My friend David Ratz sent me a video on Facebook of a crowd of people at a Tea Party protest arguing with a group of pro-health care reform at a protest. In the middle, sort of, is this man who has Parkinson’s Disease and he is surrounded by 4 or 5 guys who are taunting him, telling him that they’ll decide about his health care and throwing cash at him, while he sits quietly holding his sign. The visual is stunning as it showed this man sitting in the road while the men who were taunting him were standing on the sidewalk having to bend over to yell at him. (The sound was off because my daughter is sick and sleeping in front of me as I watched)
In the background are people on one side with necklaces of various sorts and nice kahkis. One of the taunters is a man who walks away with a kind of Jerry Springer smirk like the guy who yells at the other poor-white-trash after punching him in the face and walking away. He thinks he’s cool for his actions and he knows he’s on camera. Also, there’s a crowd of people with not as nice clothes who seem worn out by life who aren’t the Tea Party folks.
I told Dave that the people on one side in the video are the people who are used to getting their way and who think it’s fun to involve themselves in politics like this. On the other side, there are people who aren’t used to getting their way, who think that politics is about life and death, but don’t really expect to win. I told him that Jesus came here for people in Group 2, but that some of Group 1 actually “got” him and joined his crusade and have stories about them in the Bible (Lazarus, Mary, Martha, Jairus, etc…)
If you substitute the word “religion” for the word “politics” in the above paragraph, you get a sense of Jesus and religion that matters and the people he matters most to. (Forget the political context of the above — I’m not talking about the Tea Party movement here. I’m talking about the groups of people who appear to be arguing in the video.)
There are people in the world who are barely hanging on, who struggle every day with sin in their lives, who the world seems to be against, whose lives have stunk for such a long time that they just have no concept of what health — physical, mental, spiritual, economic, legal — would look like. They need basic things like food, clothes, forgiveness and grace (in short, a break once in awhile in some part of their lives/minds/spirits) and they hope for them, but don’t really expect to get them. They sense that life is unfair, but don’t really know what “fair” would look like. These are people who NEED religion, NEED Jesus, and for whom Jesus came. For them, religion isn’t a question of a nice thing to do, it’s REAL grace — the kind of grace they don’t give, because they themselves don’t know what it means. These are people who are DYING inside from lack of grace.
When Jesus says, “The well are not in need of a physician…I came not to save the well but the sick”, these are the kinds of people he’s talking about. Now, along the way, there are plenty of physically, mentally, and spiritually “well” people who experience him and his words and are transformed. Those are the kinds of people who go to my church, for the most part. They don’t really NEED Jesus but they understand him to be a way to a better life, a life that matters. We get some REAL sinners every once in awhile, but for the most part, it’s the Marys and Marthas and Lazaruses that come to my church.
It’s odd when a group of Catholic Bishops (fairly well taken care of guys) say that Jesus has a “preferential option for the poor” but this is what they mean and why they look like hypocrites while they say it. There are people who get there intellectually, but when they do, they defend the people who get to Jesus from their guts.
If you’re one of those people that NEEDS Jesus, whose gut tells them they just need a break from oppression, in whatever form that comes — serious illness or problem after problem after problem — then YOU’VE got the right guy for the task. Jesus is your man. If you’re one of those people who helps those people “because it’s the right thing to do”, then you, too, have the right guy. Jesus is there and supports you, as well — just not quite in the same way. If you’re one of those people, you probably feel like you don’t need Jesus. That’s OK. Jesus needs you.