Monday, March 18, 2024

Reflection on Faith and Politics - V -What Do You Want?

At the end of Chapter 10 in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is passing through Jericho when a blind man, Bartimaeus, yells out to him.  Bartimaeus causes such a ruckus that, in spite of the crowd trying to hush him up, Jesus turns and asks him, "What do you want from me?" 

Indeed, what do the masses of people clamoring to claim the Christian faith want from him today?  Many people claim to follow him yet hold a stubborn, obtuse belief in their own privileged position with Jesus.  They claim special rights for themselves as though Jesus commissioned them, in particular, to gather in only their own close friends and family -- that they determine what act Jesus will perform for the downcast - the hungry, the immigrant, the poor.  They are no different than the crowd then - scolding the needy and pushing them to the back of the line.  Perhaps this selfish grasping to hold Jesus only to themselves is why there are so many different churches across the United States landscape?  Perhaps the social toxicity of white privilege bought worldly political power so they could demand that Jesus bless them in their blindness rather than heal them? 

Greed, fear, and hardness of heart are not acts of Jesus. Greed and self-protection are not bedrocks of the Christian faith. They do not permit lovingkindness to thrive or other virtues to lift a society's care for the infinite number of ways trouble and hardship can strike any one of us without warning. In fact, the hardness of heart and the clutching pearls of privilege fuel desperation, which in turn leads to responses of violence, crime, and war.  There is no better example of this escalation in war and violence than the Hamas v. Israeli conflict. Healing this kind of human blindness will take far more than the retreat into silos of vengeful self-justification or hiding in hopes it won't breach our doors.

What we all want is a true pathway to peace and healing of all ills—social, physical, and emotional.  We won't get there if we are the noisy crowd shoving the needy to the rear or only watching out for Number 1.  Jesus' response to need was to notice it and do what he could to help.  This should be the faith model we could all adopt, remembering that frequently, all another person needs is a smile and to be seen.     

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