Posted by: smstrouse | August 8, 2015

What Would Jesus Debate?



Full disclosure: I didn’t watch the Republican “debate” on Thursday night. I was facilitating our Uppity Women of the Bible discussion group (which would be a good series for the GOP to watch, now that I think of it!) Then when I got home, it was a tough choice between the end of the A’s game or the last Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It ended up being a weird back and forth channel-changer, so I didn’t really get out of either what I really wanted.

As I read the reviews of the “debate,” I’m convinced I wouldn’t have gotten much out of that either. Not that I would have expected to see a real discussion of issues or much beyond male posturing, jostling for position and good sound bites, and anti-Obama/ anti-Clinton rhetoric. But there was actually one comment that was worthy of some further thought.

No it wasn’t a Trump bluster. It was Ohio governor John Kasich who actually defended the Donald by saying that Trump is “hitting a nerve in this country. People are frustrated, they’re fed up. For people to just tune them out is a mistake.”

Republican-bashing has always been a popular sport among progressives. Trump-mocking has taken it to new levels. But I think Kasich is on to something here. We often ask how people can buy into the rhetoric of the Tea Party and their ilk, especially those who profess to be followers of Jesus. What would Jesus debate? For starters: care for the immigrant, economic justice for the “least of these” and health and wholeness for all people. That’s not socialism or communism; that’s just plain biblicalism.

But there’s another thing that Jesus has always been about – and that is a message that God has been speaking throughout the ages: Be not afraid. I would add to Kasich’s admonition that people are afraid. They’re afraid, not only for their economic future, but also the future of a way of life. That way of life may indeed be passing away (as it should with its racism, white privilege, xenophobia, homophobia and patriarchy), but even as we welcome in a new day of equality for all we can have compassion for those whose fear is blinding their sight.

Is it easy to have compassion for some of these folks? Nope. But I think it might be what Jesus would want to debate with us and them. He wouldn’t tune them out and neither should we.

How can we, as progressive Christians, convey a message of “Be not afraid” to those with whom we disagree? I don’t have a ready answer to that question. But I hope we on the progressive side of things can take it into consideration as the “debates” continue.

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