Does it sound like Jesus?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about public statements made by public officials and politicians who make the claim to be Christian as well as from prominent Christian religious figures. I’ve been asking myself this question – “Would Jesus say something like this?” This isn’t just an American thing either. This should be no surprise since Christianity, in spite of what Christian Nationalists claim, is not confined to any one nation. 

I have found myself going to this question of whether Jesus would say the same thing as officials because I’m kind of at a loss otherwise to make sense of so many statements. 

Jesus talked about welcoming the stranger. There are many public officials that treat the stranger in dehumanizing ways and as scapegoats for society’s ills. Jesus talked about caring for the poor and outcast. There are many public officials that live by a “pull yourself up by your boot strap” belief system and that outcasts are scapegoats and a threat to others. Jesus talked about compassion and caring for the least in society, love of our neighbors and our enemies. There are many public officials that seem to be oriented towards policies that rely on cruelty as a way to either punish or be a warning to anyone who doesn’t fit the ideal. Jesus talked about the idolatry of money and power. There are many public officials who see money and power as more important than people. That’s just a small handful of examples. The list could easily be expanded. And while I am not specifically citing any politician or statement here, let’s be honest – it wouldn’t be difficult to find those in a simple google search. 

When I look at statements from Christian public officials and compare them with what Jesus said and did, I observe a contrast. Not something that is taking a slightly different route. Rather it seems as though the statements and policies are in direct opposition to what Jesus was talking about. And often this makes me wonder – how can someone claim to follow Jesus and yet say something that appears to be in direct conflict with Jesus? How can someone claim to follow Jesus and at the same time promote policies that appear to conflict with what Jesus urged his followers towards? 

This also has me doing some self-reflecting as well. What are the things I say and do, sometimes in the name of Jesus, that are actually in conflict with Jesus? How am I reading Jesus’ wording and then twisting them for my own convenience and to match what I want to believe? What am I ignoring because what Jesus has to say is just too inconvenient for me? 

I understand that there is a variety of faith traditions and beliefs within Christianity. And more often than not, there is a deep, complex history, culture, and faith heritage that often informs people’s version of Christianity that gets them to conclusions that are far different from my own. I’m certainly not the arbiter of what is considered Christian or not. And if I’m honest, which I try to be, I don’t want to be on the other end of this either – of being judged. I am someone who openly wonders though if I’m practicing the same religion as those who come to completely opposite positions on so many issues yet claim a faith lens for justification for those positions. Are we worshipping the same Jesus? I often wonder that and more often than not don’t feel confident that we are. 

I’m not talking about small theological difference, or minor disagreements over things like how Communion is distributed. I’m talking about how people are treated, and the justification used for what appears to be mistreatment, cruelty, oppression, and abuse. I’m talking about things that have big impacts on society and large groups of people and the planet. It seems as though some people consider Christianity about a concern for order and control of people, classifying people into “good” and “bad” categories, etc. When this happens, it seems as though the people doing the classifying never consider the possibility that they are on the wrong end of the spectrum. And others, like myself are more attracted to Christianity as a message that sets people free, empowers people, ends oppression, etc. 

This is just one description of the core conflict that has had a firm grip on Christianity across time and place. There are plenty of others of course. 

So I wonder, what would Jesus say or do after a mass shooting? Would he say we are powerless to do anything about them (all while pushing for all sorts of regulations and policies against scapegoated groups of outcasts)? Would he then throw in a “thoughts and prayers” just for good measure? 

I wonder, would Jesus put migrants on a bus or plane and send them away for someone else to deal with, as if they are just a problem to be solved?

I wonder, would Jesus emphasize the importance of sacrificing for the sake of the economy? 

I wonder, would Jesus promote weapons of mass destruction, and advocate for defeat of national enemies? 

I wonder, would Jesus be accepted in our society at all? I have my doubts. 

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