If Jesus read The New York Times, he would not see a world so different from his own, except in externals. He would still see the poor, the hungry, and the marginalized. He would recognize military occupations, tribal warfare (even in Washington), and rulers who acted like gods. He would experience déjà vu as he read about a variety of attempts at world domination, this time not by the Roman Empire, but by corporations, governments, religion, even terrorists. Misogyny, patriarchy, racism, and xenophobia would not surprise him. And misuse of God’s creation has been with us since Eden.
Religious battles, spiritual abuse, clergy misconduct, religious hierarchy, fundamentalism, exclusivity, scapegoating, judgment, and self-righteousness—he challenged all of these in his own time. Wealth and greed in its myriad expressions (money, property, possessions, knowledge, ancestry, etc.) he has already testified as stumbling blocks to entering God’s commonwealth.
Drones have replaced crosses, weapons of mass destruction have replaced the swords we were to beat into ploughshares, AIDS has displaced leprosy, terrorist acts by individuals and governments alike have more “sophisticated” expressions—but all still intimidate the human spirit. Equally harmful, they may distract us from the life of the spirit. There’s even been a recent slaughter of the innocents.
Violence comes neatly packaged in celluloid and video and digital formats, but the violent games of the Roman circus might also have been considered “wholesome” fun in their time. The internet provides just the latest opportunity for greedy lust to overrule the better natures of our hearts. Prisons, at least in the West, are more humane, but those in the U.S. house a higher percentage of the population than in Jesus’ time.
So Jesus’ calling still has relevance, as he quoted Isaiah, “to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of the vision we need, and to let the oppressed go free.”
And his calling to us still resonates. “Give to the poor.” “Feed the hungry.” “Provide shelter.” “Welcome strangers.” “Turn the other cheek.” “Love your neighbor.” “Love your enemy.” “Do not judge.” “Pray in secret.” “Seek, and you will find.” “Do not be anxious.” “Blessed are the merciful.” “Avoid anger.” “Do good to those who persecute you.” “Avoid revenge.” “Forgive as you have been forgiven.” “Don’t shut others out of the temple.” “Woe to religious leaders who tie heavy burdens on others.” “Be compassionate as God in heaven is compassionate.” “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.”
If Jesus read The New York Times, I believe he would lament over the world as he did over Jerusalem, “You who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”