Every now and then, I am overcome with "shock and awe" in reaction to some amazing feat of intellectual contortion-ism coming from some unlikely place. Today it came from a facebook post, from someone I don't know. It was a "comment" from one who I believe is a "friend" of a "friend" of a "friend," in reaction to a post from a different "friend" of a "friend" of a "friend," the common thread being that I think the second "friend" in each chain is actually a real live relative of mine. (I'm explaining this using facebook terminology in part to illustrate the contortions that much of our popular discourse goes through, suggesting that that could be one reason for the bizarre contortions themselves.)
In any case, here's what I saw: one person, apparently a Christian, posted a link to a newspaper article about the novelist's Anne Rice's aversion to "organized religion." Several varying comments later, someone else, also claiming to be a Christian, weighed in by saying that standing up for something can make one unpopular (a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree, as I will explain.) As an example, this person suggested that Jesus would object to someone calling a person an "immigrant" when the term "illegal Immigrant" might also apply. The commenter when on to ask if Jesus would condone "people breaking the law, stealing from other people's children, etc." apparently referring to people that this commenter (and popular opinion) would label "illegal immigrants."
It boggles my mind that a person who claims to have a close relationship with the spiritual essence of Jesus of Nazareth, and, apparently, some level of understanding of the gospels, would and could completely turn the message and theology of Jesus so completely around. I can think of no other political question today in which the theology of Jesus is more clear: those termed "illegals" are the Samaritans of our day, God and compassion are unaffected by trivial political boundaries, and the higher law of God clearly trumps the imperfect laws of humankind -- especially laws, like our immigration laws, that are designed to protect the privilege of the rich over the problems of the poor. There is no question that if he were walking this Earth today, Jesus would stand on the side of those who risk life and limb migrating across artificial boundaries to try to provide sustenance for their families in the best way they know. It is also clear to me that not only would Jesus not object to someone using the term "immigrants" when "illegal immigrants" might be more popular, he would furthermore object to just about any usage of the dehumanizing and divisive term "illegal immigrants" in any circumstance.
Yes, taking stands with moral purpose, including the kind of morals for which Jesus was crucified, is often unpopular. I feel this when I say that we ought to hand out green cards at the border to any and all coming to look for work, but I take comfort in the knowledge that even though many people think I'm crazy for saying such a thing, the spirit of Jesus is on this side. Yet I am still shocked and amazed when people can turn Jesus' message around so completely and still justify it because of the popularity of the sentiment expressed, and then in the same breath justify such an anti-Christian sentiment as being "Christian" merely because the person expressing it might feel some twinge of guilt knowing, deep in his heart, that such sentiments are simple-minded and wrong. But hey, if on some level I feel bad expressing my intolerance for immigrants (er, excuse me, "law-breakers,") I can feel better merely by claiming that Jesus and his disciples were persecuted for their beliefs, so any criticism of my arrogance must be the same! After all, all I need to do is claim a personal relationship with Jesus and voila! He's on my side! How easy it is to be a "Christian" in our world today. And what a shame that is to the spiritual legacy of Jesus.