Skittles, bullets, and Snapchat
I’ve been spending far too much time on Facebook this week. It’s sucking my soul dry. First was the meme comparing Syrian refugees to Skittles that was shared by countless people who identify as Christians. After that, I saw many of the same people rationalizing the murder of an unarmed black man because he was not “cooperating” with police. Those two things were already more than I could handle, but ever since a freshman at a prominent Christian college in Nashville, Tennessee took to Snapchat, I've reached new levels of frustration with my own religion in America.
The Belmont University student posted a screenshot of three black NFL athletes raising their fists in solidarity with victims of police brutality with the most disgusting caption I've seen in recent memory.
These words were typed by a young man who, at the very least identifies with Christianity enough to pay tuition to a Christian College, and is still willing to spew vitriol, violence, and racism toward other human beings. This is how a Christian College freshman feels about people made in the image of God who have brown skin. This Christian College student believes black people should only be allowed to live in their home country (a country where their ancestors were kidnapped and brought to by force, and then sold as property for generations) if they are willing to quietly accept a life of oppression and marginalization. Should they ever choose to exercise their right to peacefully protest against systems racism and violence by simply taking a knee or raising a fist in silence, they deserve to be shot in the head.
This is the beast lurking in the dungeon of American Christianity.
How does a Christian reconcile Christ’s teachings with such deplorable thinking?
In the eyes of privileged, white, Christian America, “life to the fullest” is reserved for those who are “like us.” If you are different, then you should get the hell out. If you are unhappy, then you should get the hell out. If you won't cooperate, we will shoot you in the head. If you don't like it, then get the hell out.
Whose Lives Matter?
In John chapter 5, Jesus heals a crippled man on the Sabbath and then told him to stand up and carry the mat he had been laying on, which was a violation of the Mosaic Law. The Pharisees, ignoring the fact that Jesus had just transformed this man’s life forever, interrogated the man in order to find out who told him to violate the Sabbath. They then summoned Jesus to come answer for his “sin” where Jesus says the following in John chapter 5 verse 21,
Whomever he wishes.
So who did Jesus wish to give life to?
Matthew 8- a leper
Matthew 9- a tax collector
John 4- a Samaritan woman
Luke 7- a sinful woman
John 8- an adulterous woman
Luke 7- a Centurion’s slave
Luke 18- a blind beggar
John 5- a faithless cripple
John 9- a man born blind
Mark 5- a demon possessed man
Mark 5- a bleeding woman
Mark 5- Jairus’s dead daughter
John 18- an officer who came to arrest Him
Luke 23- a convicted criminal
John 21- everyone who had abandoned and betrayed Him
The “Jesus” that permeates American theology today is a powerful political leader, the founder of the Christian Religion, and the ultimate champion of conservative ideals.
Is this who Jesus really is?
I struggle to find any evidence of that in the scriptures.
Jesus was the "stone the builders rejected," because there was never a time when Jesus was accepted. Jesus lived his entire life in the margins of society.
Jesus was a brown skinned, Middle Eastern, poor, Jewish refugee. His community assumed he was a bastard child. His people lived in fear of the Roman military. His family settled in an insignificant town on the outskirts of the Jewish world. He learned a humble trade, worked in order to help provide for his poor parents at a young age, and then devoted his adult life to everyone in his path who had been marginalized by people in positions of authority. Jesus brought life to those who NO ONE wished to offer life to.
That Jesus, the one I just described, is not the Jesus that molds the hearts and minds of American Christianity today. That Jesus has been gentrified. The most important parts of the Jesus we find in the gospels have been co-opted by those in positions of privilege. Anyone who had previously been a part of the original community of Christ - the poor, the sick, the disadvantaged, the shamed, the sinful, the racial minorities, and the social outcast- have been priced out of the “Kingdom of God” in America. They have been displaced to make room for the comfortable amenities preferred by those who have never had to live in discomfort.
That is not my Jesus.
The more I get to know Jesus, the less I recognize him in His church today. That needs to change.
Jesus gave life to those who had their lives taken from them. If we are truly Christian, we must devote our lives to doing the same.