Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jesus Sat Down, Stood Up, Talked Back

Christians read the gospels and the Pharisees and Sadducees are the bad guys among the religious authorities of the day. It is endlessly frustrating to me that the vast majority of Christians in the United States apparently want to identify with Jesus while acting like the Pharisees.

This is no small matter.

Christianity in the United States has become the rule enforcers, the morality police, the gatekeepers of who is okay and who is not. TV preachers will cry out for conversions (and money) while telling you how to be on the right side of the gate. They do not see how they are repeating the (apparently endless) cycle of the Pharisees.

Memorize some scripture, use it as a club, while overlooking this one: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves."

Then there are the ways that Christianity has a long history of getting cozy with powers of the empire. In the USA, white Christians in particular are used to doing this. "God and country" becomes one idol. They do this without noticing how messed up it is, how it is "serving two masters" in ways similar to loving money/wealth. We will love one and hate the other. When we perceive the country as the one that keeps us safe and our lives orderly, we tend to love it more than the often chaotic love of God, with God's wild Grace not always making sense, being neither safe nor orderly.

There is too much going on lately, facilitated and sometimes obfuscated by social media. Things that have gone on forever in this nation are being uncovered by cell phone cameras and easy sharing across cyberspace. This is creating more visibility of the plights of some Americans, also more push-back from people who'd rather not see.

Here's the thing: Protest is never celebrated in its historical moment. Rosa Parks is a hero now, but we forget that the government called her a criminal in the moment. Pick a hero who is cited as a hinge on history for social change, and you'll see the pattern repeated again and again.

I see white Christians (in particular) all the time asking for oppressed peoples to behave nicely, don't stir things up, don't cause trouble, protest peaceably, always forgetting that peaceful protest is what got Rosa Parks arrested.

Yes, I'm thinking about a football player who is protesting by not standing for the national anthem, but that's not the end of it. The point is, the people who want to drag out Jesus' "render unto Caesar" and Paul's "be subject to governing authorities" are reading the letter of the law, not the spirit, an activity owned by the very best Pharisees.

We regularly, repeatedly, constantly forget that Jesus spoke to, encouraged, stood up for, healed, and preached to and about the poor, the oppressed, the imprisoned. These categories are never the favorites of the powerful, the wealthy, the empire.

Jesus did not stand up for symbols of Roman Empire, as they oppressed not only his own, Jewish people, but other people without political clout. He talked back to religious authorities who were cozy with political authorities and Jesus got arrested and executed.

I don't know why this is so hard to recognize, but apparently it is and we have to keep saying it over and over again.

Alas, I'm sure it's not the last time I will say it.

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