Probably not. (How can one avoid being political, if trying to follow Jesus?)
Whenâ€”along with a zillion social media users and abusersâ€”I stumbled onto Watson Mereâ€™s 2017 artwork, â€œMy Brotherâ€™s Keeper,â€ my partisan spidey-senses tingled. Its depiction of Martin Luther King Jr. hushing President Trump was blatantly political. As the website Good explained,
The American-born artist of Haitian descent living in Philadelphia created â€œMy Brotherâ€™s Keeperâ€Â right before the Womenâ€™s Marchâ€”and Martin Luther King Dayâ€”in January.
That would be 2017’s January.
With viral intensity, Mereâ€™s image resurfaced in August of 2017 after the clashes between protestors and white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia. For many, it was also a perfect visual for responding to the Presidentâ€™s allegedâ€”and behind â€œclosed doorsâ€â€”derogatory January 2018 comments regarding other countries. Those countries included Haiti, where Mereâ€™s parents were born and raised.
A womenâ€™s march, and a cry for equality.
A response to protests centered around hate.
Anguish over possible inflammatory language.
Mereâ€™s â€œMy Brotherâ€™s Keeper,â€ for current American culture and within the real and imagined perceptions of our global neighborhood, is compelling. And simple. And biased. Two powerful people from different eras, with different values. One white, one black. One is the poster child for American exceptionalism and bluster. The other is a poster child for national humility and nonviolence. And, of course, depending on your political bent and personal beliefs, you will view my conclusions about Trump or King as righteous or wrong. Continue reading →
John 6:35, 41-51 – The 11th Sunday after Pentecost â€“ for Sunday, August 9, 2015
â€œThe Jewish opposition grumbled about him because he said, â€œI am the bread of life that came down from heaven.â€ (John 6:41)
Call me a grumbler.
Itâ€™s as if the Jesus in Johnâ€™s Gospel referred to me when criticizing the Jews and their questions.
They grumbled about him claiming to â€œcome from heaven.â€
They grumbled because he was the â€œbread of life.â€ (Indeed, in the verses following todayâ€™s Gospel reading, the â€œJewish oppositionâ€â€”as John labeled themâ€”grumbled about eating Jesusâ€™ flesh. Fools! Didnâ€™t those no-nothings know anything about metaphors?)
The opposition grumbled about him being anything other than Joseph and Maryâ€™s son, a country bumpkin from a backwater town in a backwater region of the Roman Empire who became a rabble-rouser, a hero to a few and an irritant to most.
While the Jewish oppositionâ€™s grumbles arenâ€™t really my grumbles, I do grumble: about the elusive and enigmatic Jesus; about how someâ€”including, frankly, meâ€”act as if they possess secret knowledge on Godâ€™s thoughts. Continue reading →
Mark 8:31-38 – The 2nd Sunday of Lent â€“ for Sunday, March 1, 2015
â€œAfter calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, â€œAll who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.â€ (Mark 8:34)
Jesus didnâ€™t speak the pleasant, sit-at-the-library-table verb â€œstudy me.â€
Instead, Jesus said, â€œfollow me.â€
Itâ€™s easier to study Jesus. I relish settling into my cushy recliner, cracking open a friendly book or two, and gleaning details about the context of Jesusâ€™ era. How can we really understand any of those parables he told unless we understand the role of women in first-century Palestine, or the particular garments people wore, or grasp the pre-industrial techniques of farming, shepherding, carpentry, and so forth? I need to learn about Galilean geography during the Roman Empire so that I can (cleverly) determine when the Gospel of Luke is incorrect about a particular location. I wrestle with translating ancient Greek (shouldâ€™ve taken more than one semester in seminary), but still like it when I find the nuanced meaning of a word in the Gospel of Mark to wow a congregation or shame an arrogant take-the-Bible-literally colleague . . . Continue reading →