It’s weird how a memory sticks with you sometimes. I can’t remember the name of the venue (although I think it was Metro Cafe), but I’ll never forget seeing one song performed by the band Dime Store Prophets. I honestly couldn’t tell you any of their other songs, but I can still hear this one ringing in my ears twenty-five years later. The name of the song was the name of this blog post and it was just as haunting then as it is now. The chorus went like this,
I’m not myself, til you are you,
If I close my eyes, I’m killing you
I carry the weight of this safety net,
So I feel like Hitler’s girlfriend,
I’m blind to this and numb to that.
The songwriter announced that he came up with the title and song idea after reading Dr King’s words often paraphrased from Letter from Birmingham Jail, but best represented in his final Christmas sermon in 1967, “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality”. I guess the reason that this hits me today is because things really haven’t changed. We still don’t get it. Especially those of us who claim the raiment of Christ.
One of my favorite stories in the gospels is the story of Christ’ Baptism. Has there ever been a more unnecessary act?!? I mean yes, we do consider it to be the marquis moment to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry while on earth, but he didn’t have to do it. It was a Baptism of repentance. John the Baptizer was calling sinners to be Baptized for the the forgiveness of sins. And he who knew no sin got in line with the rest of us. Why?!? Why, if not to remind us that we are all in this together. In fact, one could view the entire salvation message here in this passage because God becoming incarnate is the most miraculous piece of the gospels. And God also suffering to be like us in every way is also so incredible that is still mystifies me.
But here’s what I really can’t get. Why don’t we do the same? Why did Christ followers all of a sudden become those leading the charge for individual rights and security and prosperity and happiness?!? This doesn’t look at all like the brown skinned messiah who stood in line with prostitutes and tax collectors to dip in muddy water to be associated with the least of these. It seems to me that as of late that we’ve really lost the plot like never before and have forgot the interconnectedness of all humanity that Dr King and the Dime Store Prophets song referred to above. We have become like Hitler’s girlfriend as we turn a blind eye to all the suffering around so long as me and mine are okay.
I recently posted a little “paraphrase” of my favorite passages from the Gospel of Matthew and a few folks got up in arms. Maybe they were right to as I shouldn’t have called it a paraphrase. It was more like a hermeneutical exposition of the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. But what that parable did (and should still do today) is reminded the listeners that to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven means that you recognized the interconnection of all humanity and especially those lesser than you. So maybe we do need a little hermeneutical help to see this once again. So let us hear these words from the final passage of Matthew 25 once again. “For I was on the street and hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was without clean drinking water or being poisoned by lead pipes and corrupt politicians and you gave me nothing to drink, I was an immigrant seeking asylum from somewhere you were lucky enough not to be born and you did not invite me in, I needed to be able to feed and clothe my own family instead of working for pennies to make your affordable clothes and you did not fight for me, I was sick and you did not care enough to embrace a miraculous cure or even wear a mask to protect my vulnerability. I was in prison unjustly because of racial disparity in the justice system and you did not look after me but rather pushed for harsher penalties and the death penalty. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’” “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
Until we can recognize our brokenness in seeing them when there is only us, the Kingdom of God will never reign in and through us. Kyrie eleison