This morning, I was a guest on Rev. Jesse Jackson’s radio show, “Keep Hope Alive” produced by Santita Jackson. I was one of six guests (along with Drs. Peter Heltzel & Martha Simmons) for the two hour show. Rev. Jackson posed the simple question to all of the guests, “Who is Jesus?” The conversation that followed was lively, challenging and provocative.
Rev. Jackson reminded us that we have commercialized Easter and Christmas with the cute little Easter Bunny and the jolly Coca Cola styled Santa Claus. We are good at “Americanization” and we are losing our touch for Christianity. We have made Easter and Christmas a “holiday” rather than a “Holy Day”. Easter is a “Holy Day” which needs to be set apart to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As I listened to the lively conversation on “who Jesus is”- my thoughts are on how American Christianity have sanitized Jesus into a clean, white, status quo favorite uncle figure who we can call for advice. How did we come so far from the Jesus who was born a Jew, poor, marginalized, exiled, and with a death warrant?
Jesus came to shake up the status quo and called all of us to follow him. We are not to sit quietly while the poor are hungry, the innocent are being killed by gun violence and the sick are being denied medical care…..
Jesus spoke against the rulers who were selfish and greedy and egocentric. Jesus told us that when we do it to the least of our neighbors, we do it to him. This seems like a far cry from the co-opted Jesus of Western Christianity.
Rev. Jackson reminded us this morning of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King suffered deeply as his work was painful and difficult. Dr. King was fighting against many social injustices. But today, many of us love the public speaker and preacher who was martyred, but we forget the difficulties of Dr. King’s day to day struggles to organize and resist. As I think about the life and death of Jesus, I see Jesus made into a beautiful icon. Jesus is beautifully portrayed in the works of Michelangelo. He is presented as a ‘sanitized’ Jesus that we forget the difficult work that Jesus was engaged in as he fed the poor, challenged to the rich to give up their wealth and be with those who are sick. Just as we like the “martyred Dr. King”, we like the “feel good” Jesus and not the Jesus who makes us feel uncomfortable in our pews. We love the martyred Jesus, but not the Jesus who turned the tables of the money changers in the temple. We love the Jesus who gives us peace but not the Jesus who challenges us to be peacemakers in this violent world. We like to sing praises and joys to Jesus, but not shouts of social inequality which occur daily before our very own eyes. We have become “armchair Christians” who like to feel good, but not act to make good.
As we celebrate this “Holy Day” of Easter, we need to answer the call and challenge of Jesus. Jesus calls us all to task.
What will you and I do? What will we endeavor to do to help build the Reign of God here on this earth? Peace and Blessings.
[read also: After Newtown: Will We Finally Act?]
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Associate Professor of Doctrinal Theology and the Director of the MATS program at Moravian Theological Seminary. She is the author of Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot), The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press).