Monday, November 13, 2017

What We Remember and What We Forget

One of my favorite quotes from the sad circus that was the 2016 election campaign came from neither party's candidate but from Russell Moore (no relation to Alabama's Roy), an Evangelical spokesman, who is President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. In a lecture last October, Moore said: "The Religious Right turns out to be the people the Religious Right warned us about."

His point has been confirmed once again in the shocking remark by an Alabama official, when asked about the latest series of allegations about a certain Republican party candidate for the U.S. Senate. "Take Mary and Joseph," he said. "Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus." 

Now putting aside the complete irrelevancy of referencing marriage customs from a radically different kind of society two millennia ago, not to mention the fact that marriage is not actually at issue in the case he was being asked about, and also the inconvenient fact that the biblical accounts say nothing at all about the ages of either Mary of Joseph, the most salient fact about that particular story is, of course, that Mary conceived and gave birth to Jesus as a virgin, which makes Joseph's role in the story very different from what references to ancient marriage customs might suggest.

When something so fundamental to Christian faith as the Virgin Birth can be forgotten - or, even worse, conveniently ignored to make a political point - is it any wonder when it is forgotten (or ignored) that Jesus himself as a child was a political refugee, an immigrant in a foreign land?  The biblical story really does matter, and it really does matter what parts of it we choose to remember and which we choose to forget for political convenience!

As an adult, Jesus was asked many questions, some friendly, some not. Living in a radically different society such a long time ago, he was obviously never asked to choose between guns for all and health care for all.  But, based on everything else we know, it should not be hard to intuit how he might answer - or, more to the point, how his story might challenge his followers today to answer. But that is, of course, assuming that they know the real story - starting with the Virgin Birth and Jesus and his family's forced flight from their homeland and their subsequent status as refugees and immigrants in Egypt!

What we remember from the biblical story (and what we choose to forget) form the filters through which we hear that story and are transformed by it into disciples - or not.

[Photo: Titian (Tiziano Vecelli 1488-1576) The Flight into Egypt, The Hermitage, Saint Petersburg]

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