Then the people of the United States were brought before Christ, and were divided in two, the sheep and the goats, and the goats were placed at his left hand. And he said to them, “You who are accursed, depart from me 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 nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and you did not cure me, in prison and you did not visit me.” And they all answered, “When was this precisely, Lord?”
And he told them:
“Whenever you drove past East St. Louis or around Watts, and did not stop; whenever you passed over Gary or avoided the South Side; whenever you ignored Baltimore or the Bronx, stayed away from Philly’s heart, fled DC at nightfall. Whenever you crossed the street to avoid me because I had black skin, or brown, or had no home, or had no sanity; when I came to you as a woman when you thought I should be a man, or when I came to you gay when you wished me to be straight; when I came home wounded body and soul from fighting your wars, and you cast me out on the street; when I suffered in forgotten schools and in abandoned projects, and you sent your children elsewhere to spare yourselves the sight; when you raped me and said my skirt was too short or that I led you on; when you called me lazy or drug-dazed, promiscuous or depraved, uncaring or unfit. When you stole the sweat from my brow, took the strength of my hands, ripped the fruits of my labors from me and left me poor, and then said that I deserved it for not working harder.
“Whenever you forgot about the reservations, about Appalachia, about the migrants in the fields; whenever you destroyed my farms to build vast and empty houses, whenever you bought my land for a pittance and ruined it for wealth. Whenever you called me trash, or told jokes about the South. Whenever you sold me whiskey or crack, knowing I’d sell my soul for more. Whenever you poisoned my world and shrugged me off when I complained. Whenever you drove me to the city in search of work and food, and trapped me there with the rest.
“You have killed me a million ways, you princes of the earth, with your willful ignorance and your blindness, your self-absorption and exclusion. You have turned your back on countless Christs; you have made every underpass Golgotha and every inner city Hell. Why should I save you from the eternal fire? You never once tried to save me.”
Then Christ said to those on his right hand, “You who are blessed, come to me and take your inheritance. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, naked and you gave me nothing to drink, I was naked and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
And the righteous said, “Christ, we don’t get it; we never saw you. We just did what we thought was right. When did all this happen?”
And he told them:
“Whenever you saw my back breaking under my work, and you shortened my hours or raised my pay. Whenever you let me speak, or vote, or gather in peace. Whenever you heard my voice crying out from battlefields and streets and put an end to the war. Whenever you loaned me the money to go to college, or paid for the medicine that I needed and could not buy.
“Whenever you tore down the old schools and built new ones. Whenever you built me houses to live in, not houses to sell me. Whenever you cleaned out my rivers or let me breathe fresh air. Whenever you remembered my mountains and kept them safe. Whenever you saw me as a woman and a human being, not as an object. Whenever you found me innocent on death row, and through your efforts set me free — or whenever you found me guilty in the same place, and sat with me until I was killed.
“You told me I was welcome exactly as I was, and forgave me if I took advantage of your open arms; you lifted me up when I was drowning in depression or in debt, you marched beside me when it wasn’t your fight, you fed me until I was full and fed me again the next day. You have saved me a million ways, you righteous ones, despite your ignorance and your blindness, through your self-sacrifice and inclusion. You have glorified a host of Christs, and built the beginning of paradise in the bleakest holes on Earth. How could I not save you from the eternal fire? You have spent your whole lives saving me!
“For truth be told,” Christ said, “what you did for the least of your fellows, you also did for me.”