Yesterday, someone from my hometown plastered one of my Facebook posts (in which I encouraged people to get a vaccine, a booster, and wear masks in public) with anti-vaxxer conspiracy theory screenshots. This person has long-ago unfriended me over there, and I don’t know what motivated them to choose this day to re-engage. I was curious about what they were up to, so I clicked over to their profile. I found lots of anti-vax propaganda, support for Kyle Rittenhouse, mocking of feminists, liberals and trans people, and intense right-wing political involvement. It was *disturbing.* And every bit of it was cloaked in Christian language.
I deleted those comments immediately, so it’s no use clicking over to try to find out who I’m talking about, but if you know them, then you already know them. And, besides, I’m pretty sure all of us have someone like that in our lives right now – someone we thought we knew pretty well, someone who we assumed was on the same wavelength as we were, people who were raised in similar ways with similar values who are, seemingly all of a sudden, going off the deep end.
And look, these are apocalyptic times. Everyone is reeling and grasping for something that feels steadying. Human brains hate uncertainty and novelty and will do everything in their power to make it stop. Plus, if you, like me, are a white person in America, some of this apocalypse has to do with knocking us off our age-old thrones and might be especially upsetting. The instinct to stock up on guns, rant and rave against government mandates and entrench ourselves in the familiar racial hierarchies that have kept white people on “top” all these years is both appalling and also kind of understandable. The ground is shifting. How will we respond?
A bunch of the propaganda on that person’s facebook page had to do with sheep who trust the mainstream media and the over-reaching government to keep them safe. I definitely do not trust the media or politicians to be invested in anything other than their profit margins or re-election chances. But I DO trust Jesus.
I know that sounds pretty pious and self-righteous, but a) I am, after all, a pastor and b) where else are you going to go when things fall apart? Jesus has gotten generations of people through millennia of apocalypses. And Jesus is pretty damn explicit about what we are to do when things get rough: love your neighbor and your enemy. Put down your weapons. Align yourself with the most vulnerable among you. Jesus is explicitly against living a life governed by individual self-protection or net worth. He is against wealth, and violence of all kinds. None of that is void when the world gets hard to live in. In fact, it becomes all the more important.
Jesus is not in favor of children carrying assault weapons in the street. He does not instruct us to fight for individual freedoms over collective well-being. Given that he wasn’t white, he’s definitely not a fan of white supremacy and the many evil systems it has spawned. Many who are first will be last, he says, so figure out where the end of the line is, go hang out there and live a life that honors, respects, values and loves the ones who always seem to end up on the underside of power.
What I’m saying, in this rambling train of thought, is that pasting Jesus’ face on your abhorrent political and racist behaviors is disgusting. It’s inevitable – people have co-opted truth for power in every age – and it is also evil.
I don’t know the answers to figuring out how to talk to your right-wing relatives at Christmas dinner, and this particular person has voluntarily removed themselves from my life, anyway. But I do know that in the apocalypse, in the ground shifting under my feet, in the chaos of reeling and grasping and violence and death, I’m sticking with Jesus.
(If this kind of Jesus isn’t the one you’re familiar with or the one you see named in your right-wing facebook friends’ feed, maybe check out Matthew chapters 5-7. That’s Jesus in a nutshell.)