Face It Folks, Jesus Was a Woke Liberal

by | Dec 21, 2022 | Opinions & Commentary

Photo by Nina Strehl

Face It Folks, Jesus Was a Woke Liberal

by | Dec 21, 2022 | Opinions & Commentary

Photo by Nina Strehl

Jesus, the radical activist, declared us all responsible for our brothers, for our neighbors, even our enemies. His followers created interdependent communities where each was accountable to the other.

Jesus was a progressive. 

He arrived two thousand years ago, not with vague religious nostalgia or territorial separatist dogma, but with a bold, clear vision that pulled disparate people forward together in interdependent community.

He started a revolutionary underground movement of the people of the street, not a top-down theocracy of wealth and cloistered privilege. His sermons didn’t harken back to some mythical glorious time in the past, he instead announced that the new Kingdom had now come: a new counterintuitive way of living and of being in the world marked by goodness and empathy.

Far from a culture war “return to family values” or the politicized promise of “making Judea great again,” Jesus’ message for the religious elite of his faith tradition was the warning that new wine cannot be held in old, dried-up, brittle wineskin minds: that something beautiful had come to burst from the rigid, lifeless container that could no longer hold it—the one called religion.

Jesus was a heretic.

He claimed to be divinity, arriving not in political power or military might but in quiet gentleness; not as an armed, avenging soldier but a humble, suffering servant who in humility would get low to lift others. He came in paradox as the God who would wash feet.

Jesus was scandalous to the religious establishment because he declared that God was not just the God of the temple but of the gutter as well; that the beggars and the priests were of equal worth. Two millennia before many of his professed followers would defend their own bigotry by saying that “all lives matter”—Jesus simply lived in a way that proved they did. He fed and healed and loved them equally. That is why he spent so many of his days among the rabbleL touching lepers, dining with prostitutes, lounging with pariahs. It’s why he lived in the margins and on the fringes and why he made the self-righteous squirm and protest and condemn.

Jesus was “woke.”

The radical activist declared us all responsible for our brothers, for our neighbors, even our enemies. His followers created interdependent communities where each was accountable to the other. He was a maker of peace, a turner of cheeks, a lover of all; a homeless, dark-skinned Jewish rabbi, who said that love of wealth would make it almost impossible to really see God or to live well.

Jesus made a despised Samaritan man the unlikely teacher of mercy and the pedigreed priests the ambivalent cowards who crossed the street when passing by suffering.

He preached not about the poor “pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps,” but about the well-off giving up everything so that they could be cared for.

In other words, Jesus would be labeled a radical left, woke mobster by so many who claim to come in his name in these days. He would have been the opposition to be exterminated.

These times will be remembered as ones where the Christianity of Christ died in the cloistered, opulent American Church and was resurrected in the gutter among the heathens and backsliders. Just as he first came in a form that was blasphemous and scandalous to the bloated religious elite, he is coming again in a way that is not expected but is no less revelatory about the breadth of the love of God.

Two thousand years later, the job of revealing the character of God and the nature of love is once again in the hands of the heretics, sinners, and unlikely mercy-givers.

History will show that when the elderly, the sick, and the vulnerable showed up in their need, it was the Progressives, the Muslims, the Jews, the Humanists, and the Atheists—not the Conservative Christians who cared for them as Jesus would have. They will have been the ones with the orphans and the widows, with the ignored and forgotten; all responding together in love in a way the followers of Christ were supposed to, but tired of.

In other words, those who have most franchised out the name of Jesus for personal gain, those who have most loudly claimed righteousness will prove to have been the furthest from continuing the work he began, and the ones they so willingly and repeatedly condemned to Hell, will have proven to be those most committed to replicating the compassionate heart of Christ without needing to name it Christianity.

Jesus was heretical to the religious folks of his day who had drifted so far from the essence of God that they were oblivious to it when it was in their midst. Goodness and decency had become unrecognizable to them. They were so preoccupied by the shimmering lure of power, and so lulled into the comfort of their privilege that they forgot their call to sacrificial love for the least. History is repeating again in these days.

A multitude of religious people have so fully merged their religious tradition with a political party that they have become the worst of both entities. The partnership has poisoned each. They have a selectively-small government and a tiny-hearted Church, and neither is very burdened with reaching into the gutters and the margins to care for the vulnerable and the hurting. They have closed their hands and hearts.

Yet God is once again moving in the world, coming in ways that look like heresy to the religious, which is exactly the way it was two thousand years ago. It will be a movement of the unlikely, the odd, the profane, and the outsiders who together will recover the sacred lost art of giving a damn. They will open their hands and they will give and heal and help in ways that alter the planet and that look like whatever God is supposed to look like.

One way or another, the love Jesus once preached will again speak loudly in these days—even if the Church stays silent.

Blessed are the woke mob…

Republished with permission from John Pavlovitz.

John Pavlovitz

John Pavlovitz

John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. A 25-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, Low, and Stuff That Needs to Be Said.

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