As a Pastor, I know that Jesus can seem confusing. When we read the words, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it,” we can scratch our heads. I know that there are different ways to understand these words.
But one way of receiving these words is that God’s kingdom has been under attack and that violent people lay claim to it (and the Greek there is almost always a descriptive of maliciousness). We can recognize truth in that idea. Even if we broaden it out to say, “What is right and good has always been used violently and those who do that abuse the worth of it,” we can recognize that removing the religious element doesn’t change the inherent truth of the words. People who have no place within the truth, will try to use it for their own gains. They will claim that it is speaking about themselves and their cause.
The claim doesn’t make it true.
There is no right or good within the alt-right movement. There is no life. It doesn’t speak to the worth of America or the history of America. It is only about themselves gaining power. It takes a bit of truth – there is value in honoring heritage – and violently twists that to gain power. That is the skillful work of liars, taking a bit of truth and creating a world of one’s own design by manipulating it to one’s desire.
The point of the power they seek is to overthrow the value of human beings, particular human beings… our black, Jewish, Asian, or differently-oriented human beings. The point of the power is control and dominance and prestige. It is to make others serve a vision of the future where their whim or edict will manage life, all lives.
If we do not step into this moment, if we waffle over whether we too believe in the honoring of heritage and not recognize the lie it is being used to support, we lose what is right and good. We lose truth. We cannot allow that. We cannot expose our children to this subtlety because it will confuse them and they will become susceptible to the damage this lie brings to hearts and minds. We must be forthright and plain.
The alt-right is not honoring heritage and not claiming a historical value. It is maligning the value of other human beings for their own gain. They are saying they have more value than any other. They use blame and intolerance as tools to break down truth, to guide those who have been worn-out by tough times into serving them. They take the lonely, the frustrated, the impoverished, the aimless and give them a direction built on a half-truth, a subtle dismissing of the value of anyone but themselves.
The tools against this lie seem impossibly weak in comparison to the violence it fosters. The tools are friendship, conversation and love. These don’t seem to move fast enough to counter the seeming wave of hatred. But they are the tools to use and they must be used ferociously. We must invite our neighbors over for dinner and talk with them. We must build friendships with the other-oriented, the differently skin-colored, the races we do not know. And we must seek the best for these other lives, in any way we can do that.
It may mean that we receive damage to our property by those who hate, it may be that we find ourselves maligned, we may be mistreated, we may even receive death threats for loving our neighbors. That does happen to people who take truth seriously and who stand within the value of those who are different from themselves. It does happen. I recognize that and am willing to live in that because, really, Jesus isn’t confusing at all.