Jesus, anti-semitism, Muslims, and Michael Jackson…
…not a really cohesive group of topics, huh? For class tomorrow I had to read excerpts from the New Testament and a chapter in our textbook about the rise of Christianity (it’s a Western Civilizations class). The portions from the NT were teachings of Jesus:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ But now I tell you: love your enemies, and pray for those who mistreat you, so that you will become the sons of your Father in heaven…If you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that!”
Then there was the reading out of our text-book (Western Civilization: A Brief History, Perry, Sixth Edition) speaking of early Christianity:
Christians identified opponents – Jews, pagans, and heretics – with Satan and viewed conflicts in a moral context: a struggle between God’s faithful and Satan’s servants. Over the centuries, the view that they were participants in a cosmic struggle between good and evil led Christians to demonize adversaries, a practice that exacerbated hatred and justified mistreatment, even massacre…The diabolization of the Jew, which bore no relationship to the actual behavior of Jews or to their highly ethical religion, and the “theology of victimization,” which held that the Jews were collectively and eternally cursed for denying Christ, became powerful myths. Over the centuries, these myths poisoned Christians’ hearts and minds against Jews, spurring innumerable humiliations, persecutions, and massacres by Christians who believed that their actions were pleasing to God.
Then tonight I went to an event called Why Do You Fear Me?. The premise was to approach the unconscious (maybe sometimes conscious) ideas we as Americans have in our heads when we think of Muslims and Arabs. We talked about how Jesus’ idea of loving our enemies can be expressed when all we feel is fear when we see someone whom we identify as “enemy”. How can you have love if there’s no affection (in the amazing words of Ted Dekker)? How can you have affection if you have no interaction with those people? It was an amazing conversation that seemed to perfectly contrast the things I was learning earlier about the actions of our early church forefathers.
As I was leaving the event, Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” was on the radio. It was the ideal sum-up for a day like today. Thinking through implications of what it actually means to “love” my neighbor as myself…to not be caught up in hyper-religiosity that corrupts and maims…to walk through life with affection for those I may not understand or agree with…it all starts with looking at myself and making a change in me. To choose to let His love transform me.
Also, while I was writing this blog tonight, I’ve been listening to the Hope for Haiti Now album…amazing stuff…you should check that out as well…