Pump Up The Volume
As someone who grew up in a predominantly evangelical Christian culture in central Texas, I am quite familiar with a prevailing perspective that Jesus somehow has polite southern manners. You see, polite Jesus is primarily concerned with one's polished exterior. As long as you nod, reply, "Yes, ma’am!" and go on about your day, you're fulfilling your communal responsibility. Polite Jesus doesn't like protesters. Over 4 million protesters have taken to the streets over the past week and a half, but polite Jesus tends to get upset about the one vulgar sign or one violent protester amongst the millions. "Does protesting even accomplish anything?" asks polite Jesus. "Keep the noise down, please," he gently remarks. Polite Jesus is nice because he doesn't require much of you. He gives you meaning, makes you feel content, and even gives you happiness. It's also true that he likes it when you go to church every now and again to sing songs that have his name in them. Polite Jesus is also great because he never suggests that you be outraged at the injustice in the world, or, heaven forbid, suggests that your lifestyle has something to do with it.
I have noticed a common sensibility expressed on social media recently which is that people should not engage in any conversation that could be viewed as confrontational or judgmental. Yes, many times dialogue on social media can be unpleasant and hollow. However, it is now popular to belabor this point of an artificial tolerance in order to silence those that we may disagree with. The subtext being, "I will never agree with you. I'm not going to say anything so you shouldn't either." In the words of polite Jesus, "Keep the noise down, please."
Our Old Testament text this week from Isaiah 58 reads in part:
"Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God… Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free... Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?"
The drive of the biblical message is not about keeping the noise down, but rather turning it up. The call of God in the Bible is loud and confrontational. Jesus and the gospel confront us in our security. Yes, the gospel is good news. But it is not good news for me until it is good news for everyone. May we come to see that polite Jesus is a fabrication of our own making. May we come to understand that God is calling us to shout, protest, and hold nothing back against the injustice we see in our world. May we come to experience God not in our politely polished exteriors, but in the opening of ourselves to the offensive other, the oppressed, and the voiceless.