Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Jesus Christ: A Model of Rebellion

Let's be real.  It's been a heck of a week.  A lot has happened, and a lot of people are feeling a lot of things.  I'm no exception.  I've unintentionally become that person on your social media homepage, constantly posting about politics and only seeming to be in a state of continuous anger.  Well, that's because I am angry, but that's not really why I post so much or speak so openly about my beliefs and opinions.  My goal is not to create fights or insult and undermine people who think differently than me.  My goal is always to inform, to pull the curtain hiding the real wizard back, and to make sure everyone knows exactly what is happening in the world around us.

Image result for planned parenthoodLast week, I posted a piece explaining how I define pro-life, and why I stand with Planned Parenthood.  I was extremely nervous to post that piece.  I was afraid of what some of my friends and family would think, and how they would react.  I was afraid of the things total strangers could say.  I wasn't afraid that people would disagree with me.  I know people disagree with me about that issue, and that's okay!  What I was most afraid of was that people would try to cut me down and belittle my message without any attempt at actual dialogue or respectful engagement.  Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when the feedback I received was, overall, incredibly positive.

Now, I'm not naive in that I think everyone who read it was 100% on board with what I had to say.  I'm sure there are many people that would tweak a few things here and there.  I'm also sure that there were plenty of individuals who totally disagree with me but simply chose not to comment on the post, and that's totally fine.  I can't, and don't, expect everyone who reads what I write to be in total, or any, agreement with me all of the time.

There were some comments, though, that weren't so positive.  I was accused of not being a good Catholic, not being in good standing with the Church, and of not putting my faith and God first.  Instead of feeling bad like I expected myself to feel, however, or regretting the post, those comments actually made me think a lot about my relationship with the Church and with God.  And I came to a realization.

My faith in God and my obedience to the Church are not the same thing.

Maybe those individuals are right, and I'm not a good Catholic.  Maybe I'm technically not in good standing with the Church.  Ultimately, though, I have to answer to God and my conscience, not the Church.

I love the Church, and I love being Catholic, but I'm not blind to the problems within the institution.  I'm not going to pretend everything is okay all the time.  The Church is a human institution trying to figure out how best to be in relationship with God.  It's going to stumble every once and awhile.  It's going to make mistakes.  It's going to sometimes be stubborn, and controlling, and try to make people fall into neat tidy lines because that's what people do.  We don't just bow down and accept the things we disagree with, especially when those things go against what we feel to be true in our hearts.  We push, we question, we demand accountability.  We live out our Christian faith by demanding that our Church continuously do better and better.  Sometimes, we even outright rebel.

Christianity, like the United States, is built on rebellion.

Image result for hamilton battle of yorktown
Our Founding Fathers = Rebels
The rebellion for early Christians was quieter than that of the American Revolution, but it was a rebellion nonetheless.  Threatened by an authority determined to control them, body, mind, and soul, early Christians defiantly gathered together in secret to worship, support each other, and spread their faith.  In the Roman arenas, surrounded by roaring crowds calling for their deaths, they stood by their faith.  They stood by each other.  They wrote to each other in support.  They wrote to each other from exile and from prison.  They continued to spread their message of love and God across the empire despite the risks.  Despite the law.

Because they knew the law was wrong.

They knew there was something beyond it.  Something better.  Something they couldn't fully understand, but were still willing to give their lives to uphold if necessary.  They rebelled, and had they had support from other groups, had greater, easier ways of having their voices heard, they might have rebelled louder.

Early Christians didn't simply decide to rebel because they wanted to, however.  They needed to, and they rebelled by example.  Christianity, at its heart, is a radical religion, because it is based around a radical figure.

Jesus was a rebel.    

I've always found it kind of funny when people justify their mistreatment of others by claiming to be following the teachings of Jesus and Scripture.  They use Jesus' name like a get-out-of-jail-free card for discrimination, bigotry, and hate, disguising their true intentions with the excuse "I'm only trying to save your soul from damnation."  How easily they seem to forget that Jesus dined with outcasts, promised his kingdom to those considered weak, and criticized the wealthy.

Jesus was a radical in his time because he openly defied socially accepted discrimination and oppression.  He pushed back against religious authorities who insisted they alone had the answers to knowing and interacting with God.  He spoke to crowds about radical ideas of what it means to love each other and show each other compassion.  He opened the doors to those previously excluded from salvation.  He knew what he risked in his defiance, in his resistance, but he didn't let that stop him.

Image result for table flip jesusHe taught his followers to turn the other cheek, and also took up a bull whip, flipped tables, and chased the greedy merchants from the temple.  He showed us that resistance is complicated, it's not always neat and tidy, but it's always necessary when those in authority try to decide who is worthy of salvation and who isn't.  When those with power try to keep the downtrodden low so they can maintain their own privilege.  He showed us that to rebel is sometimes necessary to be truly faithful to God.

To be Christian means to be willing to rebel when human dignity is put at risk.  To resist when groups of people are treated as second-class-citizens, whether or not you believe what they believe, or value what they value.  To hold those in power accountable for their actions when they choose money and greed over the good of the people.  To speak out whenever injustice threatens your fellow human.

We rebel, because like the early Christians, like Jesus himself, we have hope in a world better than this one that is worth fighting for.

Just as Christians are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger so too are we called to rebel.  Whether against the oppressive actions of a government, or the excluding teachings of a denomination, we resist, we march, we speak out.  And as long as there is suffering in the world, as long as there are people in need, whose voices have been stolen, and whose dignity is threatened, we won't stop.

We will always rebel.

Until next time,
Erin B.  

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