A close-up of a statue of Jesus in despair.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Lisa.

This weekend, Christians will remember the last week of Jesus’ life. If you ask Christians what the significance of Jesus is, they will tell you that Jesus “died for our sins,” paving the way for our souls to go to heaven after we shed this mortal coil. This common view is really a rather odd answer.

Some Christians tell the story as if God, the spiritual source of the material world, is really angry with us human beings. We are a rebellious sort who eat apples off the wrong trees and have sex with the wrong people. God the spirit is so angry with us that when our mortal coil is shed, our own spiritual essence will descend into an eternal torture chamber for an afterlife marked by weeping and gnashing of teeth. But thankfully, Jesus takes one for the team, becoming the scapegoat that represents all of us filthy sinners, and in doing so, appeases the God who otherwise would roast and toast us like an eternal marshmallow at a campfire. If you don’t believe Christians talk this way, just ask one: “Why did Jesus die on the cross?”

Jesus died on the cross for the same reason an innocent Afghani wedding party is blown to pieces by one of Obama’s drones. Jesus died for the same reasons that lead black people to organize Black Lives Matter. And when black people and their allies discover that the courts, the police, the media and the government are predicated on the notion that black lives have little value – and even worse, that these institutions feel that black people should be disproportionally locked up and economically exploited – this discovery leads them to pursue the only act of dignity left: civil disobedience.

This discovery mirrors why Jesus was arrested and tortured to death. Indeed, Jesus was mutilated because his teachings and lifestyle threatened the Roman Empire’s control over occupied Israel. He was strung up not because he talked about loving God and neighbor. He was slaughtered for the same reason that the forces of empire always slaughter: He dared to stand up with an unbent back. Empires simply cannot tolerate the courage of the poor. Rather, empires, including our own, drink the blood and eat the flesh of the poor to fuel an insatiable desire for rape and pillage. Empires are inherently demonic, or for the non-religious, sadistic. They always kill for self-righteous pleasure.

But you won’t hear too many preachers talk about the historical Jesus and his death at the hands of an empire.

Instead, you’ll hear nonsense about dying for sins, and three days later, like a Jack-in-the-box, the Easter-Bunny Jesus springs back to life. Meanwhile, drones still hit the innocents, and Christians still refuse to be Jesus, who is supposedly their lord and savior.

Crossposted from Real Change.

Rev. Rich Lang is a pastor at University Temple United Methodist Church. He can be emailed at rich@utemple.org.


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