Fishers of Men

Do we really want to drill for more oil in Alaska? c. J. P. Mahon 2011

Paul speaks about confessing Jesus, believing in Jesus and professing that belief. Jesus is the Word who brings salvation, healing, and wholeness. Jesus is the Christ, the Risen One, who announces a new world order—the Kin-dom. The new world order is an order permeated by justice, compassion, gratitude, mercy, forgiveness and love.

Traditionally, believers have interpreted Jesus’ call to the fishermen to come follow him and he will make them “fishers of man,” simply as a call to discipleship. Jesus walked by, issued the invitation, and they dropped all their nets and followed him. Followed him where? To Calvary—up to Jerusalem.

Ched Myers analysis of “fishers of men,” in his book, Binding the Strong Man, gives us a whole new perspective on “fishers of man.” Analyzing Amos (4:1-3), Myers points out that those who have been oppressing others will be taken away by fishhooks. Likewise, in Ezekiel (29:1-7), God threatens to put a fishhook in Pharaoh’s jaw because of his mistreatment of the Israelites. Myers conclusion is that Jesus is calling Peter, Andrew, James and John to join in a nonviolent revolution to overthrow those who use power and privilege to oppress others.

This interpretation is thoroughly consistent with Jesus’ life and mission. He challenged Roman and priestly domination. He clearly announced that he had come to liberate the oppressed, to set captives free, to give sight to the blind, and to inaugurate the Year of Jubilee—the Great Economy, God’s economic order. He set his face like flint toward Jerusalem to accomplish this mission nonviolently.

This is the Jesus who has called us. This is the Jesus whom we confess in our hearts and on our lips. Yet, we allow corporations, governments, and organized religion to thwart the mission of Jesus. We pray on Sunday. We put “Trust in God” and “Keep the Ten Commandments” on our bumpers. Then, we get in bed with greed, violence, and consumerism for the rest of the week.

We shout from the rooftops, “Jesus is my personal savior,” and yet we do nothing to alleviate the misery of the 17 million children in America who are hungry every day and cry themselves to sleep every night. We confess, “Jesus is Lord,” and yet we urge our President not to withdraw troops from Afghanistan so we can be more secure over here. We genuflected before the tabernacle and then traveled  to Washington to participate in a Teabagger protest against spending 800 billion for healthcare after we have already spent in excess of one trillion on an immoral war in Iraq and an ill-conceived war in Afghanistan. During advent we proclaim, “Jesus is coming,” and yet we allow Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE—a curious acronym) to mistreat undocumented aliens so that we can be secure within our borders.

I am not saying that we do nothing to alleviate human misery. Many people make many charitable contributions to this end; however, few confessing Christians see the need to dismantle the structures which cause the misery day in and day out. Charity must move toward justice—creating right order, right relationships, creating the Kin-dom now.

The list could go on. The point is that we need to think about the Jesus we confess. Is it the saccharine sweet Jesus who promises eternal salvation and enables me to save my own soul? Or, it is Ched Myer’s Jesus who asks us to challenge unjust and violent social structures which oppress and cause misery? If we do the latter, we will sooner or later realize that our consumerism and comfort make us complicit in oppressing others.

A few examples will suffice. We can provide blankets and boots for migrant farm workers. That is fine. What are we willing to do to dismantle the structures which keep them in misery? What will we do to challenge the greed-driven policies that use low cost farm workers to put the cornucopia on our tables at a cheap price? Are we willing to challenge Publix’s and Trader Joe’s refusal to pay a penny a pound more for tomatoes? What will we do to challenge government trade policies like NAFTA and CAFTA that makes it impossible for Mexican farmers to compete with American farmers and thus forces them to cross borders to seek work and money to support them and their families? What will be do about international banking organizations who grant loans to struggling countries which cannot meet the needs for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and education of their people because they have to spend all their GDP to repay the loans? What are we willing to do to prevent deficit reduction from cutting social safety net programs in a country where poverty is on the rise?

We provide foreign assistance to alleviate human suffering; however, it is less than one half of one percent of our GDP—among the very lowest percentages for industrialized nations. We proclaim that we are bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq when in fact we want their oil and hegemony in the Middle East. We claim that we are training Latin America military personnel at the School of the Americas/Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Exchange Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC—note that security word again) when  in fact we are training them to protect governmental and multinational interests in their home countries (e. g. banana growers in Guatemala)? We are raping the land in Alberta Canada  to extract low-grade oil from the Tar Sands and transport it via pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico  refineries.

When we proclaim the nonviolent Jesus crucified, we are proclaiming liberty for captives and freedom for the oppressed. We are “fishers of men.” We have a responsibility to overturn unjust and violent structures which bind and oppress others. Then we will be proclaiming Christ crucified and risen.

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