I was—for me, as many can attest to—relatively silent about my general feelings during the run-up to the recent presidential inauguration. I started several times to blog but changed my mind, struggling to put into words the roiling of my emotions, which have ranged from peaceful observation to mourning to anger to an almost daily consideration of what I would accept in silence and what I would speak out against.
For most of my adult life, I have had no problem discerning what I saw as my responsibilities as a Christian and those as an American citizen. Fortunately, they have not often come into conflict with each other, but the course of recent events have presented many opportunities to do battle in my head over what I consider to be “right” actions and what I consider not to be. Because I am Christian first, and will always be no matter where in the world I pitch my temporary tent, the first question I ask is how, if at all, I see the thoughts and actions of Jesus applying to whatever is happening around me, and then I try to think about things the way he would and act in that way. So, when the march came up, I asked Jesus what he would do. How would it look through his eyes? What would he be looking at? And what, if anything, would he do, based on that vision?
Let me hasten to say that, in asking the question, I am not inviting you to chime in with your version of what Jesus would do because what you think Jesus wants me to do is not even remotely relevant. Nor is what Franklin Graham or Pat Roberson or Mike Huckabee or the Bishop of Western North Carolina, the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope says. I can read and think and talk for myself—I’ve never studied from other people’s notes and it has turned out well for me. If Jesus had any message to the fellow 1st-century members of his tribe, it was that they didn’t have to go to the temple and follow what the priests said about buying doves and lambs to find out from the priests what God said or wanted them to do. (As an aside, that’s why Caiaphas and his lieutenants conspired to have Jesus killed by the Romans and told lies about him, e.g., that he was engaged in a jihad against the Romans.)
For me, to “believe in Jesus” as yet another bottleneck to reach God flies in the face of that message. For me, “I am the way, the truth, the life,” Aramaic idiom that it is, means that emulating the life that he lived, assuming the mindset through which he viewed himself and those around him, and treating myself and others as he treated himself and those around him would bring me peace and set me free. Not from the experience of pain, but from ever thinking God wouldn’t love me if I didn’t follow a bunch of cockamamie rules made up by someone else.
Now, what does any of this have to do with the fact that I marched in the Women’s March on Washington this past Saturday? Well, when asked how to tell a false prophet from a true one, Jesus said to observe the fruit of his labor. And I have.
For starters, the Jesus I’ve read about and talked to and tried for most of my life to think and act like never once “grabbed a pussy” whose owner hadn’t consented for it to be grabbed. He was poor, apparently by choice, as we assume his earthly father Joseph had involved him in carpentry but he’d chosen not to stay in the family business and stiff the people who helped him build it. (He also said something about rich guys having a really hard time entering the kingdom of heaven, too, so I suspect he was avoiding the temptation of wealth.) He gave up being a homeowner in Nazareth, rode in other people’s boats, and developed a nasty habit of eating with people who might easily today wear rings in their noses and dye their hair blue or whatever styles you or I might think despicable. And, God forbid, he even ran around with people who took tax money and gave it to the government or other people and sometimes even kept it for themselves (think Matthew and Zaccheus).
He dared to intercede to keep a single pregnant woman (How exactly do you think they caught her in adultery? I doubt they blasted into another man’s compound and dragged her out of bed) from being stoned to death (the baby would have been killed too) and he dared to suggest that a Samaritan (translate Mexican or Muslim or libtard or alt-right, for our purposes) was the true neighbor in a story — not the priest or the “pure” assistant to the priest (Levite). He mocked none of the disabled he met constantly along the way. And when unjustly arrested because of the lies some of the Pharisees and Sadducees told, he didn’t “hit back harder,” and then justify his behavior with Orwellian “doublespeak.”
So, in the face of that, when I said to Jesus, “What should I do?” he said, “Stand up for love.” I asked him if he’d be there, and he said yes. For the record, he also said he had upcoming engagements in south Georgia because a big storm was coming where he would be needed, with some Syrian refugees in Turkey, in the hospital where a young couple was about to lose a pregnancy, and at a bar in Green Bay where someone was just about to bet all of his family’s rent money on a football game.
If you have a problem with that, you’ll have to take it up with Jesus.
John 21:18-22. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? …”
P.S. I can’t tell you who spoke at the march or what they said. I can’t tell you how many groups supporting god knows what there were. But I can tell you that for a few hours, I stood with the kindest, most polite, most diverse group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience and got a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven.