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Let's Get Jesus Back

A number of blogs including "I am a Christian, Too" have posted their favorite excerpts from this excellent Bill Moyers speech....Here are mine...

"And they hijacked Jesus.

The very Jesus who stood in Nazareth and proclaimed, “The Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.” The very Jesus who told 5000 hungry people that all of you will be fed, not just some of you. The very Jesus who challenged the religious orthodoxy of the day by feeding the hungry on the Sabbath, who offered kindness to the prostitute and hospitality to the outcast, who said the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children, raised the status of women, and treated even the tax collector like a child of God. The very Jesus who drove the money changers from the temple. This Jesus has been hijacked and turned from a champion of the disposed into a guardian of the privileged. Hijacked, he was made over into a militarist, hedonist, and lobbyist….sent prowling the halls of Congress in Guccis, seeking tax breaks and loopholes for the powerful, costly new weapon systems that don’t work, and punitive public policies.

Let’s get Jesus back.

The Jesus who inspired a Methodist ship-caulker named Edward Rogers to crusade across New England for an eight hour work day. Let’s get back the Jesus who caused Frances William to rise up against the sweatshop. The Jesus who called a young priest named John Ryan to champion child labor laws, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and decent housing for the poor – ten years before the New Deal.

The Jesus in whose name Dorothy Day challenged the Church to march alongside auto workers in Michigan, fishermen and textile workers in Massachusetts, brewery workers in New York, and marble cutters in Vermont. The Jesus in whose name E.B. McKinney and Owen Whitfield challenged a Mississippi system that kept sharecroppers in servitude and debt. The Jesus in whose name a Presbyterian minister named Eugene Carson Blake - “Ike’s Pastor” - was arrested for protesting racial injustice in Baltimore. The Jesus who led Martin Luther King to Memphis to join sanitation workers in their struggle for a decent wage.

That Jesus has been scourged by his own followers, dragged through the streets by pious crowds, and crucified on a cross of privilege.

To see whose side God is on go to Deuteronomy to read: “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor…Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do…” Go to the Psalms and read: “For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy…From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.” Throughout our sacred text it is the widow and the orphan, the poor and the stranger who are blessed in the eyes of the Lord; it is kindness, relief and mercy that prove the power of faith – and justice that measures the worth of state. Poverty and justice are religious issues. Kings are judged on how the poor fare under their rule; prophets speak to the gap between the rich and the poor as a reason for God’s judgment. And Jesus moves among the disinherited.

Let’s get Jesus back.

Let’s recover the faith that takes on the corruption of power. A faith that challenges complacency at both parties. If you’re a Democrat, you’re called to shake them up. If you’re a Republican, you’re called to shame them. Jesus drove the money changers from the temple of Jerusalem. We must drive them from the temples of democracy.

But let’s do it in love.

Let us love our neighbor, but let’s not allow him to poison our well -- from ignorance or intent. Let us love our enemy, even as we resist his aggression. We cannot defeat the terrorists if we become like them. We cannot stand up to the religious right if we imitate them.

What I’m talking about will be hard, devoid of sentiment and practical as nails. But love is practice, not piety.

“None are good but all are sacred.” I want to think this is what the founders meant when they included the not-so-self-evident assertion that “all men are created equal.” They were probing toward that spiritual truth that is the heart of our hope for this country. They saw America as a great promise – and it is. But America is a broken promise, and is it our calling to do what we can to fix it—to get America back on the track. St. Augustine shows us how: “One loving soul sets another on fire.”

Mobilize, sign up -- and get on with it."
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