Conservative, fundamentalist, right-wing Christians scare me more than the Muslim terrorists we seem to see lurking behind every door. We have invested more money that I can even think about in “homeland security” and yet those we seem to apprehend have been caught in sting operations. As Froma Horrop pointed out in one column, when a homebred American guns down eight people in a beauty parlor in California we are quick to point to failed relationships and financial disasters. However, let the person have any mid-eastern connections and we quickly assume they are part of the vast world-wide Muslim network intent on destroying the very fabric of this country.
Our home-grown, Christian terrorists are not wielding guns or building bombs (although we shouldn’t forget about Timothy McVeigh) right now but they are destroying lives. They do this by telling lies which are then repeated often enough so that the lies become truth. They are intent on bringing others down so that they may retain power. They point fingers at the unemployed and call them lazy. Some of our Republican candidates even claim they are tired of those American citizens who aren’t paying any taxes. As someone who earns $31,000 yearly – but who is, let me hasten to add, well-educated and a hard-worker – paying 22% of my income as taxes puts me at the poverty level. I don’t want to become a banker or a lawyer or a well-heeled business person. I am a pastor and I love what I do. This doesn’t make me lazy. Those of us in this position are not asking for handouts. We want justice.
Right-wing Christians read scripture and use platitudes to explain and interpret what they have read. Do they really believe that Jesus was crucified because of his religious beliefs? Many of his parables are set in the oppressive environment of ancient Palestine. Does this sound familiar? 1% to 2% of the population in that society were considered to be the elite – those who lived off the backs of the 90% of the population who were the expendable labor. The middle class, or the retainer class, of that time probably made up about 7% of the population. In Bill Herzog’s book, The Parables as Subversive Speech, we come to understand that what Jesus is really talking about is the oppressive economic disparities that existed in that early Palestine.
Has life really changed so much? Our political and economic systems are so badly skewed that it is impossible for the young people of today to dream the American dream. They are in Zucotti Park and in Niagara Square in Buffalo, NY, because they want to make a stand for justice and their right to their dreams.
Christians who hang on to the status quo and become so angry when their truths are challenged scare me. They use their piety to crucify those who would dream. They accuse those who see the Word differently of being the anti-Christ. They rule with fear tactics and would bludgeon any who stand up to them. How are they any different from those in Libya who proclaim Sharia law? Fundamentalist Christian law is as punitive and frightening. Will we allow ourselves to be governed by these?
Our hope lies in the dreams of our youth – may our old men and women find those forgotten dreams in their hearts and uphold those whose age gives them energy and passion. Christ is with us as our neighbor today. That is where our true hope lies.