Putting Love of God above Love of Neighbor

March 24, 2010

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." --Matthew 22:34-40

On March 6, 2010, I attended the Equal Justice Works Second Annual Public Interest Recognition Dinner with the theme, “Honor, Justice, Integrity.”  The purpose of the dinner was to raise money for the Loan Repayment Assistance Program Endowment (LRAP) at the Indiana University School of Law—Indianapolis.  The purpose of this program is to assist their alumni who are practicing in the public interest field with paying down their student debt.

The keynote speaker was Indiana Attorney General, Greg Zoeller.  In his speech he mentioned  “church” several times-- once in connection with what he looks for in hiring staff.  He touted his faith and religious beliefs and said that he follows the commandments of Jesus by putting God first and his neighbor second.

The honorees for the evening were Lisa K. Koop, Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, and Fran P. Quigley.   Ms Koop is a managing attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) in Chicago Illinois where she supervises the asylum, counter-trafficking, and immigrant legal defense projects.  She has also worked with the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project in Harlingen, Texas, Farmworker Legal Services in Michigan, the Guam Asylum Project and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

Ms Blomquist is the Legal Director for the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV), the founding Executive Director and current Director of the Protective Order Pro Bono Project, a frequent volunteer for the Homeless Project through the Indianapolis Bar Association, the Street Law Project through the IU School of Law—Indianapolis, and serves on the Board of Heartland Pro Bono Council. 

Mr. Quigley is a former executive director of ACLU of Indiana.  He is presently associate director of the Indiana-Kenya Partnership/AMPATH.  He is co-founder of the Legal Aid Centre of Eldoret (LACE), a human rights law clinic devoted to representing HIV-positive individuals in western Kenya.  He writes a twice  monthly column for The Indianapolis Star and other publications.  His recent book, Walking Together, Walking Far ,   has become one of the world’s most comprehensive and successful responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

While Attorney General Zoeller saw fit to parade his religion and emphasize how he puts God first in his life, if any of the award recipients or the persons who introduced them mentioned their personal religious beliefs, it was such a fleeting reference that I do not remember hearing it. 

Zoeller is quoted in an article in the March 22, 2010 Indianapolis Star titled, “Daniels Slams Bill on Health-Care Reform.”  [see blogs referencing Governor Daniels posted December 30, 2010 and January 13, 2010 ]

“There are significant questions regarding the federal government’s authority raised by the legislation passed Sunday,” Zoeller said in a statement. “I believe it is necessary that these ultimately be brought before the United States Supreme Court, and as Indiana Attorney General, I will join in the most appropriate legal actions available to represent the significant interests of our state in this matter.”

Have Attorney General Zoeller, Governor Daniels,  and others like them who parade their “God first” morality while seeking to deny their neighbors basic services read these comments attributed to Jesus in the same gospel?

"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.  Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O 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 welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?  And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'  And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?'  Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."-- Matthew 25:31-46