After we watched the Blu Ray version of Les Miserables last night the words of one song keep coming to mind:
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!
Somehow I feel that many of us can be counted among the angry people. Government showdowns, plots by the rich and famous to get bigger tax cuts at the expense of the least among us, cuts to Social Security and Medicare instead of increasing taxes for those who can well afford to pay more, the growing income gap here and abroad, wars and rumors of wars for oil and hegemony, violence as the acceptable response to issues—the list could go on and on.
Last week the Democrats reported how Fat Cats are spending big bucks to back the unconscionable Ryan budget while failing to tell us that oil tycoons and others were playing golf with Tiger and Obama. Don’t they hear the people singing for economic and social freedom? Can’t they hear that people do not want to be enslaved by the system? The real scary thing is that Les Miserables may not be a story about a past revolution in France but a preview of coming attractions in America if things keep going down for the 99%. French is not my strong suit but I think the title of the play and movie is “The Miserable”—the least among us, those on the fringes of society, and the dwindling middle class.
A pretty dismal picture, a violent reaction to economic oppression. What do we do as Christians? Do we just go to church on Sunday, sit in our pews, listen to a sanguine sermon and then go home to enjoy what comforts we can while we still can? Do we subscribe to the age-old mantra that religion and politics do not mix?
Our first task as Christians is be informed. We must be informed about the real teachings of the Risen Christ. One example—his entrance into Jerusalem which we celebrate on Palm Sunday was not just a story about a humble reformer riding on a donkey amid the cheers of the common folks. It was street theater. While Jesus was entering from a gate on one side of Jerusalem, Pilate, coming with a large entourage of Roman troops, was arriving in a pompous ceremony to assure the peace of Jerusalem during tumultuous Passover times. Jesus was directly challenging and mocking the power of imperial Rome! That is just one part of the real Gospel. It differs greatly from the Faux News version of evangelical Christianity. Are we ready to challenge and mock the power of imperial Washington?
We must be informed about politics as messy as they may be right now. We must wade into the muck and mire, ascertain what is really going on and then act on Gospel values, such as the common good. I am really looking forward to reading Jim Wallis’ new book, On God’s Side. Jim is a master at reminding us of our Christian response to empire. He writes in the Preface:
For Christians, the idea of the common good derives from Jesus’s commandment to love our neighbor—including the “least of these”—which is still the most transformational social ethic the world has ever seen. But all faith traditions agree that loving our neighbor is required if we are to love God. Making our treatment of the most vulnerable the moral test of society’s self-righteousness or integrity is ultimately the best way to make absolutely sure that that we are protecting human life and the dignity of all God’s children (xii).
As we pursue the Gospel vision, we must be true to principles of non-violence. As Wallis reminds us in the subtitle of the book, it is not about God being on our side but, as Abraham Lincoln said, about our being on God’s side.
Being on God’s side must begin with prayer. Like Jeremiah, we pray for deliverance from the greedy tycoons and their minion politicians who are out to rape us. We place our trust in God:
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. O LORD of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart, Let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause. (Jer 20)
As Paul taught, we are to be joyful at all times; therefore, our prayer is not only for deliverance but our prayer centers us in the presence of the Presence whose primary language is silence. Daily “meditation” practice centers us amid the turmoil around us. Like the Psalmist, we know that God is with us: Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD, For he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!
The breakers of death surged round about me, the destroying floods overwhelmed me; The cords of the nether world enmeshed me, the snares of death overtook me. R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice. In my distress I called upon the LORD and cried out to my God; From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. (Psalm 18)
The Spirit of the Risen Christ helps us understand that America is not about wealth, power, violence, greed and consumption. We call upon God and know that God is on our side because we are firmly planted on God’s side. We know we are on God’s side when we are about peace, justice, mercy, forgiveness, sharing and love. If corporate giants and politicians hear the people singing this tune, the Christ revolution will have begun. Beating hearts will echo beating drums and new life in the Kin-dom will be starting. We will be protecting human life and dignity and caring for all of God’s creation. We will fly on eagle’s wings.