The Rebel Jesus
“So this is the new year, and I don’t feel any different.” – Death Cab for Cutie
It has been some time again since I last posted. Primarily the reason for this was not lack of words or rumination, but rather an often silent and sinister creeping depression and melancholy that I had slipped into for some time. I fight this from time to time. It has been more pervasive of late. 2016 was a year. A big crazy year.
In the span of those few short months, I’ve watched sadly as fascism, racism, violence, hatred, anger, fear, and the raging of the nations overtook so many. I have had an inexplicable and overwhelming sense of impending doom, culminating in a singular day of late, in which I literally felt the sorrow and anguish of others physically, as I listened to the most unusual presidential inauguration I have ever witnessed in my short life here in my beloved America. To be clear, this is still my beloved home and I am not leaving, because my love for this land and for my brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, children and family who live here is not dependent on who sits on the throne of the American Empire. And let us be candid – it is an empire. In many ways, if not all ways, it is THE Empire – the greatest superpower – and its commander-in-chief is considered to be the “most powerful person in the world.” Be that as it may, regardless of who sits in that oblong office, or what you think of that individual as a person, to me the truly terrifying thing about this latest Empirical election was watching what can only be described as predominantly white Christian American privilege showing its seedy underbelly to the shock of many, and we are now in, as Aladdin says, a whole new world, whether we believe it to be good or not. Whether it was a campaign gimmick or not, those who have quietly or vocally held racist and fascist beliefs have been emboldened and encouraged by the rhetoric thrown around this past year by our new President. While fascists, racists, bigots, misogynists and other hate groups have always existed, the difference, this time, seems to be that so many of those people also identify themselves as “Christian.”
Christian. “A person who is a believer in the person of Jesus Christ and his teachings.” Jesus Christ. A historical figure that died in the most ultimate form of non-violent protest against the largest established military and religious empires of his time, and whose overall message, politically speaking, was radical and rebellious at best, and downright seditious at worst. He said to heal the sick, feed the hungry, care for the impoverished, pray in private, love your enemies, and taught that personal happiness is only to be found in suffering, service, and sacrifice to others, and that the greatest among us are the meekest, weakest, poorest bastards on the face of the planet. He also said that no king or kingdom could overcome those who followed him because his kingdom was not of this world. He went so far as to actively help those who accused and destroyed him, even restoring the ear of a soldier cut off by one of his zealous followers trying to stop him from being arrested. The Roman Empire and the Hebrew Leaders hated this Jesus and his followers, not because they posed a military threat to the Roman Emperor or because they were impious Jews. They hated them because they refused to participate in the established systems and orders, both civil and religious; systems that benefited the few who had risen to places of greatest power and prestige, and cast out those who did not “fit” either the religious or empirical mold. The early Christians, at the behest of their leader, simply dropped out of the oldest game on Earth – that of seeking for power and meaning where there is none; where “I” is more important than “we.” The early Christians were the ones who said to everyone, “you are worthy, you are welcome, and you are loved.” They shared what had been revealed to them by this Jesus of Nazareth – that God was not out there…God was right here. That God was not just love itself, but IN love with them…with everyone and everything…and there was no catch. None. Whatsoever. No Empire to join and no laws to follow. They lived simply and with one another, sharing all they had with everyone around them, and worked to heal the sick and ease the suffering of those who were the forgotten and discarded outcasts of the empire.
I am as apolitical as a person can get. I have voted and abstained from voting. I am probably most easily described as “moderate” if you wanted to put me into a political box, but even then, you’d be missing something. I do not care who sits on the American throne. I DO care how that person treats those around me, and it is precisely because of my beliefs that I cannot stay silent when I hear the rhetoric I have heard, and witness the hatred and judgment I have seen perpetuated by so many, especially in the name of the Jesus I claim to believe in and follow. And, regardless of my lack of care about my place or standing within the Empire, I would be remiss if I did not recognize that I am a heterosexual, married, white, middle-class, Christian male. I make no excuses or apologies for this – these are the cards I was dealt and I am not the dealer. I did not ask to be born when, where, and how I was born. And yet, through no choice of my own, I am living in the most prosperous nation in the world and I am a member of the most privileged class of citizens in the Empire. I was raised to believe certain things but the time also came for me to decide what I, the newly sprung adult me believed, and every day is a new day of deciding what it is that I believe. And this being said, my values and my beliefs tell me that every person is of infinite value, every person is worthy, welcomed, and loved. Everyone is beloved by this God I say that I believe in, and there is no catch. I believe what was taught by a Nazarene named Jesus…the homeless rebel who ate and drank with lepers and harlots and those deemed to be unfit and unworthy by the most privileged class of citizens in his time, and who loved and led them without exception or exclusion. I follow the Rebel Jesus and his ragamuffin band of nomads whose kingdom is not of this world. The rebellion that believes that another world is possible – but also believe that it starts by loving the hell out of this one.
The Empire persists but we are not overcome, and the rebellion is alive and well, and yet, I find myself asking the question…where are all the Christians? Where are those crazy vagabond lovers? Where is the band of rebels who refuse to take part in this filthy rotten system instead of trying to manipulate and control its outcome? Am I truly a Christian…a follower and believer of the rebel Jesus…or am I a member of what has become the institution of Empirical Christianity and the most protected and privileged class in the Empire? Do I stand with the last true rebellion or do I actively participate in the dominant religious system that oppresses all who do not fit into its mold, including those who do not worship, think, act, speak, or love in the approved manner?
I choose to chant down Babylon.
I choose the Rebel Jesus.
I choose Love.
THE REBEL JESUS
by: Jackson Browne/Perf. by: Ivan & Alyosha
All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants’ windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
While the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God’s graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus
Well they call him by ‘the Prince of Peace’
And they call him by ‘the Savior’
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
While their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber’s den
In the words of the rebel Jesus
Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There’s a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel JesusWritten by Jackson Browne • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.