A parishioner sent me a link to this rather fascinating spoken word poem that has rocked the YouTube world recently.
Many of you, I'm sure, have already seen it. It has over 18 million hits, so sheer probability tells me you have.
I just watched it this morning and it has me thinking. I disagree with most everything this young man is saying. I have to, of course, because, well, I am a religious representative. In many ways, I am exactly who this guy say he hates. I guess I could be offended by that, but frankly I'm just too thick-skinned and too tired to get offended.
I am still fascinated by it, though. Why does a video made by a layperson with a video camera talking about Jesus get EIGHTEEN MILLION hits? What is he saying that is so compelling to folks trolling the interwebs?
Like I said, I disagree with 98% of what he raps about. I think his understanding of Jesus is heartfelt but his knowledge of "religion" is misguided and shallow. From what he says, he has never been part of a Christian community who has celebrated with him during his life's greatest moments, who has cradled and fed him while he mourned, who has held tightly to his faith when he couldn't hold it for himself. In other words, from what he says, it seems that this young man has never experienced the face of Christ in community. How sad.
I think a goodly portion of those 18 million hits are people who are looking for more fodder for the anti-religious canon. "See, this guy on the internet said that Jesus was against religion!" Therefor it must be true. Blargh.
"Religion", it seems, has become that place to dump on, that place where we can toss all the blame for everything evil that has been done in the name of a higher power. Religious folk have done some really despicable and horrendous things in the world, things that I am not proud to consider part of my Christian heritage (and sometimes eschew as such).
But God forgives. I'm not sure how, but God does forgive, even when I can't.
And furthermore, Jesus calls us into community, again and again and again with each other, those we agree with and those we disagree with. We are called into community with liberals and conservatives and folks who are apolitical. We are called into community with people we love and people we can't stand. We are called into community with people we want to have dinner with and people we don't even know exist and people whose mere existence challenges our very belief in the goodness of God. We're not always called to like it, but we are called to show up.
And that is what Jesus did when he ate with the lepers and the tax collectors and the prostitutes. That is what Jesus did when he challenged the authorities. And that is what Jesus did when he died alongside other social "trash".
And so I feel sorry for this young man. Because without "religion" he isn't going to have the experience of walking down the aisle with a person he loves to take vows that have been spoken by millions before him to love until death parts them. He will not have the experience of staggering, sleep-deprived, into the parish hall with a squalling 6 month old baby and having every grandmother in the room beg to hold that baby in order to let the parents eat ONE MEAL in peace. He isn't going to have the experience of burying his father surrounded by a great cloud of loving witnesses as the priest reminds them that Jesus, after all, is the resurrection and the life, Alleluia.
Because that is religion, to me. It is the depth and breadth of human experience across history and across borders. It is the community that holds one another up and holds one another accountable. It is the tree with the deepest roots and the dandelion with the most far reaching seeds. Religion teaches and challenges and holds sacred. We don't always do it right or do it well, but as a community, as a religion, at least we do it together.
And so I love religion and I love Jesus.