We sure do like to pick teams and take sides in this country. 50+ years of Super Bowls and NCAA tournaments and World Series and NBA Finals and so on and so forth and it can seem like we need an enemy to vanquish just to make sense of the world.
I scroll Facebook and twitter daily, and everywhere I look, I see it confirmed: Americans need people to fight against.
Some of our symbols of evil – our enemies who have become more symbol than person – are justifiably vilified. It’s hard to argue that the man who prepped 9-11 for American consumption deserves any kind of grace or pity.
Much the same for Putin. An autocratic, evil, authoritarian dictator. When I hear people admire him out loud, I wonder how much internet and television propaganda they must’ve been exposed to, to arrive at Putin as any kind of human ideal.
We’re pretty sure our enemies aren’t even primarily abroad any more. Within this country, we pick teams. Forget Rams vs. Bengals, or UNC vs. Duke. We’ve got Evangelical vs. secular. White vs. Black. Teachers vs. State Legislature. Purple Parents vs. Rational Thinking. County Commissioners vs. I’m-not-exactly-sure-what. And so on.
Remember Jesus? White guy, long hair. Very relatable. Looks vaguely like the front man for a Great White cover band.
Jokes aside, who did Jesus pick? The human team. The humans.
Everybody’s invited. Everybody counts. Nobody gets turned away, ignored, ostracized, or shut out.
That’s how I understand the message of Jesus. Some folks may take issue with that, may not accept it, which is fine. It takes a long time for anyone to arrive at any definite spiritual ideas. With so many poor guides and preachers and priests and teachers around, you’d think nobody’d ever have any good ideas.
But when I see local Warsaw people who I know personally vilify and exclude and other gay and transgender and nonbinary people, I can’t help but think, were these the same folks flashing those What Would Jesus Do bracelets a decade or two ago?
Everybody come eat, the man said. Here, this is your seat at the table. Not here to judge. Only here to welcome. There’s no bouncer guarding the door of Club Christ. Nobody holds their palm up, refusing to let gay and transgender and nonbinary people be people, among us – just another bunch of humans. It’s scary, to think that our treatment of a subgroup of people has singled them out and encouraged our friends to treat them like they’re subhuman. Like we don’t want them around. Because if that’s not what Jesus meant, we might have to look inside a little deeper. We might have to work to change something faulty within ourselves.
When that happens – when we all decide we’re all on the human team, when we offer everyone we meet a spot on our team, everybody’s team – then the Kingdom of Heaven will have arrived.