But we should also note that the Pope takes such stands from a place safety and security and often receives a good amount of applause for doing so. This blog's pick for person of the year is Nadya Tolokonnikova from the Russian oppositional artist group that performed in Christ The Savior Cathedral in Moscow in 2012. Why? Because, for most of the year, she was taking moral stands as a prisoner and thus from a position of vulnerability where doing so invited threats and more punishment rather than esteem and applause. And what should be noted here is that this selection is despite the fact that the political views of this blog could very well be opposed to some of Tolokonnikova's political views. However, the moral stands she continues to take is to oppose the Orthodox Church's opportunistic ties to the Putin tyrannical government as well as the severe abuse of prisoners practiced in Russia. Her protest included a hunger strike. So what Christians in America are displaying her kind of courage and conviction?
In addition, every American should reflect on a quote of hers. That quote says (click here for the source):
People whose conscience cannot be bought is probably the most precious thing in this world.
Now of course when we think of consciences being bought, we think about others. Here, we tend to focus on corrupt politicians and business people. But shouldn't we also think about ourselves as well? How about those of use who neither protest against the status quo nor want the current economic system to change because we are doing well? And how about churches that only preach against personal sins but refuse to preach against the current economic system lest some members be offended and either give less or leave. It isn't just those at the top whose ethics and morals can be put up for sale, it is all of us. And one way we show that our consciences have been paid for is when refuse to confront evil whether it is practiced by individuals or by systems because of the consequences such preaching brings to ourselves. Where we are quiet in the face of sin for our own benefit, especially when that sin hurts the lives of others, we show that our consciences are for sale.
In addition, we American Christians must ask ourselves why a person like Tolokonnikova, who gives all of the appearances of being a nonbeliever, can muster and exhibit more courage than us people of faith can. Perhaps we have sold our souls to being comfortable as we use God's grace to rationalize our lack of involvement.
Rather than speaking out against injustices, it seems that too many Conservative American Christians prefer to live vicariously through the trials of celebrity Christians. Thus, many Conservative American Christians felt persecuted when Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson was suspended for his comments about gays and Blacks and felt vindicated when he was reinstated. What this blog wants to focus on here is the temporary feeling of vicarious persecution many experienced.
Regarding Robertson's statements about Blacks, we should read a blogpost on the Political Jesus blog to gain an enlightening perspective (click here to read the post). What Robertson did with his statement about gays was similar to what Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A did; he piled on (click here for Cathy's statements). Instead of being content with just calling homosexuality sin, as Dan Cathy portrayed gays as possible scapegoats should God judge America, Robertson associated bestiality with homosexuality by listing them together. Had he been the only Christian to do so, that might not have been a big deal. But too many Christians have made such an association by listing these two sins together that goes beyond calling homosexuality sin to stigmatizing gays in society. When we try to get a society to stigmatize a group, we are trying to persecute and punish that group.
This idea of trying to influence society to punish gays for their sexual relations even though some of their practices are shared by heterosexual couples refutes any claim of treating gays as equals. And it is this association of calling homosexuality sin with punishing gays by stigmatizing them and promoting inequality that could result in a pendulum swing where the law no longer permits us to call homosexuality sin. In addition, for Christians to feel that Robertson's free speech or religion was violated by A&E's suspension is to show a severe myopia. To many of us take for granted the suffering and persecution we have caused gays while claiming to be martyrs when there is any push back. And all one must do to check this claim is to examine the history of how gays have been treated in this country by those claiming to be Christians.
But there is another problem illustrated by Robertson's comments. That problem is one of being content with limited exposure and ignorance. One of the reasons why Robertson said what he did about gays and about Blacks was because he has a very limited, if any, exposure to their perspectives. And though that is not good, it isn't the worst. What is the biggest problem here is that he is content with that limited exposure as if the world needs to listen to him but he doesn't need to listen to the world. And what makes this problem even more damaging is that Robertson personifies much of the Conservative Christian Church in America. If we Christian Conservatives wish to really improve our sharing of the Gospel, we need to listen to others as we would have them listen to ourselves. Our lack of curiosity regarding other perspectives have made us both dull and proud. The result is that we offend those to whom we are preaching for all of the wrong reasons.
Finally, a word of correction must be said to my brothers and sisters in the Occupy Movement. This word has been stated before on this blog but it certainly doesn't hurt to repeat it. It is obvious that the upper x%, where x can equal any number between 1 and 10, lives in one economic world while the rest of us live in another economic world. These different worlds produce an economic separation between the upper x% and the rest. And we should note that another word for separation is apartheid. Thus we should realize that we live in a world of economic apartheid.
What we did wrong in pointing this status quo out to the rest of the people is that we scapegoated the upper x% and thus we put them on the natural defensive. We need to change so that while we don't compromise on our analysis that we live in an economic apartheid, we change our words so that we implore the upper x% to join the rest of us rather than the upper x% the whipping boy. If we can make such a change, we might find more and more people who are willing to challenge the upper x% to join as well.