Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Why I'm So Political" by Rev. Mark Sandlin

..."In reading the Gospels, it doesn’t take long to start realizing that Jesus was no friend of the religiously and politically powerful. As a matter of fact, in one of the most surprising stories about Jesus (and I would argue the story that most influenced his being given a death sentence), he strikes at one of the most essential tools of the powerful – money.
When Jesus starts flipping the moneychanger’s tables in the Temple courtyard, he is striking at a very important source of power for the Sadducees and Pharisees. Not only does he strike at one of their sources of power, Jesus goes a step further and denounces the religious elite for turning God’s temple into a “den of thieves” (Mark 11:17) – because that’s what it had become. Those who were already wealthy were taking advantage of those who had little – some would even be considered “the least of these.” (That may sound oddly familiar to those who follow U.S. politics).
In the courtyard, moneychangers exchanged Roman money for Jewish currency. Folks needed to do this because Jewish currency was the only currency accepted in the Temple and on the Temple grounds. They needed the Jewish currency to buy animals which had been approved for sacrifice. It probably won’t surprise you to find out that the Sadducees and Pharisees profited outrageously in exchanging Roman money for Jewish currency. It probably also won’t surprise you to learn that the religious leaders also made quite a profit on the sale of the approved animals.
Now, the story gets even more politically interesting when you consider the Temple’s architecture. The temple courtyard was surrounded by a tall wall. During Passover, which was the time of Jesus’ table flipping, those walls would be lined with Roman guards, who were insuring nothing got out of hand during a festival that celebrated the Jewish people escaping an ancient oppressive ruler: the Egyptian Pharaoh.
The thought process probably went a little like this: If you are the occupying Roman government, the last thing you want is the story of the Jewish nation escaping an oppressive ruler to give the commoners any ideas. So, you make your military presence felt.
So, in this story, we have Jesus walking into the watchful eye of the Roman guards, into the seat and source of power for the local ruling Sadducees and Pharisees, and then he loses it. He confronts the corrupt system that misuses its power and oppresses those in need. He literally and figuratively begins flipping tables on the powerful. He makes a political statement calling them a “den of thieves.” And he does it all under the watchful eye of armed militants.
It is laughable to say that Jesus wasn’t political.
Jesus confronted the very political structures and people who were twisting and using religion to step on those thought of as “the least of these.” He confronted the politically powerful Sadducees and Pharisees at every turn, calling out their hypocrisy and distorted use of the Hebraic Law.
And, he then taught what the Law was really meant for: the expressing of Heaven on earth; a place where grace, love and justice were practiced.
So yes, I’m political. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I’m an independent. And, in general, I don’t support particular politicians. I’m more about supporting laws and government programs that help those most in need and about resisting laws and government programs that hurt people.
Theologically, I simply can’t see how to follow the teachings of Jesus without being political, being willing to stick out your own neck, and being willing to challenging the hypocritical power structures and leaders on behalf of the oppressed.
So, for theological reasons, I’m political."
~ Rev. Mark Sandlin

Read online here
About the Author

No comments: