Qumran, West Bank,
Palestinian desert, 1981 (CRG)
Christian got tired of hanging out with God in the wilderness and began having temptations to be something more than a mere follower of Jesus.
Turn these stones to “bread,” as in “money,” and with that money enjoy the prosperity you were intended to have! It’s long been believed that those with big houses and expensive cars and material wealth are especially blessed by God. You can’t live by God’s words alone!
See the high steeple of this megachurch: this will be yours—large and influential, popular and spectacular, maybe even global!—as proof of your faith and goodness and success to the world and to other churches. God will surely be tempted to reward you bigtime!
You will have political power if you bow to leaders who join you in abusing and controlling the bodies of others: workers, women, trans people, lesbians and gays, immigrants, people of color, the needy, and anyone who stands in your way. You can have all the power you need to make the world in your image! It will be sweet.
No, Jesus can’t come along. He would never understand. He had a good idea but just doesn’t know how to capitalize on it. You do. You’re better than he is. Remember even he said you’d do greater things than he did. And such a loser! Got himself crucified!
This parable came to me in the middle of the night, as I thought about how much kinder my evangelical, fundamentalist parents were than the evangelical Christians of today. I realize, in their hunger for power, influence, and control, evangelicals have lost their way.
What got me to thinking of this was an opinion piece written by Liesl Schwabe, “Everything I Know about Feminism I Learned from Nuns.” It reminded me that many of the values I now hold and promote as a progressive Christian I learned from evangelical, fundamentalist Christians. Now, I know that many of you may have had quite a different experience, either of nuns and Catholic school, or of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, but some of us at least have takeaways from those experiences that may never have been imagined or anticipated or desired by those spiritual communities.
“Jesus loves the little children,” we were taught to sing, “all the children of the world: red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” In no way does this support white privilege, let alone white supremacy. There are no boundaries or borders to God’s love; we are all God’s children.
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.” The vulnerable, deprived, underprivileged, marginalized, and abused alike belong to those whom Jesus loves. And, as process theologian Daniel Day Williams pointed out, it is more vital (as in life-giving) and needful to belong than to believe.
How many times we were taught that Jesus welcomed lepers, children, women, people with disabilities, those with mental health issues, the poor, the oppressed, while, in the words of his mother Mary, “sending the rich away empty” and in his own words calling upon the wealthy to sell their possessions and distribute the proceeds to the poor! Jesus was an early advocate of health care for all and a challenger of income inequality.
We learned that Jesus praised the faith of a child, the faith of those outside his religious community, the faith of foreigners, the faith of outcasts.
And, as he was himself dying on a cross, he welcomed a convicted criminal into Paradise, surely a subversion of the death penalty.
Jesus witnessed a God of mercy that too many fundamentalist evangelical Christians have abandoned, ignored, or forgotten.
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