A few weeks ago I was marching with the “Resistance Choir” when a man started shouting at us through a bullhorn. His fliers, clothes and 10-foot sign all read “FEAR GOD” in stark black-and-white lettering. I admired his passion, but not the way he represented Christianity. My normal tactic of ignoring people like this failed because the march stalled right in front of him.
So I approached him and invited him to sing with us. His list of objections was long (and included the length of my hair!), but his primary beef with Christians participating in an anti-racist political march was that he believed Jesus obeyed political authorities and therefore Christians should be patriotic and nonpolitical.
His theology is all too common.
Much of the White church in North America has embraced the propaganda that Jesus was either an obedient patriot or passively nonpolitical.
Much of the White church in North America has embraced the propaganda that Jesus was either an obedient patriot or passively nonpolitical. This is absurd, and we do not need to do theological acrobatics to arrive at the idea that Jesus was a political revolutionary. Just look at the most famous symbol in Christianity: the cross.
The cross was an instrument of torture and murder used by the Roman Empire specifically for those it considered enemies of the state. The cross was used to crush the spirit of oppressed peoples and to discourage uprisings by showing what happens to those who disobey authority and cause disorder. Jesus was sentenced to the cross just a few days after he orchestrated a protest march into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) and when he turned the tables in the Temple — disrupting commerce during the busiest tourist week of the year in the center of the city’s main economic engine — and then invited in people with disabilities who had been excluded from that space.
“Table Turning” is a new movement reclaiming that subversive tradition.
“Table Turning” is a new movement reclaiming that subversive tradition. The movement encourages churches across the country to celebrate “Table Turning Monday,” a new holiday between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. This year, my church’s Table Turning action will protest deportation and aggression that undocumented people face. We invite all to join us in a rally with music, speakers, legal defense fundraising and support for those being unjustly scapegoated. Learn more at tableturning.org.
The guy with the bullhorn is as much a product of a progressive church refusing to act in order to seek respectability and comfort as he is a product of the right-wing church.
Someday I hope that faith-based actions to disrupt the status quo and build up justice might be 10 times more common than guys with bullhorns.
Rev. John Helmiere is the convener of Valley & Mountain.
Wait, there's more. Check out the full March 14 - 20 issue.