Tomorrow is Good Friday. I have always felt this day should be honored more than Easter, in that it is the day Jesus, in very human form, gave his life in the most painful of ways for mankind. While Easter is a day of joy and promise, Good Friday is a day of the ultimate sacrifice. Whether you are Christian in belief or not, I would like to use this day to speak to a few messages which seem to have been trampled by others in their zeal.
We have many devout folks among us, who want to use scriptures to promote division and determine levels of piety and virtue. To me, that is unfortunate, because of all people who have walked the earth, Jesus stood for the disenfranchised. If you have been watching “The Bible” mini-series the past few weeks, it clearly reveals that the leadership of the church was not thrilled with Jesus as he questioned their motivations and practices of holding themselves above others. I think this lesson could be repeated today.
I have said many times before, the Golden Rule is the overarching tenet of the Bible. As Jesus said in Matthews 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Or, in Leviticus 19:18, it is said “You shall not take vengeance or bear grudge against your kinfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself.” We have condensed these words into “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” These words are so simple and powerful. They also are found in various forms in Confucius’ teachings, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism. Taoism and other religions. Social scientists have even termed it the “Ethic of Reciprocity.”
There are no caveats in these teachings to exclude groups of people who are felt less deserving or less virtuous in some people’s eyes. It does not say do unto others, except for gays, lesbians, or illegal immigrants. Back in the Jim Crow era, it did not say do unto others except for Negroes, using the nomenclature of the day. Just as in the time of Jim Crow as it is today, these caveats are wrong-headed and hateful. If Jesus were alive today, it is my opinion he would not be very impressed with bigotry from the pulpit. He would not be very impressed with those who burn others’ sacred books, picket funerals of veterans as their country allows gays in the military or who advocate putting gays behind an electrified fence to have them die off.
Jesus also speaks of loving your neighbor as you love yourself. We have a poverty problem around the world, but also in the US. In the US, we have many neighbors who are struggling living paycheck to paycheck. We have neighbors who have lost their homes or who are very close to doing so. We have people whose jobs have been down-sized, right-sized, RIFed, and eliminated. We have people who can only find work in low wage service or sales jobs that perpetuate poverty. Jesus spoke often of taking care of “the least of these” when referring to his people. We have to help our neighbors in crisis, but do it an empowering way. Let’s help them climb the ladder. Let’s not look down on them as “there but by the grace of God go I.” And, if you don’t believe this statement, I encourage you to watch “American Winter” a HBO documentary which shows how easily it can happen to anyone.
I also don’t think he would be too fond of those who are not being good stewards with our earth. There are numerous places in the Bible where God tells us to take care of the earth. One example is from Jeremiah 2:7 – “I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.” Many of the biblical citings involving the environment are around God’s displeasure that we are not taking care of the earth. I raise this as we are beholden to the use of fossil fuels and we need to stridently move away from their use due to the even-worse than predicted pace of global warming. We need to be ever vigilant with our water supplies, which are growing more scarce with global warming and non life sustaining uses that degrade the environment, such as fracking. And, we need to make sure we cease or limit behaviors that damage the environment.
Finally, I do not think Jesus would be too pleased with our unhealthy zest in the US for weapons of mass destruction that some gun owners want to carry around in their hands or keep in their arsenal. I would imagine Jesus walking up to a vocal gun rights supporter and taking the gun out of his hands and throwing it in the river. Responsible gun ownership should not be confused with empire building and ego gratifying hording of weapons designed to kill many people at one time. Call me crazy, but I cannot find anyway to believe Jesus would support that behavior.
If people want to be Evangelical, that is more than fine, as I do not want to stand in the way of their passion. But, you cannot pick the parts of Evangelicalism that you like, and ignore the bigger picture. The bigger picture is when religion is inclusive, it is a wonderful thing to behold. Yet, when religion chooses to exclude, it can be as bigoted and mean-spirited as any group of people. And, my greatest pet peeve, coming from this very imperfect person and sinner, is bigotry from the pulpit. To me, it is the worst behavior a leader could do, as we look to them to guide us in positive, spiritual way. What would Jesus do (WWJD) is the question often seen on bumper stickers or bracelets. In my mind, Jesus would not be happy with church leaders who discriminate. That is what Jesus would do.
Please join with me in thinking good thoughts tomorrow. We are an imperfect lot, who killed the only perfect person ever to walk the earth. That is the greatest case of bigotry ever. We should remember why and how he died on this day of all days. And, we should honor his death and resurrection, by living each day the best we can be.