1139: Jesus made clear that he rejected claims for superiority based on lineage: God loves all
Day 1139: Saturday, April 29, 2023
Jesus, speaking as the Messiah and the “expected king,” made clear that he rejected such claims for superiority based on lineage and insisted that God loves all people, Jew and gentile alike.
As Christians, we believe, along with many others from different faith traditions, that all human beings are created in the image of God and are inherently and equally worthy of dignity and respect. This is firmly based on our belief in one God, the creator of us all. Policies and ideologies that mandate or privilege the supremacy of one group over others are not only wrong, but they represent a sinful rejection of the unity of the Godhead, who created each of us with purpose and intentionality.
This affirmation also forms the historic basis of many secular human rights principles, which reject discrimination on the basis of color, race, sex or ethnicity. For us, it is our theological convictions that inform our rejection of racism, discrimination, national chauvinism, Islamophobia, anti-Jewish antisemitism, and all forms of discrimination, racism, or apartheid.
It even goes beyond this. Christ teaches that we need to treat the vulnerable, the needy, the sick, and the imprisoned as if each of them was Christ himself. We will be judged on the basis of how we treated each of these brethren, as if we helped (or failed to help) Christ himself.
We know that in the past religious justifications have been used to enable and even mandate racism and discrimination. Slavery was justified by the pseudo-science of eugenics, as well as by the heretical teaching of the “curse of Ham.”
The “doctrine of Discovery” sought to justify imperialism, colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and even the genocide of native populations undertaken by so-called “Christian” nations. Even today, the concept of “Christian nationalism” attempts to manufacture religious justifications for the worst forms of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and imperialism.
The feeling that our “Christian” country is a “shining city on the hill” and that we somehow represent a higher form of humanity, which is allowed to oppress others, hold privilege over them, or must be exempt from universal principles of justice, international law, and human rights, is often shrouded with the pseudo-theological claims of exceptionalism and superiority.
In the Old Testament, the concept of a “chosen people” was sometimes properly understood to mean a people chosen with a mission from God, to bring into the world salvation and redemption, yet it was often used as a justification for privilege and superiority. Jesus, speaking as the Messiah and the “expected king,” made clear that he rejected such claims for superiority based on lineage and insisted that God loves all people, Jew and gentile alike.
His salvation is open to all humankind, since God is no respecter of persons. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; emphasis mine). St. Paul also warned Christians against the proud belief that they were special and favored by God over others.
This fundamental belief in the unity of the Godhead is the basis for the belief in equality and should be the guiding principle to our political positions regarding any movement, ideology, or activity that smacks of racism, discrimination, or the belittling of any human being or group.
The struggle continues today on many fronts. Women still aspire to equality, even within the most advanced countries, as attempts continue to be made to keep them, if not in total subjugation, then at a distinct disadvantage in all spheres of life. Racism, even after the Civil War and later the Civil Rights movement, continues to be a serious problem in American society. Those fighting for equality continue to face obstacles in every sphere.
Black Lives Matter arose precisely because, in confrontations with the police, black lives did not seem to matter as much as the lives of whites. Native Americans continue to feel the ongoing effects of centuries of ethnic cleansing, discrimination, and a long history of broken promises and treaties that systematically stripped them of their lands and denigrated their culture and way of life. Imperialism and neo-colonialism, in different guises, continue to pursue Western hegemony and the exploitation of majority-world countries.
In Israel/Palestine, centuries, indeed millenia, of anti-Jewish discrimination is now being used to permit a system that discriminates against non-Jewish Palestinians in their very homeland. While many Israeli Jews would not specifically espouse discrimination, they nevertheless benefit from a system of overt discrimination in their favor. The current government is guided and controlled by those who openly espouse Jewish supremacy.
There, too, religion is used to justify systematic racism, discrimination, and even ethnic cleansing. Religious fanatics shout out their belief that a Jewish soul is holy, and the preservation of Jewish lives is the highest value, justifying almost any excess, but that Arabs are not entitled to the same dignity or respect. In fact, this is why Israelis can claim their army is the most moral army in the world, in that it protects Jewish lives at any cost—including the cost of Arab lives, Arab property, and Arab dignity. An ideology based on such blatant dehumanization should not be allowed to survive.
I thank God for those Israeli Jews and their supporters who see this, and who are willing to fight for genuine equality. Not only do they prove excellent allies, but the best hope for a peaceful future and a coexistence in Palestine/Israel is based on equality and not on either Arab or Jewish domination.
Regardless of the balance of power at any particular moment, or the demographic composition of the country, we need to champion the cause of equality, human rights, and dignity for all—here in this country as well as in the Holy Land.
By Jonathan Kuttab