January 05, 2019

Epiphany: Resistance to the Empire

The Adoration of the Magi by Edward Burne-Jones, 1904
The Adoration of the Magi by Edward Burne-Jones, 1904
Before they went to Bethlehem, the wise men had a meeting with Herod. “I have a problem,” Herod explained to them, “and I need your help. I need to find this child. I suspect he’s somewhere near Bethlehem, so I need you to ask around, use your sources, follow your star — then report back to me...
Throughout human history, individuals and institutions have had to make difficult and risky decisions in response to unjust directives—especially those directives framed as required cooperation “for the good of the country.”
"When The Wise Men Refused to Collaborate With The Empire"
by Kate Jones Calone /
click for article in Sojourners Magazine 


Donald Trump and Pat Robertson
"People who revolt against Trump
Are Revolting Against God"
-- Pat Robertson --
On January 6 we celebrate Epiphany, the day the wise men of old finally found Jesus. We all know the story, three men on camels bearing gold, frankincense, and myrrh in search of a "newborn king." King Herod told them to come back to the palace with news of the baby's whereabouts so "he too could go and worship him." The wise men chose instead to take another road home, and in a dream God warned Joseph to flee with Mary and the baby for another country. Herod in his rage slaughtered every baby in Judea under two years old.

On this day of Epiphany, 2019, I approach the new year with trepidation and some fear because I find myself at odds with many of the people who like to tell this story. They don't see a disconnect between their admiration of three wise men and a hunted refugee family...and what's going on around us.

John Moore's Viral picture of Guatemalan Girl
John Moore's Viral picture
click for full story 
The grown-up teachings of this refugee infant by necessity seems to pit me against the majority [PEW Report] of evangelical Christians (81%) and nearly half (45%) of all Catholics who find in our American "King Herod" a savior--a self-made god who markets an end to abortion, punishment of gays, dehumanization of the transgendered, a demigod who mocks the disabled, promotes misogyny, agitates for violence, denies civil rights, supports voter suppression, brags about sexual violation, covers up promiscuity, flaunts adultery, bullies the abused, denigrates war heroes, lies every day, ignores his advisors, fires his smartest, meets dictators in secret, admires the world's scariest leader, Kim Jong-un--and separates thousands of children from their parents to secret them away in tent camps, cut off from love with no blankie, no teddy bear, at risk for physical abuse, sexual assault...and death. In short, everything Jesus came to refute. And, like Herod in "one of the most terrible accounts in Scripture [Calone, Sojourners]," the U.S. president lies to those not wise enough to see through his words, "Follow me and I too will worship Jesus." And like Herod he sacrifices thousands of children to build his Empire and suit his agenda.

Trump Mocking Disabled Reporter
click for full story
For two years I've watched and wondered, head spinning, sick to my stomach. And yet this chunky percentage of American Catholics and evangelicals do not sway but stand firm, intractable, seemingly comfortable with the cruelty, quick to defend, calling the narcissistic divine. Pat Robertson of the religious right preaches that any opposition to Trump is opposition to God. Franklin Graham tells Jimmy Carter that God  would kill gays, not marry them. In an interview with the Washington Post, Jerry Falwell said impoverished citizens offer little to society. "A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity." My head spins. Calling evil good, these men and their followers have come to prefer loyalty to the Empire over Jesus and his teachings. Loyalty to the Empire is more important than grace and mercy and risk and vulnerability. More important than love.

And so I approach 2019 with trepidation. I find myself in bewildered disagreement with those who once told me in that little Baptist church that "Jesus loves the little children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black, and white, they are precious in his sight." They no longer teach this. Jesus is more selective now.

So despite my trepedation and, yes, fear, I am driven to resist the majority precisely because I believed them when they told me Jesus loves the little children of the world. I believe, too, he loves the adults they become--this I know 'For the Bible Tells Me So.' All of them. All of us. All around the world. Red, brown, yellow, black, and white. Poor, sick, starving, lost, and mocked. Frightened, scapegoated, disdained. South of the border, north of the border. All around the world. Bruce Larson of University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, WA, once said, "If you want to find God, go to the poor. They're the folks he likes to hang out with." I can't find God in what passes for Christianity in 2018.

So this January 6 is my own personal day of Epiphany. Jesus tells me to give the coat off my back, walk the second mile, turn the other cheek, feed his sheep, sell all my goods and give to the poor, to suffer the little children to come unto me, and "to act justly and love mercy" [Micah 6:8 NIV]. I am therefore compelled to resist evangelical leaders and their followers in their unabashed scramble for self-preservation and power at enormous cost to millions and the abandonment and condemnation of those God loves best.

Ironically, it's not the Empire that frightens me. I confess, it's the evangelical majority who support it.
It’s abundantly clear that Jesus was a disrupter. . . Again and again, he reminds us that we’re not called to defend the institution but to promote a Kingdom in which the marginalized flourish and the forgotten are raised up.
"Churches Must Address the Toxic Residue of Elitism"
by Elizabeth Evans | click for article in Sojourner, 9/28/2018 

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