Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Jesus and the Skittles...

Donald Trump’s campaign added to its nearly-unbroken track record for outrageous, controversial rhetoric this week by issuing an ad that attempted to stoke fear of refugees with brightly-coloured sugary sweets.

There’s really no point in trying to rank this particular incident among the litany of incitements to violence, racism, prejudice, misogyny, and xenophobia that have become the defining characteristics of the Trump campaign.

Best just to try to wrestle some kind of rational analysis and decent theological reflection out of it…

Of course, it should go without saying that rarely do people fleeing from terrorism and war make it their aim to move somewhere else and start killing people.

It should also go without saying that all those seeking political asylum are carefully vetted. No one who has ever committed a terrorist atrocity on US soil was part of the political asylum process, and it’s unfair- completely, outrageously, and grossly unfair- to scapegoat those who are for the atrocities of criminals and fanatics.

It’s equally unfair to impugn the work of those government agencies and the individuals within them who are working to safely settle those legitimately seeking peace and security, implying that their efforts are lax and incompetent.

But ultimately this isn’t about policy or politics; it’s about fear and suspicion as political tactics to win an election.

The subtext is, ‘why risk what is precious to you for the sake of people you don’t know?’

As many have commented in regards to this ad, when you look at it from another angle, the question it asks is, ‘would you risk eating a poisoned Skittle if, by doing so, you would save the lives of thousands?’

That’s really what we’re being asked to do: take a small risk- infinitesimally small- to save the lives of people fleeing the horrors of war and terrorism.

Oddly, America is a nation that usually heralds those who take risks for those in need, or sacrifice themselves for others.

Odder still is the fact that Christianity is a faith which believes that Christ came specifically to risk and to sacrifice.

My 13 year-old daughter and I talked about the Skittles ad today on the way to school.

We both hoped that, to save the lives of so many, we’d risk eating the Skittle.

‘I think Jesus would have eaten the Skittle’, I said.

She looked over at me, her eyes wide and knowing;

He took a whole handful…’

This is why God the Father loves me—because I lay down my life… No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will…

There is no way to worship Christ without risk and sacrifice.

There is no way to love Christ without loving those who embody him.

In as much as you have done it to the very least of these, you have done it to me.

In as much as you have not done it...

As Syria crumbles;

As the bombs rain down on once-thriving cities;

As terrified families decide to abandon their homes and their livelihoods and make a run for it;

I believe Jesus comes to us, holding that bowl of Skittles, and says,

‘Take, eat’…

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