The stage is set. There is injustice in the land. There are people oppressed. In the face of oppression, some have chosen the side of the oppressed and ignored their God entirely. Some have chosen to blame the oppressed and give the promise of heaven-one-day in return for obedience. Others have chosen neutrality, choosing to leave the land entirely and live their own way. No one has the courage to respond to the injustice.
The stage I am describing is the day of Jesus. The Roman Empire oppressed the Jewish people, the Sadducees sided with the Romans and wrote off the Scriptures for political gain, the Pharisees told people to be more obedient and wait for heaven, the Essenes took off. Only the zealots stood against the injustice, but they did it with murder and terror.
In the face of story after story of justice not being served, one could argue that the stage is the same today. People are dying, the perpetrators protected by institutional racism and the myth of the “deserving victim.” Some would recast the characters with the Sadducees as the religious folks who default that those in power are right. The Pharisees are the ones blaming the victim or saying that the Church’s only role is to point peopleto heaven, not get involved here. There are others who, like the Essenes, are just happy to live out contented lives cloistered from the real struggles in our cities and towns. Has nothing changed in 2000 years?
And yet there is a change. In our small corner of the Church, leaders ranging from denominational staff to seminary professors to pastors to lay people are rising up and saying “no more.” They are exposing racism for what it is. They are holding a mirror up to the rapid militarization of law enforcement and asking the important questions about authority and how it is used in a free society. It is the Christians in my circle who are actively holding light in the darkness and hope in the face of despair.
All is not well. The Church does not stand united against injustice. And perhaps that will never be the case before Christ returns. But this Advent, I am putting my cynicism aside and celebrating that while there is still darkness, 2000 years later there are some who hold onto the light.
“A candle is a protest at midnight. It is a nonconformist. It says to the darkness, ‘I beg to differ.'” – Samuel Hayes