Today is Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the death of Jesus. Bear with me through this post, even if you aren't Christian. :)
I went to church this morning and it was a very lovely service. Our church and a neighbouring church joined our services together, because for some reason I don't grok at all, Good Friday turnout is low. After the service, they did something really cool. They went on a Cross-Walk. They took a cross from a nearby park, and carried it back to the church, stopping along the way to reflect on social justice issues. I didn't participate because I've not recovered enough from the surgery to manage that. But I think it was a really nifty idea.
One of the morals of the story of Jesus's death and resurrection is that sacrifice leads to salvation. We are so wrapped up in our own wants, that we often forget others needs. Jesus didn't do that. He obviously wanted to live, to be freed from his pain. And he clearly had the wherewithal to do so. But he didn't. That's an amazing thing to me. To give up one's life for the eternal life of someone else? Incredible.
Jesus challenged the establishment at every turn. From saving a woman from a horrible (but legal) death, to kicking the moneylenders out of the temple, right up to announcing that he was the Messiah. He said that no, it wasn't okay to overlook someone's suffering because of social convention. He said that every time we pass by the poor, hungry, lame, imprisoned, we pass him by. But we keep doing it. We seem to have lost the ability to sacrifice our own desires for the needs of others.
I think this is why the "Christian Conservatives" frustrate me so very very much. I cannot figure out their motives, or how they can possibly reconcile the two movements. As far as I can tell, the Conservatives want to ignore any suffering that isn't theirs. Women and children being brutally and systematically raped in Africa? Not our problem. Homelessness and joblessness everywhere, including here in our country? Still, not our problem. We have jobs, so should they! Lazy bums. Huge numbers of people imprisoned for crimes that hurt no one (possession of marijuana comes to mind)? Let 'em rot. They made their beds, let 'em lie in them.
In my community, there are houses worth millions of dollars. Houses that could shelter hundreds of people in relative comfort. In my community, there are homeless people. There are hospitals filled to the brims, with people lined up in hallways waiting to have a room. In my community, the government spends billions of dollars on sporting events. In my community, there are food banks. In my community, people leave food on their plates at restaurants because the portions are so big. In my community, there are mentally handicapped people living on the streets, because no one takes responsibility for them.
The society we live in is responsible for all the members, and each member has a responsibility to act to the best of his or her ability. Certainly all of us fail at some point or other, to a greater or lesser extent. Jesus forgives these transgressions. But somehow, many of his followers do not. Now, I understand that sometimes we cannot forgive, but I cannot understand the belief that we shouldn't at least try. Trying to forgive is another example of sacrifice, after all. It is hard to give up one's hatred and anger.
If Jesus comes back today, what will he look like? A dirty, bearded, jobless guy who regularly begs a meal off of people? Why not? That's who he was the first time. Keep that in mind next time you walk past the guy on the street asking for spare change.