The Way Things Should Be… (of “Mosques” and Truly Subversive Activities)

Posted: 21 August 2010 in Faith and Life
Tags: , , ,

The “national debate” (quote marks not optional) on the Islamic Center in Manhattan is about chosen historical traumas, bigotry (in some cases) and fear manipulation.  As has been the practice of the ruling classes ever since that September day in 2001, Americans are being told to fear that unknown thing that will, if it succeeds, take away their most precious possession: freedom.  They are being trained to dread the evil that might strip them of the way of life to which, they believe, they have an inalienable right.  The “liturgy of the media” (see James K.A Smith) is (and has been) forming Americans to fear, indeed to hate, the Muslim as the subversive agent who will steal their birthright and change forever their lives.

The whole affair has, at turns, amused, angered, shocked and saddened me.  In the end, however, it has made me think about what subverting the American way of life would really look like and who should be (notice I did not say “are) the people most likely to subvert it.

I have concluded that if things were the way they should be, the various pundits and commentators would be raining down their invective, not on Muslims, but on the followers of Jesus.

I suspect most people will not agree with me on this.  After all, didn’t Jesus say, during his Sermon on the Mount: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven?”  Doesn’t that imply that if his followers did what they were supposed to Fox, NBC, NPR, etc. would run regular segments, not condemning them, but rather thanking God for the wholesomeness of their acts?  It might imply that but there is another, harder, reality of which Jesus also spoke.  He said this to his followers according to John:

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “A slave is not greater than his master” If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…

Pretty strong words–hate is a strong word… But then crucifixion is a strong punishment, reserved for those who represent a deep threat to the status quo–to the “order of things”.  Why did the leaders of that time hate Jesus and, in turn, why might they hate his followers?  The truth is that “good works” will win you some plaudits (even Jesus experienced that).  So what will earn you that kind of death dealing hate that made the cross such an inevitability for Jesus (and his followers)?

In other words, how do Palm Sunday and Good Friday fit so conveniently into the same week?

Glen Stassen has, I think, the key to this in a chapter entitled “The Kind of Justice Jesus Cares About” in Transforming the Powers. Stassen summarizes the work of a number of well known theologians and biblical historians when he points out that the well-known story of Jesus cleansing the temple was, not only most likely the proximate cause of his arrest, trial and crucifixion, but also neither an act of violent revolution nor an attempt to reform temple worship to make it better. No, what Jesus did was a symbolic act of protest against injustice and how that injustice was being covered up. Standing against injustice is what got Jesus killed–it is why the powerful hated him.

Stassen suggests that Jesus’ “fight” for justice (throughout his public ministry) had four elements: 1) it was non-violent; 2) it confronted the wealthy; 3) it confronted those who dominate (oppress) others and; 4) it included–brought in–the outcast and powerless.

Which leads me to conclude that if things were the way they should be… the followers of Jesus would be the one’s under attack by a system that is violent, hungry for power and Mammon, and dehumanizing of the poor and “ordinary people”, because his followers would be working for justice in the way he did.  This, to me, is the great lesson of the so-called “Ground-Zero Mosque” debacle.

  1. larryk12309 says:

    So the media and political types are using this to stir everyone up to their own gain?

    What else is new? Like so many other things true followers of Christ shouldn’t be lead astray by all the crazy talk over the mosque.

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