Friday, April 14, 2006

What Would Jesus Do?

You don't see many of those bracelets, or other theme park-type merchandise with the magic letters W.W.J.D. these days, and I'm kinda glad. As with the whole Prayer of Jabez jazz (based on the prayer of one Jabez, who asked God to bless him, and "enlarge" his territory), it has petered out somewhat. I don't think most people really got it anyway. Back to the Prayer of Jabez, most folks stopped at the "enlarge my territory" part, and didn't think about the rest, which reads, "that I may cause no harm."

And there is where the trouble starts. I think most Christians are fairly well-intentioned. They don't want to sin, commit those acts which are harmful to self or others, and thus count against them on the Day of Judgement, the moment when facing God after one's death. And, they don't want to sin by associating themselves with, or support those who sin or support policies that may encourage sin. I'm not a theologian, and I don't wish to engage in exegesis right now, so fix it for yourself if you think I'm off base on the sin business. The question about what we who believe (fill in the blank here) should do, is answered in the book of Matthew. An earnest seeker asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is, and the response is to first love God with everything you have and are, and second, to love your neighbor as you love yourself. The trouble starts with loving your neighbors as you love yourself, but I think the average Christocrat (the self-defined Christian who mixes politics with religion) prefers to love those who are most like themselves.

Yeah, it's "politically incorrect" to be racist or sexist, but it happens all the time. What isn't racist about investing more in prisons than in schools, particularly in urban areas with high non-White populations? What isn't sexist about sweeping legislation that outlaws the right to abortions under most circumstances? It's deemed perfectly acceptable to be anti-gay, even though Jesus never said a word about same-sex relationships. Excessive behavior, whether it's overeating (also known as gluttony), overwork and unequal distribution of wealth (anyone else notice that a whole bunch of policy making, loud-talking, heavily influential Christocrats are affluent?), are sinful, yet the church is full of fat people driving luxury cars. Jesus shot down violent punishment for violent crime, was a victim of capital punishment himself, yet the death penalty is supported by Christocrats.

Today is Good Friday, a day marked by Christians around the world. Good Friday was the day that Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion, a particularly grisly way to die (the body is attached to a wooden cross, the weight of the body pulls it toward the ground, with eventual suffocation as a result of compression of the chest). Some Christians fast, using the deprivation to partially feel Jesus' suffering. Some churches hold three-hour services, with sermons based on the Seven Last Words of Christ (not literally the last seven words said, but the last seven statements of significance). Then comes Easter, the day of the Resurrection, when Jesus arises from the dead, taking the sins of the world with Him and proving that He, as the earthly embodiment of God, is greater than death, or Death.

I've framed this loosely, and mean no disrespect by doing so, so don't flame me. It's just that what makes real Christianity so difficult, so inaccessible for so many, is that a lot of it is hard to get, which is why, I think, Christocracy has replaced Christianity as an American religion. Christocrats make comfortable sacrifices. Christians make sacrifices. Christocrats make policies that make sure other Christocrats comfortable. Cut taxes for the affluent, instead of taxing tham more, which would support the less affluent by making more money available to build their neighborhoods and schools. Make abortion illegal, birth control harder to get, support abstinence-based sex education, and make it more difficult for unmarried people (heterosexual or homosexual) to adopt, instead of encouraging responsible sexual behavior with honest and accurate sex education, placing parentless and unwanted children with people who willingly want to and are able to parent. Take money away from public schools used more by working-and lower class people through school vouchers that support private schools, already supported by those who can afford it. And, as a result of decreasing quality of education, encourage crime as a means of survival, and create prison cities built by the prison industry, which becomes more privatized each year. Use violence as a means of achieving peace, or a way to discourage violent crime.

What, indeed, would Jesus do today? Who would he be? Would he be a pregnant teen, pregnant because she thought it couldn't happen the first time? Would he be a young Black gay man, a high school dropout who left school because he couldn't put up with being called faggot day after day? Would he be a Chinese immigrant coming to the U.S. in search of a better way to feed his family? A young White woman from a broken town in the Midwest, working as a prostitute, a runaway living on the street because it was better than being raped night after night by her mother's latest boyfriend? A crack baby raised by a gay male couple who have been together for 15 years? A young soldier from a working-class family who wanted to serve his country, but now isn't sure what he's fighting for, and when the fighting will end?

The life cycle includes death. Death is followed by life. What are we putting to death? And what are we giving life to?

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