Christ the Immigrant

I recently got in a heated argument/discussion about the recent influx of young immigrants coming in from Central America and Mexico. The person I argued/discussed these issue out is someone I respect, and more to the point, love, but unfortunately I was headstrong and quick to point out the holes in her argument. I should have been the more mature one and just drop it, or at the very least not drag it out as long as I did on my end. All I could think was that even though there’s a large mass of individuals coming into the U.S. they’re human beings first, and to treat them poorly or with contempt is dehumanizing them. I also thought about Christ the immigrant.

Christ coming to Earth in human form, incarnate…Emmanuel God-with-us, but while he knew of the world he helped to create it was probably still pretty foreign in a lot of ways. An immigrant, himself connected to God but certainly connected to humanity around him. An observer of the roles people thought he came to fulfill, primarily being the one who drives the dominant conquering foreigners from Israel’s lands. God incarnate but an immigrant nonetheless.
As much as I personify Christ in the form of an immigrant, I choose to make it more personable because I, both on my father’s side and my mother’s side, am a descendant of immigrants. They came to the United States from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, to start new lives on their own and their families, they came for employment and to do better. This is the United States’ legacy, not a melting pot, but a smelting pot of people from all walks of life trying to do better than they had before. This diversity is what makes the United States so great in my opinion, so when I hear about people deeming other people “illegal” it mars the image I know of America, it mars their image because it dehumanizes them.

Yes there needs to be reform and we as a nation need to sort things out and make it better, but these things take time, and as they come we need to treat them with dignity and respect and love. How can we call someone illegal if we love them and want the best for them? How can we who are not native to United States to begin with say there isn’t a place for those who are coming to make a better life for themselves?

~Nathanael~

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The Suffering Christ

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The common denominator between anyone and everyone in all of humanity is suffering. Suffering takes many forms, but it unites us in some shape and form. It is because of this, the Jesus I identify with is one who suffered.

Yet while I recognize when I look at crosses whether he’s on it or it is vacant, I identify with him suffering like us. It takes a God who is willing to hurt like us for me to love God that much more. If God was one who started the wheels of life in motion and walked away or backed out of the scene, I don’t think I could connect with such a God because it lacks warmth, it lacks humanity. There wouldn’t be that connection that I feel in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul if I had to somehow follow a God who couldn’t identify with my life and what I go through.
I know that in my personal life that some individuals I cannot truly identify with; I can’t identify with the issues a single mother faces who survives paycheck-to-paycheck just to put food in her children’s bellies, I can’t identify with being a young Gay man who grows up in a small conservative town where he’s told on a regular basis that being Gay is a sin and an abomination in the eyes of God, I can’t identify with a black guy who despite a rough upbringing he overcame odds and makes it in the corporate world only to suffer the duress of institutionalized racism…I can’t identify with these individuals, but I can empathize, and I can listen to them as they tell their stories, and I can BE with them.

I need a God in my life who can BE with me, which is why the face of God I so often see is a bedraggled, haggard, suffering HUMAN face. It is marred, it is ugly, it hurts like I hurt and yet…it is the face of love, the face of God-with-us, the face of a God who cared so much for ALL of humanity that he set forth to make things right between ALL of us, not just SOME of us.

In this Lenten season I am reminded time and time again of Christ and what he went through as he was with us, and it is encouraging in many ways but one that sticks to my mind regularly is the nature of “go[ing] and do[ing] likewise”. To be a part of humanity not apart from humanity, to love others and serve, to end paradigms that separate US and work towards bringing about perfect shalom and recognize the imago dei/image of God that we all bear. It is also within the context of the lenten season I am aware of where his end and resurrection is ultimately our beginning as well as our own resurrection. Easter brings it all into focus, it is about life and renewal, it is about order being restored and perfect shalom starting to take place with all of humanity.

Love won that day, and continues to win. Each day draws in a bit of perfect shalom for all ofย  us.
~Nathanael~

Never stop wrestling; the Gospel according to The Flobots

I decided to go beyond listening to “Handlebars” and listen to the larger aka entire body of work by The Flobots, and I’m hooked!

If you’re unfamiliar with The Flobots, here’s a brief 101 about them; they’re defined as a “rock and hip hop musical band” via Wikipedia, and yet while their music is catchy their lyrics are even catchier. Consider the political rock nature of System Of A Down or Rage Against The Machine, and they’re that lighter to the ears but more to the point about issues.

Not only do they talk about issues past and present in America’s marred history, but they point out the struggles of people across the globe. Yet I think what grabs me most about their music is the ever present theme of liberation theology; the branch of theology that views Jesus as a sufferer, a sharer of man’s blight and humanity, rather than one of Jesus as a conqueror and a vanquisher.
I’ve been a pacifist in my own way ever since I was younger. I think some of it had to do with reading anti Vietnam literature from conscientious objectors but I know that war language/metaphors affixed to Christianity (think “Onward Christian Soldiers” / “I’m in the Lord’s Army”) bothered me. War kills and destroys lives, it divides both internally and externally, and it perpetuates a paradigm of “allies versus enemies”, nothing good can come from a war that is unjust…except for the windfall that sometimes follows, hence the Baby Boomer generation post World War 2.
The recent wars America has fought in do not smatter of justice or doing the right thing, rather it is about vested interests and lining wallets under the guise of “defending America’s freedom.”
Reaction GIF: bullshit
But back to Flobots.

Their lyrical content is about reversing all that, about setting right wrongs, about being vocal about social issues that need to be addressed, about making a difference for all of humanity. Yet I think the song that I dwell upon the most is their song “Wrestling Israel” because it causes me to wrestle out what I hold dear, as well as my thoughts and views.
Wrestling isn’t the same as doubting; it’s about being on the defensive and offensive, being prepared to be in a headlock and provide one if necessary as well. I enjoy this notion when it comes to matters of faith, and I would much rather wrestle it out and come to my views with openhanded faith instead of having a closefisted belief system. As a follower of Christ I recognize that the Bible contains black and white truths, but there is also a lot of grey.

My views as a follower of Christ have come through a lot of wrestling (and I still am) as to “what my parents believe” to what do I believe. I used to think it was about getting saved and going to heaven, but I don’t think that way anymore. I believe my position is to be one of love, faithfulness, and testimony for the long-haul; testimony of what God has done and what God is still doing, to love one another as I have been loved, to extend grace to all whom I come into contact with. It’s not my business to “save” anyone, and I myself do not see myself as being saved but rather God is in the process of saving me; God is saving me today and he will be saving me tomorrow. I choose to use dynamic words rather than static words, I choose to use words of creation and growth and life. I also like to dwell on the fact that no matter how bad this world gets sometimes God never retracted “it is good” and that perfect shalom is on the horizon. ๐Ÿ™‚ Things will get better in time for all of humanity, all in due time.

I will keep questioning, keep wrestling, and keep loving for as long as I have air in my lungs!
~Nathanael~