Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christ at the Capitol



This past Tuesday, members of First TrinityBenton House, and Bridgeport Alliance traveled South.

South to Springfield.

With our friends from SOUL and IIRON,
and a whole network of folks from Make Wall Street Pay, IL.

We were lobbying for SB-282, a bill that passed the senate, but is still up in the house.

This bill, if passed in IL, would require publicly traded corporations in IL to disclose their tax info. Right now, they don't.

Doesn't seem like a big deal.

Unless you're aware that about 2/3 of Illinois corporations don't pay any taxes.

Some of them even get paid to be here.

Nice, huh?

In our current political context, where cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and where scheduled upcoming Sequestration Cuts threaten to plunge our most vulnerable sisters and brothers into even more vulnerability, putting many of them in danger of losing their lives and well being (this is not an exaggeration),

it is our belief that SB-282, if passed, would be a step toward creating revenue through taxing the income of the ultra-rich and corporations, rather than taxing the lives of the poor.

One small step toward something better.

As we were hurrying about through the Capitol, finding our state reps,
sharing with them the importance of passing this bill,

(four of the six people in my group from Bridgeport are personally now, or about, to get cuts to the medicine they rely on),

we passed,
at the center of the building,
a Christmas Tree.

Along side it was a Nativity Scene, and around the scene were set-up chairs,
as if 
near the manger of Christ, 
there was about to be a press conference.

As I walked by the reporter and the camera standing up front, 
in a hurry, 
the reporter extended her hand to shake mine, 
asking if I was Pastor Something-Or-Another.

I shook her hand. “No. I'm not. Sorry.”

She looked confused. I walked away.



that there was a press conference, and from what I overheard,
it was some clergy-type ranting about how Our Nation was Founded 
on Judeo-Christian Values, etc., etc.

He was talking about the importance of the image of Christ at Christmas,
and how the Nativity was an important thing to display in our government building because some dead founders might have been Christians.

I heard no love in his voice.

But I was in a hurry, so maybe I missed it.


(The Nativity Scene itself is sponsored by a public-interest law firm).




Truth told, I'm not one to argue either way, for or against, religious imagery in a state building.

As long as all religions have equal access.

But if I were to stand up where that ranting man was Tuesday, 
speaking of the importance of the baby Jesus lying in a feeding trough at the center of the Capitol, 

I wouldn't be yelling about our founding fathers.

In fact, I wouldn't mention them at all.

Not even the Deists...



Rather, what I'd say is something like this:

To our Senators, State Reps,
(CC'ed to all the lobbyists and state-residents who pass through this building),
especially to Christians, to whom this symbol might hold some sort of meaning,


Remember this:

Remember this season,
when bills (like SB-282) are up for passing,
when choices being made about budgets directly help or hurt the poor...
Remember that this scene...

this Nativity of Christ

declares, through and though

that the one whom Christians call the Son of God,

and even the King of Kings...

remember 

that the Most High 
was born into poverty,
among animals,
and among the (ewwww...) common people.

His mother, looking dreamily upon him in this sentimental diorama

is the same scared, unwed, teenage-mother-to-be who cried out with joy at the good news of her son's birth,

singing powerfully about the lifting up of the lowly, 
the scattering of the proud,
and the tearing down of the powerful from their thrones.

Remember when you see the shit-covered shepherds gathered around this rag-bundled child,

when you see the Three Great Kings (or magi) bowing down to Jesus,

when you see the donkey and the camel and the mice,

what you are witnessing, friends,

is the acting out of the exultation of the poor,

the acting out of the disenfranchised worker placed,
now, at the center of God's story,
You are witnessing the bowing down of royalty
in order to serve the poor and vulnerable,

You are watching Kings
bringing valuable gifts to the Lowly One,
born in a barn,
without healthcare,
without hand sanitizer,

the wealthy sharing wealth

so that the Son of God might be lifted from such poverty,

just as he, one day, will declare that his mission 
is to liberate the captives,
to restore vision to those without,
and to declare the year of the Lord's reign, 
where the first become last, and the humbled are exalted.

Where the lowly are lifted up.

When you pass that sentimental,
pretty-and-glowing Nativity Scene this season,

remember that the decisions you make as our public servants,
sisters and brothers, matter.

Your decisions matter.

And when your decisions lift up the mighty 
and cast down the lowly,
not only are they unethical, but they are anti-Christian,
regardless of your political party,
and regardless of what church you attend.

When you pay mind to those with money, 
granting them special wishes,
rather than asking those with money to serve the poor, 
and to share their wealth for the good of all,
you are enabling those with money, and yourself, 
to destroy Mary's Song,
and to pervert the Gospel.

You sanitize the manger that declared God acting among, and lifting up the poor.


If you are going to put Christ at the center this season,
if you insist on it,
even at the center of the Capitol,
may the purpose not be
to dwell on some fantastic past,
or some idealized or beatified forefathers,

but rather
let the purpose be a reminder
that Christ at the center means the lifting up of the poor,
Christ at the center means Kings bowing down to the vulnerable,
Christ at the center means making decisions that liberate

and heal

and set free.

I pray that you make these decisions, in the Spirit of Christmas, and in the Spirit that showers constantly with the opportunity to reform and change.


Amen.



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