The Social Justice Statement, a document composed by prominent white evangelical men, claims that caring for minorities somehow compromises the gospel. It denies any culpability in systemic racism, and any responsibility for how anti-gay and anti-woman rhetoric causes harm.
None of this is surprising. In fact, it fits rather well in an era in which Trump is the savior of the Christian Right.
Luckily, I am far from alone in thinking that Jesus wouldn’t recognize this document as anything that has to do with the messages he preached. As a Middle Eastern Jew (who likely wasn’t white), I imagine he’d flip a few tables over it.
The Statement encapsulates the kind of Christianity I got sucked into when I first converted: all belief, but little action. It’s not a representation of what all of Christianity looks like, thankfully, or else I’d have left it altogether a long time ago.
In that strand of Christianity, your actions, or “good works,” are expected to demonstrate the faith you already have. If you don’t produce “good fruit,” your salvation comes into question.
But your good works won’t save you. If you believe that, then you definitely were never saved to begin with.
Do you find that confusing? I sure do. Thank goodness for the Episcopal Church, which demonstrates the kind of faith-and-works balance I was looking for during my intense deconstruction period. There, I have met people who would probably still be serving in soup kitchens or participating in protests even if they weren’t religious, but it’s their faith that really obligates them to do it. They understand that being the hands and feet of Jesus is something literal, not a metaphor.
They understand that Jesus is a physical embodiment of Tikkun Olam, the Jewish command to mend the world, even if they have never heard that expression before.
That’s the only kind of Christianity that makes sense to me. After reading The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone (a book every Christian should read), the parallel between lynched black men — both during Jim Crow and today by corrupt police officers — and the murdered Christ are so obvious.
Jesus was also murdered by a lynch mob.*
And who was it who carried out modern lynchings? Christians.
Even if you believe that such people are undeserving of the title, they waved the Christian banner as justification, and that makes them part of Christian history, no matter how inconvenient.
If a pastor tells you that the fight for equal rights, fair wages, criminal justice, or that feeding hungry people is a distraction from the “real” Christian message, run. Or ask them if they’ve read the Sermon on the Mount before.
If Jesus was only concerned about saving souls, and didn’t give a crap about justice on this side of heaven, then why bother with the story of the Good Samaritan? Why pardon the woman caught in adultery? And if satisfying our base needs didn’t matter, who bother multiplying the fish and the loaves?
Jesus and Paul instructed their audiences to be open to constructive criticism, to examine the motives of their hearts, and humbly accept correction when needed. But that humility is completely absent in the Social Justice Statement, which conveniently excuses Christians from the consequences of their inaction.
It’s an embarrassment to everything Jewish about Jesus, which is basically everything about Jesus. History won’t remember it kindly.
*When I say Jesus was killed by a mob, I am not singling out the Jews. Crucifixion was a Roman form of execution, and the ultimate decision to have Jesus killed rested on Pontius Pilate. From a theological standpoint, all of that is moot, since Jesus was supposed to die for our sin from the beginning.