Even though I’ve deconstructed to the point where a lot of the people I grew up around would deny that I could be a Christian, I still feel very protective of Jesus and the idea of Christianity. I feel a weird sense of obligation to speak out when other Christians think it’s appropriate to carry a “Jesus Saves” flag as they storm the Capitol after a free and fair election. When Franklin Graham tweets that both sides need to bear responsibility for that Wednesday’s events, I feel the need to say something. I have heard far too much comparison of America with God’s chosen people, a city on the hill, a light to all the world, and I’ve heard the words of the Bible get twisted to support American exceptionalism. (This could be a whole other post on Christian nationalism, which I loudly decry, but I won’t dive into that now). But suffice to say, I am OVER it.
The Bible has been used as a weapon all too often – keeping women and LGBTQ people down, propping up evangelicals’ ideas of purity (sexual and a variety of other areas, including ideological), creating a limited salvation narrative. A lot of people who have experienced religious trauma feel unable to come back to the book that has been behind a lot of their hurt, and I understand that inclination and respect it.
But in the place I stand now, I feel able to read the Bible with a new set of eyes. I want to yell in a megaphone, “FRANKLIN GRAHAM, READ YOUR BIBLE!” (find me on Twitter @corlowski428 to read my tweet response). I want to point out all the passages that talk about justice, and caring for the poor, and warning how wealth leads to corruption. I am currently preparing for a sermon on Micah 6, so I read all of Micah (it’s a short book). Micah is a prophet living in an era with corrupt rulers and unjust judges and self-serving people (sounds familiar, no? Though I know people on “both sides” will nod their heads, while only applying this to the “other side”…). A few passages really struck me:
Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong!
[The Lord] shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat the swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.Micah 3:9-10; 4:3-5
- Cue one of my favorite songs from HAMILTON – Washington expresses his desire to sit under his own vine and fig tree and every time I hear it my heart just… melts. (it’s at minute 2:15). If you watch it, do me a favor and finish this post, ok?
Anyway, I digress. Though Hamilton is related in the quest for a good government. Back to Micah.
So how RADICAL is that? The prophet could literally be talking about us in the United States. A noble and honorable nation in many ways, yet built with injustice and blood (for instance, slavery and Native American genocide). A nation that still denies equity and justice for all too many of its inhabitants. We had to have an attempted coup / insurrection to wake up way too many of our national leaders to realize they have been following a corrupt, solely self-interested leader. Or at least make them abandon what they now realize is a sinking ship.
What Micah is reassuring me with has to do with the words I bolded: the promise of peace, the lure of God’s justice, an eventual time where people are treated fairly and there is equity in the land. I don’t know how my read-the-Bible-literally evangelicals did it, but they somehow skipped all the economic justice that is literally ALL OVER the Bible. Micah makes me believe again that these things – the ways of God’s justice – are something we should be working toward right now, and that they are possible.
So you know what I say? TAKE BACK THE BIBLE. It has been used as a weapon for far too long. I definitely don’t read it literally, and I see it as a human document but with a lot of divine inspiration. Read it how you feel led. I read it how I said and I still feel its power and the weight of its moral authority. Not in every verse (as I said, I believe it’s written by man), but in a lot of it. It doesn’t need to be literally true for it to be real, meaningful, and significant.
We can’t let the marchers on the Capitol define Christianity with their “Jesus Saves” signs. But don’t deny that if we (“we” in this instance being Christians who do not identify with Trumpism, or Christian nationalism, or think we’re “not racist”) do not speak up and act, we are part of the problem. There is no “but that’s not me! That doesn’t represent me!” if you are not actively working to change things. I know it can be scary. But silence is complicity. You get to decide where are all the places you are not silent, but you must do something. Start small and build from there.
Micah boldly spoke what I’m sure were unpopular words at the time. But he’s still making a difference in our lives today. Where will we each begin?