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  • Writer's pictureDavid Beers

Does Jesus make you mad?


I saw the meme above and shared it on my Facebook feed, which I often do. I usually get likes and hearts from like-minded friends and family. Sometimes I will get a snarky response from a family member who doesn’t agree with me, but I have trained most of them not to bother. Quoting my Grandfather Beers, “You can always tell a Beers...you just can’t tell them much!” Which is absolutely true. You do not want to be in a room full of Beers. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law just stand in the corner and watch, shaking their heads.


When I got the following reply, from a person in another group I am in, I was surprised. This person is a gay man of apparent Northern European ethnicity. I took the bait and replied on Facebook. My dear friend Billy Kurtz suggested that this post should not be hidden in a sub-post. I’ve shared it with a few friends and they seemed to respond positively to it. So here it is:

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Friend:

Just curious what is the purpose of this post... for you?

I’m trying to understand why people need to post these messages?


Me:

I am still trying to figure out why you asked me that. It obviously caused a reaction in you, which is the primary point. It is to make people stop and re-examine their own views and beliefs. I probably didn’t have to tell you who the historical Jesus was. You strike me as an educated person and so even if you aren’t Christian, Jewish, or Muslim you have a cultural understanding being in the US or Canada.


You must also be aware of the cultural appropriation of the person of Jesus by Western culture, starting with the Roman Empire when Constantine “converted” to Christianity as a superstitious response to a vision and winning the battle afterward. He then perpetrated a hostile takeover of the faith and the symbols to serve the Roman Empire, from which the religion has never recovered. From that point, Christianity has been the servant of empire and colonization. It has been used as the beachhead to destroy and eliminate other cultures, religions, and ethnic identities. It has been used to justify all manner of unholy behavior towards the marginalized to maintain the power and privilege of those who control the system and are in positions of power. The institutional church does that to this day.


You and I are descendants (mostly) of the people of Northern and Northwestern Europe. This means that our ancestors were most likely Celts and Germanic peoples. The historic cultures and religions of those groups where eliminated to better dominate and assimilate those groups into the power structure of the Roman Empire and convince them that it was in their own best interests to adopt Roman ideas and ways if they wanted to stay alive. Christianity was prostituted to the point where the basic ideas of love of God and one another became blind obedience to those in authority, both in the state government and in the Church.


The cultural appropriation of the person of Jesus was a part of this diminishment of other cultures. While Julius Caesar is the only point of reference for who the historic Celts were and the Germanic tribes were turned into barbarians from the historic perspectives of Romans, the Europeanization of Jesus is much more insidious. Jesus could no longer be the dark-skinned Palestinian Jew who rebelled against the power structure of both Rome and the Temple. He had to become the voice of the power structure, he had to look like the power structure, his message of unconditional love and acceptance by God and for one another had to be turned into a message of conditional acceptance and love based on obedience not to God, but to the power structure that replaced God. When Jesus became European, Roman, or whatever, then other people groups not European had to bow to the powers that brought that message.


What does that picture mean to me? As a gay man, it means that the Church is a lie, that it simply trains and enculturates hatred of people who do not fit into the white, heterosexual, elite patriarchy. Boys are trained and rewarded by the Church, society, and the power elite to beat up those “fags and sissies”. The rape and molestation of children by those in power both in the Church and the power group are ignored or diminished to the point where the victims are blamed. The lie of “white” Jesus allows the Church to complicit in the oppression of other non-white groups, of women, of LGBTQIA+ persons, and anyone else who refuses to conform to the standards that perpetuate the power structure of the oppressors and colonizers.


As a “white” man who tried to pass as straight for most of my life, I feel shame for participating in a culture that used me to oppress others while it taught me to oppress myself and free setting myself free. “White” Jesus told me that being who I was was bad and wrong and dirty. “White” Jesus conditioned his love upon my submission to a set of rules that had nothing to do with God’s love or loving other people. “White” Jesus punished me for speaking out against institutionalized oppression, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and colonization. “White” Jesus allows people to blaspheme by using the name of God and/or Jesus to justify hate and oppression, to validate slavery and the diminishment of person, and to even interpret the “words” of Jesus to break people and brainwash them into believing that this is the kind of world and kind of Church that represents the “Kingdom of God” and the “Body of Christ”.


To place Jesus in his historical context, as a person of color, as a person who was oppressed by a colonizing empire and patriarchal religious infrastructure that had abandoned any pretense of serving anyone but themselves is to acknowledge our complicity in a system and institution that do not have anything to do with the love of God through Jesus. It is like trying to excuse an abusive parent by saying, well they brought me into the world and fed, clothed, and housed me when I was a child. Somehow this is supposed to diminish the trauma and pain of being powerless and unable to escape a horrible situation.


This is why people post things like this. It is to remind those who claim to follow Jesus and call themselves Christians that most modern-day understandings of even the man called Jesus, let alone the spiritual entity of the incarnation of the Son of God has become unrecognizable from the context of his earthly ministry, even as interpreted by those who followed him and wrote about it decades later. To acknowledge that the person we claim to worship embodied the marginalized, the oppressed, the rebel, and the non-conformist. How others respond to this is up to them, but in being reminded of who Jesus really was and the context of his ministry the responsibility to confront the false paradigm becomes theirs and not the one who posts the picture.


Additional comments from me


P.S. you might want to think twice in the future about asking a preacher, theologian, historian, and educator to explain themselves because they will. Lol


His response:

Friend:

I guess I was trying to find out what your hope is to get out of this message? I know there are many people out there just trying to stir negativity up.

The other day someone posted about wishing people of a political party to hell. I guess I’m trying to understand what positivity these messages bring?

Me:

It is a positive action to confront those who use the system to control and oppress. To pretend everything is great and "play nice" is one of those passive-aggressive behaviors that keep co-dependents in chains and unable to free themselves from toxic and abusive systems and relationships. If that makes people uncomfortable then, that is their choice to feel uncomfortable and pretend there is no problem. rather than examine the situation for themselves. For most "white" Christians, it is easier to accept the status quo and believe that "someday" things will be better instead of being the hands and feet of Jesus and be a co-creator in making the reality of God's love present in everyone's life. I don't expect everyone to accept or agree with me, but I will not apologize when I speak truth to power.

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There’s a follow up to this in my next post.


David


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