I stumbled across an interesting post on Facebook today, passed along by a fellow Episcopalian who lives in New England and is also an expert on fountain pens. I’ve only begun, on this Good Friday of 2015, to explore the website, “Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith,” and I like what I see so far. It contains conversations about Christianity from a perspective of progressive Christians — something we don’t hear often in a public square dominated by the shouting fundamentalists. Perhaps I like it because it confirms some of my own bias. It is also someone, a Presbyterian minister, far more qualified as a biblical scholar than I, to support some of the thoughts I’ve long held.
In “FollowingJesus Means Being Political and Advocating for ‘The Least of These,’” Rev. Mark Sandlin’s point about Jesus’ crucifixion is that Jesus didn’t die to atone for our sins. Jesus was executed as a threat to the state by advocating for “the least of us” and threatening the social order, a social order run by a theocratic government enforced by the Roman legions in occupied Judah. Sandlin draws disturbing parallels to today’s United States.
The climactic moment that dooms Jesus to the cross was attacking the moneychangers at the temple during Passover, Sandlin writes. “He confronts the corrupt system that misuses its power and oppresses those in need. He literally and figuratively begins flipping tables on the powerful.”
For me, this essay is stunningly powerful, the more so on the morning following a dramatic Maundy Thursday service at the end of which the altar is stripped, the clergy shed their vestments and the church goes dark, literally and figuratively, and symbolic reminder of how Jesus’ clothes and life were stripped from him.
I have often wondered, especially in the face of being called hateful and angry, how I reconcile that with my efforts to be a good and faithful Christian. And in Sandlin’s closing line I now understand: “You simply can’t fully follow Jesus if you aren’t willing to be political and stick out your own neck, challenging the hypocritical power structures and leaders on behalf of the oppressed.”