by Rev. Brendan Curran, Associate Minister          –          November 14, 2019

And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” – John 2:15

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and love and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.” – Matthew 23:23

I observe a societal trend taking root.  Many people in our wider society seem to operate under the wrong assumption that being a Christian means always being polite and pleasing everyone.  But God does not ask us to be polite and just make people feel good all the time.  Yes, God calls on us to strive to be kind but in the end OUR job is to DO justice.  God asks us to do the right thing and doing the right thing requires that we be firm in standing up to evil, injustice, and oppression whenever and wherever they arise.  This is our job as Christians, as ambassadors of the Kin-dom of God, as agents of God’s justice and love.

Jesus was not a nice person.  Yes, he was loving, but he also spoke truth to power with blunt ferocity and grace.  That’s why the greedy, oppressive, religious and political authorities of his time had him publicly executed.   We absolutely need to remember that Jesus was ruthless in condemning them and speaking out against their hypocrisy and evil.  Jesus was always dishing out Love, but when the Pharisees stood in the way of that Love, he was anything but nice.  Actually, he called them snakes.  Jesus was not a nice person.

We would all do so well to be more like Jesus these days in confronting the hysterical injustice that we as a society seem to be allowing to settle in as our new national normal; the systemic persecution and hatred of the poor, the rampant white nationalism embodied and emboldened by the highest office in the land, perpetual war, the rendering of our planet uninhabitable by the greed and lies of the fossil fuel industry, and the crushing of the public sector, democracy, and the commons by unfettered private corporate greed and power.  We would all do so well to be more like Jesus and disavow the sick and twisted heresy of a white right-wing evangelical church that aligns itself with these anti-Christian power structures and would have us call their militarism, their bigotry, and their arrogant supremacy complex, “Christianity.”   If we fail to condemn this current status quo then we are rebelling against The God who, in Christ, became one with the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant, and the stranger among us.  Again, when Jesus went into the temple and saw the money changers, he was not nice.  He made a whip out of the palms laid at his feet and he started cracking it!  If we want to be real Christians, then we all need to help each other straighten our backs together and start cracking the whip!

Christians of the past have never been neutral.  We shouldn’t be either!  For example, Christians fought against the Nazis and the southern slave driving confederacy and they engaged in these fights in the name of God.  The narrative I remember learning in church was that these causes were holy and just.  This year the church has adopted the slogan, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  These are the words of Mahatma Gandhi.  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who lived by Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy also said that he agreed with Dante’s statement, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crises remain neutral.”  Organized Christianity throughout history has not exactly been a non-violent establishment.  I do believe that as Christians we are called to fight and resist injustice and oppression with non-violent strategies like boycotts, strikes, and creative protest but fight and resist we must indeed!

There come moments and times when we need to say things like, “NO,” or, “Stop it,” or, “You need to change,” or, “Repent; Turn around and come to Jesus.”  We need not ever feel impolite when we say these things.  We need not ever feel bad for not “reaching across the aisle,” when the other side of the room is on fire.  There is nothing inherently virtuous about being neither here nor there.  There is nothing morally good about trying to locate the center point between moral and immoral.  Sometimes we need to look to our friends, or our neighbors, or even our relatives sometimes, and say, “Hey I think you might need to turn around.”  We are living in one of those moments right now as a society.

In a Time magazine article by Tayari Jones titled, “There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground,”  the author writes about what she calls, “The American fetishization of the moral middle,” calling it, “a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse rooted in conflict avoidance and denial.”  She reminds us of our moral obligation to abandon neutrality in the interest of doing the right thing.  She writes,

“As Americans, we are at a crossroads.  We have to decide what is central to our identity:  Is the importance of our performance of national unity more significant than our core values?  Is it more meaningful that we understand why some of us support the separation of children from their parents, or is it more crucial that we support the reunification of these families?  Is it more essential that we comprehend the motives of white nationalists, or is it more urgent that we prevent them from terrorizing communities of color and those who oppose racism?  Should we agree to disagree about the murder and dismemberment of a journalist?  Should we celebrate our tolerance and civility as we stanch the wounds of the world and the climate with a poultice of national unity?” 

As real Christians our answer to her questions should be a resounding, “No!”  Why?  Because we profess Jesus Christ to be our saving and guiding force.  If we want to be the change we wish to see in this world then we must abandon neutrality and fight and resist evil in the name of that same Christ who is God’s justice for the poor, liberation for the oppressed, and  who is coming in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Crack the whip Christians!  I love you.

Happy Thanksgiving,