I am not a Christian, I am not a worshipper of Jesus Christ. I am a Jew converted some years ago to Quakerism.
Christ's teaching and writings have given me moral and cultural inspiration and comfort and guide me today in so many ways. His work has helped provide a foundation for my idea of The Army Of Good and its commitment to supporting the poor, the forgotten and the vulnerable.
We are skeptical of the rich, and of a society that favors them over everyone else. I have always assumed that members of the Christian faith would embrace and work on behalf of the ideas that he so clearly expressed as a political radical and champion of the poor and the "stranger."
We believe that truth is morally central to our personal and civic lives.
I am sorry to see that this is not the case, some of the most visible and influential of the people who worship and seek power in Christ's name ignore the poor and their children and preach hatred for the refugees and the immigrants, and the people in need of health care. They are, in fact, the wealthy and disconnected priests he drove out of the Temple. They better pray he does not return.
On Memorial Day, I chose to honor the lost Jesus, the one his own faith seems to have forgotten, and pay tribute to his lost ideals. I also am happy to celebrate a new and growing movement, the one to reclaim the lost Christ.
I was surprised – and once again inspired – to read this week that religious leaders across the theological spectrum have gathered under the banner "Reclaiming Jesus: A Confess Of Faith In A Time Of Crisis." Finally, I thought.
These leaders and believers are not speaking from the left or the right, they are not interested in our crippling partisan politics, they are reclaiming the teachings of Christ, and denouncing religious nationalism and bigotry. They are reminding us that God favors no nation, and that religion is not about amassing wealth.
"We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake," they declared. "It is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else – nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography – our identity in Christ precedes every other identity."
The identity of Christ does not precede every other identity or value for me. But it has never been more important to the moral underpinning of our country.
I don't worship Christ as a god, but an idea, a direction our most celebrated Better Angel.
It is a landmark thing – sadly – in 2018 for powerful and influential Christian leaders to gather to reclaim the truth about Christ and what he stood for, even as millions of people who claim to be Christians seem to have forgotten him for political gain. This is the "crisis" of faith that is harming so many other people, Christians or not.
I think of the Mansion residents, many of whom are poor and forgotten, and of the growing attacks on refugees and immigrants, the target of vicious and cruel efforts to exploit them to divide our country, and do them great harm in the process.
When politics undermines theology, say the religious leaders, than it's time to examine that politics.
Politics today is something Jesus Christ would have despised and condemned. In fact, it was this kind of politics he did despise and condemn. "Come now, you wealthy ones, weep and how for the miseries that are about to come upon you," wrote Christ's disciple James in epistle."
The authors of reclaimingjesus have risen about the polarization and rage in our country and reminded us of what it means to be people of faith. They come from every religious and political spectrum They seem to have their spiritual feet on the ground.
"…we reject the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God," said the religious leaders.
"We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the "strangers" among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34).
We won't accept the neglect of the well-being of low-income families and children, and we will resist repeated attempts to deny health care to those who most need it. We confess our growing national sin of putting the rich over the poor. We reject the immoral logic of cutting services and programs for the poor while cutting taxes for the rich."
In his powerful and quite brilliant new book, The Soul Of America, The Battle For Our Better Angels, historian Jon Meacham writes of the gospel that became the ethos of the American experiment, espoused most clearly by Franklin Roosevelt as the Judeo-Christian ethic, the moral underpinning of the United States and the free world for many years
"The world was not perfect, nor was it perfectible," wrote Meacham, "but on we went, in the face of inequities and inequalities, seeking to expand freedom at home, to defend liberty abroad, to conquer disease and go to the stars. For notably among nations, the United States has long been shaped by the promise, if not always by the reality, of forward motion, of rising greatness, and of the expansion of knowledge, of wealth, and of happiness."
Could anyone describe us in that way today?
Jesus was not a comforter of the rich, he was a radical advocate for the poor.
The disciple James, says author Reza Aslan in his book Zealot, The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth, goes so far as to suggest that one cannot truly be a follower of Jesus at all if one does not actively favor the poor. "Do you with your acts of favoritism towards the rich really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?, " James asks in the gospels.
The revolutionary zealot who walked across Galilee gathering an army of disciples with the goal of establishing the Kingdom Of God on earth, the magnetic preacher who defied the authority of the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem, the radical Jewish nationalist who challenged the Roman occupation and lost, has been almost completely lost to history, and to many in his own faith, the one that carries his name.
It seems many in the modern faith needed a different story, they rewrote the old one.
That is shame, because he seems to me to be someone truly worth believing in, not the slick TV preachers and religious entrepreneurs who sell faith to power today for money, our new priests.
I am happy to see true Christians begin to rise up and show their moral DNA.
I was thinking that if Jesus really was or is the son of God, then the moral religious leaders speaking up, his true followers, are the new zealots, they are walking across the new Galilee to defy the corrupt priests in the new temple. Religious scholars have no doubt how Christ would feel about the persecutors of the poor and the refugees.
Every day, someone messages me to tell me how depressed they are, how gloomy the news is, how frightened and despairing they are. But that is not my view, any more than the left and the right is. If you open your eyes, and turn off their news, you can see it all around you.
I feel a new moral awakening, you can see it and feel it everywhere, from women marching, to blacks and Hispanics and women seeking political office, the students marching against violence, in moral books and declarations, in marches and the stirrings of so many souls. And surely, in The Army Of Good.
Those of us who were asleep, are waking up, and in so many cases, doing good. I honestly believe, as someone who really belongs completely to no religion, that we are reclaiming the spirit and message of Jesus Christ who, was, after all, a warrior for the poor and the vulnerable, whether one worships him or not.
If he is not being reborn, then he seems to be being reclaimed. For me, an admirer but non-worshipper, that is just as good.
On Memorial Day, I honor his sacrifice for us all.