Black Lives Don't Matter to Jesus That Way

Exegesis Matters

The Reformed African American Network published a piece titled "A Biblical View on 'Black Lives Matter' and Immigration." The author,Jeremy Williams, sets out "to show how the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, and allowing immigrants in this country, whether Hispanic or Syrian, is Biblical." His text for making this Biblical case is Matthew 9:36:"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." What does this text mean?

It applies to the condition of the Black community:
First, it says Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were harassed and helpless. If anyone has been harassed and helpless in this country, it would be the African-American community. 
From slavery, to Jim Crow, to mass incarceration, to over-policing, the African-American community has been harassed, then helpless. When you put half of the black men in prison, flood the community with drugs, shut down schools and put in title loans, cash advance institutions, unhealthy grocery stores, and liquor stores, you are hurting it.
It also applies to immigrants, whether legal or illegal:
Immigrants trying to enter the country face some of the same problems; they are in the category of sheep without shepherds. This means their leaders have failed them. Their leaders have thrown them to the wolves of life. When we look at Mexico or Syria (obviously, there are more immigrants from other countries, but these two people groups are the hot topics in 2015), we see a blatant failure in leadership.

On one hand, we have a country overrun by drug cartels and sex trafficking. On the other hand, we have a leader in Bashar al-Assad who kills his own people on television, with no apologies. Those are leaders who have failed their people.

Evangelicals are not responding as Jesus would:
Here is where we come in as Christians. When Jesus saw these things in his day, he had compassion on the people. Today I see those who are supposed to be Christians either reacting by supporting a man who wants to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out and has vowed to send the Syrians back, or by just being completely silent on the issue. I see people reacting by saying that “all lives matter” in response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
I don’t see compassion from the evangelical Christian community. Sadly, I see them being annoyed with ideas such as the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and the reality of immigration in the U.S. The worst part is some who are African-American and Hispanic in the evangelical Christian community feel like they have to “sell out” their own in order to assimilate into majority culture.
 What would Jesus do?
Newsflash: Jesus would be saying, “Black lives matter.” How do I know? From the parable of the Good Samaritan and the interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. In those passages, Jesus is telling Jewish people Samaritan lives matter. He had compassion on the harassed and helpless.
 Jesus would let the immigrants in. How do I know? After Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus tells his disciples that he is the shepherd to every lost sheep. He seeks to lead those who have been left or mistreated by their leadership. Thus, he doesn’t wait for people to follow him (which was the traditional Jewish way of rabbi and student relationships) but instead says “Look, you need a Savior, so follow me.”
Now, in response to Mr. Williams I ask, "What was Jesus doing?"
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
Jesus was going about the kingdom work the Father gave him to do - teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the gospel, doing miracles as signs of the arrival of the kingdom and its power to bring about the day when there will be no more pain, or sickness, or crying, or death.

How did Jesus see see the condition of the crowds of people? 
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
When we were raising our sons, I sometimes watched them happily playing, saw them as they did not see themselves, and had a great feeling of sadness come over me? Why? Because I knew things about life in the world they did not know. Jesus saw these people like sheep who were harassed by terrain, predators, and thieves. The sheep were helpless to save themselves from these threats. Was this because their country was occupied by the Romans? Because they were peasants? Because they were poor and powerless? No. They were harassed and helpless because of Satan, sin, and death.

They needed a shepherd to protect them, save them, and lead them to green pastures and refreshing streams. Those who should have shepherded them - the priests, scribes, rabbis, and leaders of the synagogues - failed them. But Jesus is the true Good Shepherd who cares about the sheep and will lay down his life to save them.

Jesus felt compassion for them. He was deeply moved in his inner being by the plight of these people. And, because compassion is not only deep emotion but a feeling that leads to helping intervention, Jesus did something about their plight. 

What did Jesus do? 

First he informed his disciples of the need:
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few...
There is a plentiful harvest to be gathered now that Jesus has come and the kingdom has been inaugurated. When harvests are ready there is a lot of work to be done in a short time. At present, however, there are not enough laborers to go into the harvest. This harvest is a harvest of people, souls if you will, to be gathered into the kingdom of salvation. 

Second Jesus called them to prayer: 
...therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
It is notable and instructive to the church that the first thing Jesus did about the harassed and helpless multitudes, the plentiful harvest, and the few workers was to call his disciples to pray.

What are they to pray for? More social workers, community organizers, sympathetic politicians, protest leaders, and activists on behalf of the temporally oppressed people? No. Laborers to gather the harvest. 

Then Jesus called and set apart his disciples as Apostles to labor in the harvest and to that end he granted them powers to carry on the ministry of the kingdom:
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
After appointing them Apostles Jesus sent them to do the work:
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons."
Jesus sent them to carry on the same ministry of preaching the gospel of the kingdom and demonstrating the signs of kingdom. First through the Apostles and later the church (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus multiplied his ministry.

One of the disturbing aspects of Mr. Williams' piece is the similarity of exegesis, theology, and practice to liberation theology. God's people are the the poor, the disenfranchised, the insignificant, the weak, the minorities who are oppressed by powerful people, institutions, and structures. Jesus took the side of such people and wants to set them free while bringing their oppressors to justice. If we are God's people, who are Jesus's agents in the world, we will take the side of the oppressed, help them overthrow the structures of oppression, and get for them such things as political, educational, economic, and institutional justice. 

Do black lives matter to Jesus?  Indeed they do. But so do lives of every people, tribe, tongue, and nation. Does Jesus care about immigrants, legal and illegal? Yes, he does. He cares about every kind and condition of mankind. He is not willing that any should perish.

How we feel about the "Black lives matter" movement and what should be done immigrants is related to our sociological and political commitments, not the Bible. The divide is between social and political conservatives and progressives, not those who believe the Bible and don't.  Jesus is not on the side of "Black lives matter" or open borders. 

One final word: Exegesis matters. Jesus cares about how it's done. 

The Curmudgeon Reinvents Himself

Curmudgeon Drops Christian
And Challenges D.G. Hart

If you're reading this, you can blame a teacher for the ability to read, but you'll have to blame yourself for coming here. I used to blog under the name, The Christian Curmudgeon. Some of you will know that my old Google Account was hacked by someone asking for money, and, as a result, I have not been able to recover anything I had linked to that account. This presented me with the necessity of creating new email addresses, a new Blog site, and the opportunity to reinvent myself. 

I decided to create two Blogs linked to different email accounts. One Blog is devoted exclusively to matters associated with the church I serve. There I publish homilies and other church related materials. I want to avoid any confusion about those things I write as a minister, and specifically as a minister of my church and my denomination, and those things I say a an individual and private person . 

This Blog is devoted to what I want to say in the latter capacity. The first Blog publishes what I write as a minister with a very restricted identity. This one will publish anything I want to talk about, including theological and ecclesiastical topics not related to my restricted identity. One hope I have is to express opinions without people saying, "How can you as supposed 'man of God' think that?" Or, "No wonder, given your religious affiliation, you think such stupid things." 

As noted above, I am also taking the opportunity to reinvent myself. This has been accomplished by retaining the word "Curmudgeon" and replacing the words "The Christian" with "Just a." I have changed my identity from "The Christian Curmudgeon" to "Just a Curmudgeon." Dropping the "The" is a characteristically humble admission on my part - there are Christian curmudgeons other than I. 

Why drop "Christian" the title? Has The Curmudgeon apostatised? Not self-consciously. I remain a baptized, orthodox, reformational Christian. What then? 

Simply put, I like to write about a number of topics, and I do not think there is a Christian view, not even a Christian curmudgeonly view, of everything about which I write. I do not hold, as once I did, the "world-and-life-view" outlook that there is a distinctly Christian view of and/or approach to everything. I am always a Christian, sometimes better, other times worse, but I do not believe that there is a view of, or approach to, everything, that is grounded in the Christ, the Redeemer-King, and the Bible as redemptive revelation. I think God has spoken in his Son and his Word infallibly but not exhaustively. He has spoken to us a Word that is redemptively sufficient for us in this world (i.e. sufficient to show us the way of redemption and to enable us to believe and live as redeemed persons) but redemptive sufficiency does not require a Word about everything under the sun.

I am affirming the existence of the distinction between the sacred and the profane, the religious and the secular, the church and the world, or, as our Lord put it in a concrete case, what is God's and what is Caesar's.  Put another way, I am saying I believe in the existence of two kingdoms, both under the sovereign rule of God, the kingdom of creation and the kingdom of redemption. We share life in the kingdom of creation with all mankind. We share life in the kingdom of redemption with all who are in the church.  

Paradoxically, I think the two-kingdoms, non-world-and-life-view, of this present world is the Biblical world-and-life-view. The church as the kingdom of God on earth has its peculiar sphere, and, when it focuses on the things which Christ, as its King, has given it, and only it, to say and do, it is has the potential to be most powerful. On the other hand, when it involves itself in matters not assigned to it by our Lord, it diffuses its power, weakens its witness, and unnecessarily binds its members' (most often a minority within its membership) consciences. Consider: does Christ have a Word to speak, does he call the church to bear witness about, and are the church's members bound to defer to the church's pronouncements - regarding such matters as the roles of women outside the church and family, health care, the economy, immigration, national defense? Does Jesus have a choice among the candidates that members of the Republican caucus will choose among to nominate to the House as its next Speaker? Is there a candidate, among those vying for the Republican Presidential nomination, who has Jesus's endorsement? Does Jesus tell us whether health care should be entirely an individual responsibility, a combination of individual responsibility and private insurance, a government responsibility, or a partnership of the individual, government, insurance companies? Is Christ for or against Social Security? Does he favor or disapprove intervention in Syria?

On the old Blog I published whatever I wrote that I wanted to publish. Most Sundays that included a copy of the manuscript of that day's homily. Those will not appear at this Blog site. I wrote about a number of ecclesiastical issues not directly related to my work as a parish minister. Those will continue to appear here, not on church Blog site.

I also wrote about historical, cultural, and political issues that interested me, or, to be honest, provoked me. I have asked myself, "What is the source of what I say here?" Do I know the mind of Christ about this? Are these words guided by the Biblical revelation? Do I say these things as a Christian representing a distinctly Christian point of view? Are these matters about which I am certain - as certain as a Christian, living in this age, recognizing his own limitations and fallibility, may be? 

My answer to those questions is, "No." So how do I come up with the things I say? They come from a variety of sources about which I can only guess (much of what we think and do in this world is guesswork) - genetic tendencies, upbringing, life experiences, reading, reflection, reasoning, family, friends, conversation, prejudice (by which I mean matters I intuitively or after reflection judge and am unlikely to question), and who knows what else? 

The bottom line is that I have opinions. They are my opinions, not God's. God gives me the freedom to have opinions, so long as I submit to what he says through his Son in his Word. I have an opinion about the Trinity, an opinion I believe is Biblical and obligatory on me and the whole church catholic. I have opinions about illegal immigrants, and I believe in my opinions enough sometimes to write about them, but I do not claim them as God's. Nor should I. 

With this Blog I am out Hart-ing Darryl. He continues to say everything at two Blogs - Old Life (which is a reference to being an Old Side and Old School Presbyterian) and Putting the Protest in Protestant. Now when he writes about the movies and TV shows he and Mrs. Hart watch, is he giving what he believes are Jesus's reflections? I suggest the he, too, reinvent himself perhaps by creating a new Blog, "The Secular Hart." I like the double entendre of it.