Saw this meme on Facebook yesterday – hadn’t heard of John Fugelsang before this (he’s an actor/comedian, which makes him a highly qualified theologian, doncha know ). One thing I do know is, logic and critical thinking are not his strong suits.
But rather than snarkily poke holes in his #FakeGoodNews and pick-and-choose Gospel, and argue over his overt obvious political leanings – and hopefully we all agree that Jesus transcends what passes for modern-day politics, of any stripe – I prefer to have Servant of God Madeleine Delbrêl counter Fugelsang’s assertion that Jesus stands for All The Things My Political Party Believes (excerpts from We, the Ordinary People of the Streets):
Preach the Gospel – the Good News of the Kingdom of God and not that of a better world. We cannot let ourselves forget that salvation is a “one way” street: it can only come from God through Christ.
We cannot allow ourselves to mix up the Good News of salvation with the various recipes for happiness bandied about by the world. We cannot allow ourselves to give credit to the world for certain key notions that are in fact segments of the Gospel that have been taken out of their context and taken over by certain sectors of society. We cannot allow ourselves selves to let Christ’s message be welded to other messages, making it a moment in man’s salvation of man, putting the Gospel at the service of causes that are not purely and simply those of salvation.
The Gospel cries out from one end to the other that God alone is, that the world on its own is incapable of producing life, truth, or love. The kingdom of heaven is the personal love of God, through Christ, for each one of us, and the love of each one of us for each one of the others. It is through loving each one in particular that we are able to love humanity. Each one of us is meant to receive the Gospel. Salvation is not a collective abstraction.
Instead of the various forms of “economic” liberation that the world preaches, which, looked at more closely, are nothing but the granting of a certain comfort within the bonds of human needs, Christ proclaims liberation from evil. Now, though many Christians accept this liberation from evil in their personal life, most of them accept the tyranny of evil in its social manifestations.
Some of them, on the one hand, divide their life in two and insert a sincere Christian life into a framework that has been constructed by the world, a framework they believe they are powerless to change: employers, careers once considered liberal, businesses. Some, on the other hand, believing all of these sectors of society to be definitively “possessed” by the spirit of evil, flee in the name of poverty and love into the mass of the small and the poor. This is the withdrawal of countless bourgeois or intellectual lectual elements into the proletariat.
If this stage seems necessary for a new springtime of the Gospel, it seems nevertheless to be merely a stage and perhaps the easiest one. There is no class in the Gospel that is “condemned by heaven.” The social status of people seems irrelevant to Christ. In the Gospel, it is the small people that he requires to abandon their jobs. But he doesn’t tell Lazarus or the centurion or Nicodemus to become fishermen: he requires something completely different: a renewal of heart, an essential conversion that “will make all things new” in each of their lives. St. Paul does not attack slavery itself; it’s the hearts of the Christians who have been evangelized by him that are no longer able to tolerate owning slaves.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly:
The personal love of Christ, “He calls each one by name” – he does not call a category. He knows each one of us “as the Father knows the Son.” It is up to us to rediscover this personal love “of one person for another.” This love has been distorted through the “social” definitions that we pin to our brothers and tag each other with. We have lost the ability to encounter each other as one human being meeting another in his individual simplicity. We no longer know how to call each other by name.
We cannot pigeon-hole Jesus into a paradigm that assuages our political leanings – right, left, or centrist. He is not anybody’s political party poster boy. We cannot tag and identify those with whom we disagree into a “social definition”, as Madeleine wrote. If we truly wish to be transformed by Christ, if we truly profess to be his disciples, then we have to do the hard work of putting into action the personal love of one person for another, not the easy work of making trite, trope-ish memes that merely reinforce belief in ourselves and not proclaim belief in Christ. Nowhere does the meme state that Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again to save us from our sins. Maybe Fugelsang believes as such, but it’s not obvious from the meme, and if that’s not first, foremost, and final, then all that follows is folly, foolish, and best forgotten.
ps. Madeleine Delbrêl rocks. Get her book.
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