As an Asian-American activist, I must constantly negotiate what it means to be a woman faith leader – all while challenging misconceptions of the “model minority myth” and the “otherization” of my identity in a dominant culture that often sees anything other than whiteness as foreign, exotic, or suspect. And yet, I know that my experiences do not pale in comparison to the hardships of those experienced within the greater sisterhood.
What does the birth of the baby Jesus 2,000 years ago have to offer the violent, troubled world we live in? Or what would Jesus say to the NRA?
I want to suggest — a lot. A whole lot.
Jesus entered the world from a posture of absolute vulnerability — as an unarmed, innocent child during a time of tremendous violence. The Bible speaks of a terrible massacre as Jesus was born, an unspeakable act of violence as King Herod slaughters children throughout the land hoping to kill Jesus (which the church remembers annually as the massacre of the Holy Innocents).
Perhaps the original Christmas was marked more with agony and grief like that in Connecticut than with the glitz and glamour of the shopping malls and Christmas parades. For just as Mary and Joseph celebrated their newborn baby, there were plenty of other moms and dads in utter agony because their kids had just been killed.
From his birth in the manger as a homeless refugee until his brutal execution on the Roman cross, Jesus was very familiar with violence. Emmanuel means “God with us.” Jesus’s coming to earth is all about a God who leaves the comfort of heaven to join the suffering on earth. The fact that Christians throughout the world regularly identify with a victim of violence — and a nonviolent, grace-filled, forgiving victim — is perhaps one of the most fundamentally life-altering and world-changing assumptions of the Christian faith. Or it should be.
So what does that have to do with the NRA? Underneath the rhetoric of the gun-control debate this Christmas is a nagging question: are more guns the solution to our gun problem?
Trump's rallies, like his tweets, have been hard to watch, but they clearly reveal a political strategy of fear, based on continual and unapologetic lying, which deliberately evokes racial resentment and hatred. This president’s purpose is indeed to divide us, especially along racial lines. Again, we don’t yet know who is directly responsible for this latest string of violence, but it can no longer be said that there is no relationship between violent presidential rhetoric against opponents and the media, and the violent action against those very people. You can no longer say, “I don’t like his rhetoric and tweets, but I like his policies."
It just keeps happening. Voter suppression that is. Too many political leaders — who are disproportionately white — will use every option available to try and prevent some — disproportionately people of color — from voting. It just keeps happening, and many Americans either don’t know, don’t care, or wholeheartedly favor denying their fellow citizens of color the right to vote. Because it keeps happening, we must ask if support for this practice is as prevalent for white Christians as it is for white non-Christians.
Of course the system is rigged — systems are always rigged to protect the wealth, power, and self-interest of those who created them, those who benefit from them. That’s not hyperbole; that’s reality, that’s human nature, and that’s what the Bible calls sin. And that’s why systems need to be held accountable — to the common good rather than just the system makers and controllers. And that’s why Jesus calls us to protect, in particular, "the least of these" who are most vulnerable to the systems' exploitation. This is why defending systems that just maintain the powerful’s own self-interest while neglecting the interests of others, especially the most vulnerable, is not just bad politics — it’s bad theology.