Friday, May 26, 2006

Would Jesus Have Hated America?

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This question may sound weird, but would not be out of bounds from a Christian point of view. As God, Jesus would have had foreknowledge of all nations from before creation. Consequently, if Jesus did hate the United States, he would have done so from the beginning of God's existence. Moreover, Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected after the death of his human body on the cross in Jerusalem. So, from a Christian view, Jesus would ...more »still be with us rendering the judgment he had on the United States from the beginning.

This question came to me when I saw this passage from Matthew 25 in Garry Wills' "What Jesus Meant":

"Off from me, with a curse on you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I hungered and you fed me not, I thirsted and you gave me no drink. I was an alien and you welcomed me not . . . In truth I tell you whenever you failed to do these things to the least of my brothers, you failed to do it to me. And then they will go off to eternal punishment, while the vindicated to to eternal life."
It is fair to ask what this kind of statement means for Jesus' judgment of the United States because Jesus indicates that judgment indeed was passed on collective bodies as well as individuals. Cities like Sodom and Gomorrah and Jerusalem were doomed collectively just like the "proud," those who condemned their fellow men as fools, and rich people were doomed to eternal punishment.

The passage indicates that Jesus would judge from a very personal perspective. In fact, treating the sick, starving, or foreign poorly is condemnable from the point of view of Jesus because it is an injury to Jesus himself. Obviously, Jesus would have had a profound antipathy to slavery in the U. S. (and elsewhere). Those who kept slaves hungry, sleepless, poorly clothed, and in terror of physical torture would have been seen as brutalizing Jesus himself. It is as if each of the millions of slaves in the United States would have been Jesus and all of the acts of cruelty and violence toward them would have been part of Jesus' passion. To the extent, then, that the U. S. was a slave society then, it would have been a society of constant crucifixion from Jesus' point of view.

Of course, it is possible to ask whether the treatment of minority, poor, homeless, hungry, disabled, gay, and immigrant populations in the U. S. Thinking of the Duke rape incident, the same thing would be the case in relation to sexual violence against women. Are the things being done to all these millions of people being done to Jesus? Is the treatment of these folks condemnable?

But it's also possible to ask some not so obvious questions. For example, how about the valuing of wealth in this culture? We know from the key passages in Matthew and Luke that Jesus blesses the poor and damns those who are rich? But what about the more general ethic of valuing wealth that is so pervasive in American culture? Would that be condemnable as well. Likewise, what about the celebration of power over weakness? Or the revenge ethic that is so palpable in American military policy, heavy support for the death penalty, and American movies? What impact do these general dimensions of American culture have on the treatment of the weakest among us? And if that impact is negative, would these cultural characteristics make all of us condemnable in the same way that Sodom and Gomorrah was condemnable?

Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are not the only Protestant evangelicals who repeatedly claim that the U.S. will be condemned because we're not homophobic or because we strayed from Victorian sexual prudery. But perhaps sex is not the problem. Perhaps the "America" problem would run in other directions for Jesus.