Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jesus and Citizenship

Sunday, April 5, 2015

I recently have been participating in a morning program for the purpose of further enhancing my journey of healing.  One day our workbook featured a list of eighty-five words that represent eighty-five important values.  I alphabetized the grid of words and decided to use them as a focus for my blog writing.  I needed something to focus my writing because I was beginning to struggle a bit to come up with fresh material.

When I saw the value citizenship looming in the near future of my values list I felt a bit put off.  I have some very strong feelings about citizenship in general and how Americans in particular behave in the world.  So now the word has conveniently fallen in place on Easter Sunday.  And I am deciding to jump into the fray and write about the value of citizenship on what is a very significant day...for those who consider themselves Christians as well as those who do not.

Let me begin by weaving in the topic of trauma since that is the focus of my blog.  I don't know that I believe that the historical person of Jesus Christ actually existed.  It's not that I do not want to believe in the existence of such an impressive person.  Indeed, who wouldn't want to believe in a benevolent person who could perform miracles, heal the gravely ill and welcome those who are typically marginalized from society?  The Jesus I know is a really splendid guy.

If there is anyone who can appreciate the experience of trauma it must be Jesus.  How many people do you personally know have been crucified?  I personally know not a single person who has endured such a horror.  But I hear it's pretty ghastly.  I think being crucified is something that could virtually guarantee a person will develop a case of PTSD.  So it would seem to follow that cultivating a relationship with a person like Jesus might prove especially helpful for those healing from trauma.  Jesus should be able to empathize.

So what about Jesus, the experience of American citizenship and trauma?  How do these topics interrelate?  It is my impression that many American citizens conceive of their lives and associated values as something that should be dictated by their belief in Jesus Christ.  They would defer to their understanding of Jesus' teachings to make decisions about how to treat others, how to conduct business in their professional lives, how to treat their spouses and so on.  And yet here in the United States there are some Christian people who behave in decidedly un-Christian ways.

The world of old school media and social media has recently lit up with the story of a pizzeria business in Indiana.  The pizzeria, called Memories Pizza, made news when co-owner Crystal O'Connor stated she would refuse to cater gay weddings.  As often happens in this country her remarks inspired both support as well as threats and ridicule.  As a gay man myself I can understand the ire the LGBT community feels when people choose to use their religion as a justification to refuse to provide service to people whose personal lives they do not agree with.  And yet I have a real problem with businesses refusing services to certain types of people because 1) it goes against the spirit of equal opportunity that our nation is supposedly founded upon and 2) it sets a precedent for businesses to attempt to refuse services to other groups based on a difference of opinion that doesn't necessarily have any relevance to the service in question.

I won't explore the first issue here.  As for the issue of setting an unfortunate precedent I will say this.  There are many times in life when we may have to do something we don't want to do.  This happens in both our personal as well as our professional lives.  Sometimes we attend parties and see people we don't care to socialize with.  Sometimes we have neighbors whose conduct tests our patience.  We occasionally may be required to work with people we don't personally care to interact with.  These aspects of life are simply a natural feature of living as an adult in the world.  When we start to give people 'outs' so they don't have to interact with others whom they do not like or even revile and actively hate I think it tends to reinforce a bubble mentality that only enhances the polarization already deeply embedded in American society.  Can you imagine what it could be like if suddenly we as a society just allowed people to not attend to their responsibilities if they didn't feel like it or claimed that doing so somehow infringed upon their own freedom of religion?

And now back to Jesus.  The story of Jesus' last days of life offers an instructive example regarding the desire to not do things we find painful.  Jesus is reputed to have prayed for the suffering of his eventual crucifixion to pass him by.  He didn't want to suffer.  And yet he ultimately chose to accept an experience he personally didn't prefer.

By saying this I do not mean to imply people should be forced to do things that are dangerous to their own welfare.  In this way my metaphor is perhaps not the most apt one.  And yet giving people an 'out' under the rubric of religious freedom is not a wise policy response either.  We grow as human beings when we interact with the larger world and its many cultures.  Isolating ourselves both within our communities as well as on the international stage is not a healthy way to live.  I believe it is our diversity that makes us strong rather than weak.


I was rather appalled to read a follow up story regarding the Indiana pizzeria last night.  You can find it here.  According to the end paragraph Memories Pizzeria raised more money through a GoFundMe campaign than a woman afflicted with a rare cancer and victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.  Indeed the pizzeria owners virtually became millionaires!

One of the persistent themes within my blog has been that of our individual and collective priorities.  When the owners of a pizzeria can raise nearly a million dollars as a result of contesting the principle of providing equal access to their product I have to wonder what is wrong in our nation.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I invite you to accompany me as I document my own journey of healing. My blog is designed to offer inspiration and solace to others. If you find it of value I welcome you to share it with others. Aloha!