Ross Douhat quotes Michelle Obama saying,
Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well … Jesus didn’t limit his ministry to the four walls of the church. He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day.
Apparently Michelle’s “faith journey” has little to do with actually studying the life of Jesus. When, exactly, did Jesus either go about fighting injustice or speaking truth to power?
Remember, about the only remotely political thing Jesus said was “Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).
As far as speaking truth unto power, when Jesus finally was brought before the authorities shortly before his crucifixion, his main comment was….nothing.
And the closest he got to “fighting” anything was when he tossed the moneychangers out of the temple, angry that his Father’s house was being defiled.
Jesus spent his time teaching and healing, often in small, private settings. His tendency to hang out with the bottom rungs of society such as lepers or publicans sent a powerful message, as did his interactions with women. But does this constitute “fighting injustice?” Only in the sense that he tried to change hearts through his example and his words. To say that he was about attacking existing power structures or explicitly encouraging others to do so is a huge interpretive stretch. He mocked the hypocrisy of the local elites, but he did nothing to challenge their power.
Liberation theology and other variants of religious social liberalism have many followers. I wouldn’t want to question their devotion or commitment. Their desire to create a better world for the poor and downtrodden is admirable. But alleviating poverty and suffering through the coercive power of the state is certainly not something Jesus taught. In fact, his appreciation for worldly notions of injustice was not what people wanted to hear. His message to those who were treated unjustly was to turn the other cheek and to love—not to demand fair treatment.
Jesus spoke a lot about righteousness and what it truly means to keep God’s commandments (not usually things that the left wants to talk about, I might add), but fighting injustice was not very high on his list of priorities, at least according to the scriptures. What he did want was to turn people’s hearts unto God. “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Its very hard to pull out a “let’s storm the barricades” message out of those words or anything else he said or did. Perhaps one who truly becomes a disciple of Christ becomes committed to fighting injustice, but the scriptures are largely silent on any political method for doing so, and Jesus seemed singularly uninterested in anything having to do with worldly power or injustice. Sorry, Michelle.
The Obamas come from the “community organizing” tradition, which is essentially about rallying political power to take money from one group and give it to another. Fine. Let’s just leave Jesus out of it.