Blame China? Jesus Doesn’t Play That Game

Luke 4

Luke 4: 21-30 (image from a 12th c. French ms., depicting the event).

Earlier today I wrote a post about how the court evangelicals were pushing Trump to exact revenge against China for its role in the spread of coronavirus to U.S. shores. Read it here.

Christian historian John Haas recently published his own thoughts about this on his Facebook page and he was kind enough to let me share.  He offers a good Holy Week reminder for followers of Jesus:

In the US a consensus is forming that the best response to Coronavirus is to blame China (either for inaction or for deliberately deploying it as a biological weapon), and to exact some kind of revenge (economic disengagement, reparations, etc.). China is returning the favor with heightened anti-Americanism.

In India, a consensus is forming that the best response to Cornavirus is to blame Muslims, and to exact some kind of revenge. I suspect when we get a chance to drill down into other nations and societies, we’ll find similar responses that involve targeting traditional enemies and minorities.

This is the typical human reaction: It’s actually immensely comforting. It tells us that our anxieties and fears regarding whoever have been correct all along, that they’re more dangerous than we thought, that the problems afflicting us aren’t anything to do with “us” but come from outsiders and others, and it paints a route forward towards safety and regeneration: The containment, weakening, or even elimination of the outsider or other.

Much of what’s most radical about Jesus’s life is his refusal to play along with these games. It’s what the people–at that time, and at this–want from him, however. They want Jesus to put his imprimatur on their fear, their xenophobia, their prejudices, and their yearning to hate. Instead, Jesus reminds them that God helps Syrian generals and pagan widows as much or more than the children of Israel.

His counsel runs against every natural instinct, against human nature itself; then and now, it provokes outrage. A good way to tell if someone is preaching Jesus is whether it feels unfair, unwise, and unsafe. A good way to tell that they aren’t is if it feels satisfying and exciting, because it fingers familiar enemies and encourages us to gear up for battle against them. This will invariably involve a demand that we unite around some leader and demonstrate our loyalty to them in some way. We will be asked to stay silent about any failures of the leader, or to redirect our energies to the fight against the designated enemy. A speaking Jesus will become a clear and present danger; he must be dispensed with, usually to be replaced with a “God” imagined after our own current image, prejudices and all.