth passing on.
May we have the courage in these uncertain days to advocate and live into Jesus’ beloved community.