"Jesus the reformed racist…"

That would be the finding of the very ummm…let me be kind here…intellectually incurious, so-saturated- with -political correctness that they can no longer think, or view anything but through their narrow, narrow prism – Anglican Church of Canada:

The Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) has published a Lenten reflection that portrays Jesus as a racist who saw the error of his ways after being challenged by the Canaanite woman in Matthew’s Gospel. The ACoC was long ago taken over by politically correct bores but, as Anglican Samizdat notes, this “reflection” turns Jesus into a sinner – in Christian terms, a pretty basic heresy. Here’s the reflection. Sick-bags at the ready:

“… a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the houseof Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’ ” – Matthew 14:22-27

This not a story for people who need to think that Jesus always had it together, because it looks like we’ve caught him being mean to a lady because of her ethnicity. At first, he ignores her cries. Then he refuses to help her and compares her people to dogs.

But she challenges his prejudice. And he listens to her challenge and grows in response to it. He ends up healing her daughter. What we may have here is an important moment of self-discovery in Jesus’ life, an enlargement of what it will mean to be who he was. Maybe we are seeing Jesus understand his universality for the first time.

Yay! A marginalized woman made Jesus see the light! The perfect narrative for the 21st Century!

The Man-God is once again being deconstructed to appear only human – faulty and human and sinful, just like the rest of us.

Suits the narrative. And it IS the season of Lent/Easter, so hone your sense of humor. You’ll be seeing a lot more of this silliness for the next 40 days or so.

I know that particular story in scripture has bothered some of our more enlightened, “progressive” friends. Almost ten years ago I had a discussion with a man who insisted that this story – and Christ’s admonition that his disciples, when rejected, “shake the dust of that town off their feet” – proved that Christ had moments of dark malevolence – he wasn’t really any better than the rest of us.

Well. We all know people will believe what they want, so I frankly wouldn’t waste time trying to convince anyone of anything. I’ve always taken a line through Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, who told her disbelieving church and secular leadership, “it’s not my job to convince. Only to inform.”

And of course, how you receive something is entirely up to you.

The problem with embracing evangelical/fundamentalis secularism – and that is what this Canadian Anglican group is offering up, make no mistake – is that like most fundamentalisms, there is no room for broad-minding pondering. There is no opportunity to imagine that Jesus could possibly be motivated by anything, in that scene, but “prejudice” and “meanness”.

I’ve always loved that story because in my view, Jesus is challenging that woman to deliver her authentic self to him. As I wrote here:

[Jesus] He never “loves us too much to challenge” us. The scene above is a good example. I have read some commentators suggest that Jesus’ exchange with this woman is an occasion of Jesus being “dark” or “unloving,” but I have never received it that way. Rather, he seems to me to be acting here as a good teacher who wants his student to “stand and deliver,” so to speak.

I know, I know, “stand and deliver” is the catchphrase of highwaymen and thieves but what it really breaks down to is, “hand over the goods, deliver to me what is valuable.” I believe in Jesus’ case, he wants us to expose and bring forth to him our inmost selves.

Remember, Jesus is the Divine Teacher, and a good teacher finds the way to bring out the very best in students, not simply to teach them rote answers (although that has its place) but to make them “deliver of themselves,” to put something more behind their answers. He does it over and over in the Gospels – makes people declare what it is they want, why they are coming to him. His challenge says, “stand and deliver – to be more fully the man or woman you are, and not some prostrate creature.”

Consider, had the story played differently, had Jesus simply said, “okay, fine, your kid is healed” it would not not have been as memorable and a key bit of info would not have been passed along (the important message to the Gentiles – do not be afraid to seek your salvation here, it’s for you, too) but perhaps more importantly, on a personal level, the woman would not have been lifted up, would not have had her cleverness (the gift of her individuality and mind) acknowledged. She would have been one more woman ducking her head and lowering her eyes. Instead – after that encounter with Christ – she had dignity and could hold her head up. I believe THOSE are the reasons Christ challenged her.

This is a wonderful story and Jesus made here a wonderful challenge to a woman who had been raised in a culture that thought of her as mere chattel: show me who you are. Stand up tall. Be yourself. Speak your piece.

There is nothing “dark” in any of that, and there could not be, for He is all Light. I love it. Jesus rocks!

There is nothing nefarious in Jesus telling the apostles to “shake the dust of that town off your feet,” either.

“Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words–go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
— Matthew 10:14-15

It’s cultural. And we’re supposed to be fascinated and celebratory about cultural things, aren’t we? You “shake the dust off your feet” to indicate that nothing there has “stuck” to you; you do it to declare yourself in no way connected to that place. Since the apostles had been rejected, that would have been a reasonable statement to make: “You do not belong to us; even your dust does not belong, and we do not belong to you – nor does your fate touch us.”

But if you want to put an Eastern spin on it – because everyone knows that the Eastern religions are much, much more enlightened and palatable than either Christianity or Judaism – you can suggest, as a Taoist I know has, that Jesus was simply telling them to “shake the negative energy off of themselves, not take it with them in their travels.”

Because, again, you don’t want that negative energy following you – you don’t want their karma stuck to you.

Seems a Taoist can have a more open and tolerant mind about Jesus than the people who incorrectly call themselves “liberal” these days. A Taoist can look at the words of the Christ – in whom he does not believe – and say, “yeah, I get it.”

But a “broad-minded” intellectual type can only see “darkness”. Can only see Jesus being “mean” instead of “nice.”

“Be nice” is what intellectualism has been reduced to.

A friend of mine sent me a quote by Chesterton, one I hadn’t seen before:

Ambition narrows as the mind expands.

For once I disagree with the big man. It almost seems to me that a mind narrows, as ambition expands. In the quest to socially mandate “niceness” – the ambition to be “sensitive, tolerant and compassionate” to everyone, all the time, in that vapid “everyone-is-special” manner – the broad ambition has narrowed the minds. And apparently stultified them, too.

Fundamentalism can do that – shut down the mind and forbid wondering – whether it is Christian, Jewish, Muslim…or even secular-humanist and politically correct.

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