We’ve all seen the picture of a U.S. President standing in front of an Episcopalian church across the way from the White House, waving a Bible like a weapon, so I’m won’t need to show it again. But how can I express how deeply offended and saddened I am by this display of naked yoking of political agenda with religious symbolism, when what comes out of his own mouth on a daily basis is in bald-faced contradiction of the words of Jesus contained in that book? Instead I will share a song I wrote over 20 years ago. It’s called, “Hello, Jesus.”
I am a preacher’s kid, who went on to study the Bible academically in college and seminary. Later I earned a Ph.D. in Social Ethics at USC. I have over a dozen Bibles in my house in various translations and the original languages, some of my own, some inherited from my family, marked and re-marked. I promise not to wave any of them at you as a weapon. You know why? Because the message of Jesus contained therein is tattooed on my soul. Such words that would humble the mighty should they have the ears to hear:
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.
Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Love your neighbor as yourself (Who is your neighbor? The stranger, the other, the wounded in need of care.).
Want to wave a Bible in the air? Want to be on the side of Jesus? Then find the sick and heal them. Find the hungry and feed them. Find the stranger and take them in. Give drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked. Find the prisoner and visit them. End the school to prison pipeline. Say the words, black lives matter, because Jesus is the shepherd who will leave the 99 sheep who are safe and find the one that is lost and in need of his helping hands.
From the time I was an adolescent reading quietly in my bedroom to my academic studies, the message of Jesus comes roaring like the rushing water of Niagara Falls. Let mercy be your beacon. Let love be your doctrine.
At the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year the keynote speaker, Arthur Brooks, made allusion to “love your enemies.” He has even written a book with that as the title. The President got up and said, “I don’t know if I agree with you.” It is not clear whether he knew he was contradicting Jesus Christ, but it is clear that his walk through this world is in opposition to the sacrifice, human decency, and service Jesus represents. If you have another agenda, that is your right in America, but please don’t wave the Bible in front of it.
Jesus will have no part in your culture wars, your othering of people who do not share your party affiliation, who do not look, speak, or believe like you, who come from another country, with or without papers. Find another hero to stand beside your rhetoric of hatred and division.
“Hello Jesus” is about a reunion with my old friend, both imaginary and truly spiritual. My singing voice has changed and I might write the song a little differently today, but message of Jesus’ service and love still ring loud and clear. If you’ve got the ears to hear it.