Politicized Identities

July 18, 2016

I'm on an unpaid, one day sabbatical from Maintenance I at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, as our Corrections Officer/Boss takes every other Friday off. It's a well deserved respite from a job that requires from me long periods of nothing. It's not as easy as you might think.

 

With the attack in Nice, France, the surreal summer of 2016 continues. Starting in June, we were horrified by the terrorist attack/hate crime/mass murder at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. That particular tragedy forced me to consider the odd fact that the people in that narrative, namely those in the LBGTQ, Hispanic, and Muslim communities, all have had their very identities politicized and used by our so-called leaders to build their power base at the expense of all of us. 

 

I can't imagine what life must be like to be occasionally pandered but mostly abused simply because of who I am. I know some say we are a Christian nation. If that were true, would our churches stand for people being treated like that? By any reasonable interpretation of the Gospels, those with the politicized identities should be right in the middle of Christianity's good news and protected from those looking to draw a line between "them and us". The gospel that I read connects. It doesn't "lift and separate".

 

Maybe we're not a Christian nation because what passes for American religion is simply incomplete. As my mom used to say, "It's pretty good in its own way, it just doesn't weigh much." Shouldn't there be more to church than self-help psychology, fire insurance, parenting skills, Bible study, good music, and money management? Now there's nothing wrong with any of these, but the Kingdom of God that Jesus mentions has to be more, or we're screwed. 

 

As Jack Jezreel, founder of Just Faith, asks, "Isn't it instructive that the spiritual formation of the original disciples happens with Jesus on the road? In effect, the disciples learned by doing. They grew into an understanding of this God of love, this God of compassion, this God who loves justice, this God who makes all things new, by participating as active observers and agents of compassion, justice and newness...The spiritual adventure described in the 4 Gospels does not happen in the sanctuary, it happens on the road, in the company of beggars, prostitutes and lepers." It's no coincidence that beggars, prostitutes, and lepers, who experienced the Good News first hand in the first century, were the folks with the politicized identities. Some things never change. 

 

Nadia Bolz-Weber in her book Pastrix writes about what is probably the best Biblical example of what I'm trying to say. Remember the first gentile convert after Jesus' ascension into heaven?  I guess it could be merely a coincidence that he was a foreigner and a sexual minority and had really dark skin, but I doubt it. When Philip encountered the Ethiopian eunuch, he could have gone with Deuteronomy 23:1, but instead went with the real John 3:16 (as John's gospel had yet to hit the Christian bookstores). He TOTALLY IGNORED  Deuteronomy 23:1. Good call Philip.

 

Pastor Nadia has a great quote in a book ripe with great quotes. Her husband once told her, "Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of the line."

 

I think there's a good reason we never memorized Deuteronomy 23:1 in Vacation Bible School.

 

For the lazy, here's Deuteronomy 23:1- If a man's testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. (NLT-North Louisiana Translation)

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones