Updated: Feb 15, 2021
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus asked “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” and Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” ~ Matt 16:13-16
Who we say Jesus is has radically changed over the centuries. It has become increasingly divisive in the United States where there is a spiritual war being fought over the personhood of Christ as White Nationalist Evangelicals hitch their theology to political ideologies. This melding of beliefs and values has resulted in a theology of Christ formerly considered incompatible with Christian teaching regarding the social gospel that defined the ministry of Jesus. There is a clear and present danger we pose to the ethics of Christian faith when we both passively allow or actively promote the degradation of Jesus to a 2-dimensional, prosperity gospel preacher rather than do the work to create adequate dialogical space to ruminate in the complex intersectionality of the Messiah being a brown man from Nazareth, a political refugee during Roman occupation, and God’s chosen modality for reconciliation between God’s self and humanity. The danger lies in wait when we allow for a theology that presupposes God overcame the disadvantage of the socio-political status Jesus was born into. The narrative that underlies the neo-fascist movement and which gives strength to white-privileged Christians effectively neuters Jesus of his solidarity with the poor and disenfranchised Siblings and (mal)aligns him politically with Rome. This is an inverted perversion of what is: that God intended the enfleshment of the messenger to be an aligned facet of the message itself. Any teaching we do that minimizes God’s chosen personhood is to tell only part of a story which can be, and has been, manipulated to serve human need over God’s intention.
Artwork by Joseph Castañeda Carrera