Sunday, November 2, 2008


Odd how oppression may not feel like oppression to oppressors. I’m thinking of a homily a week ago. The person speaking brought up the AIDs epidemic in Africa and our response to it. The response of the drug companies, the way they price their drugs, and America’s response. Our financial response. Our humanitarian response. Our Christian response.

He wondered if that wouldn’t look like oppression to us if we were poor people in Africa rather than relatively well-off people in the U.S.

That got me thinking about the priestly class in first century Israel. About Jesus getting in the faces of the priests. Getting in the faces of the priestly class of Israel in the first century. Accusing them of oppression. Of oppressing the people. With their many rules, laws really. Their standard of perfection.

I’m wondering about our current priestly class and about whether they are also oppressive. I don’t know. I know some pretty gentle and gracious and smart and kindly pastors and ministers and priests. So it’s hard to think of them as oppressive, really. They don’t exhibit the style of the first century Israel priests.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve run across a number who do quite obviously resemble the first century Israel priests, but I don’t associate with that group very much. I hang around people who are more generous, more encouraging, more affirming, and more loving than I perceive their first century counterparts to have been. By about a mile. Maybe a million miles.

But just as oppression may not be obvious for oppressor nations, one over the other, or oppressor continents, one over the other, maybe it makes sense to ask the question as to whether our priestly class today uses their privilege oppressively. I bring up the question. I don’t have the answer.

Well I do have an attempt at an answer, but I don’t feel confident in it. I think there are ideas that get hold of all of us, ideas that have something apparently right in them but that are wrong. Ideas about God and our relation to him.

I have written extensively in this blog about the idea of Christlikeness—the idea that we should all be like Christ. I find this idea and this task oppressive. I don’t know about you, but I don’t measure up very well. I stand Christ up so that I can see him, and then I look in the mirror.

And what I find there is a great disparity. A great contrast. A contrast that is so great that it is depressing. Because it is impossible. There is no way to come out of that experience—for me—without feeling like I should just walk away.

Like I should give up. Go do something else. Because this task is something I cannot do.

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