Thursday, December 20, 2007

TIRTA 8: the Middle Class Jesus

Yesterday I was talking with a friend about the horrific conditions of refugees in camps we are both acquainted with. The worst thing about these camps is not that they contain starving children that they're riddled with disease (though they often are) that they're places of violence (though they often are), unemployment etc.

The worst thing about them is that the people have no hope. From the outside it is difficult to know even where to start to help.

Poverty is best described as a situation where you are completely without hope of a better future, that you feel your life is entirely worthless and are totally forgotten by the world - and worse, used as a political football by those who really have no interest in your welfare or your immediate needs.

Without putting too fine a point on it, this is the kind of environment that Jesus came into the world. Yet we dress it up to be so clean and tidy and middle class.

Take this photo, for example (taken by Suzannnaa in Ooty, lucky person). We have this perception of antiseptic stables, clean birthing chambers, obedient animals. Yet is it possible we have erected a false god to please our middle class christian sentiments? In India the animals walk in the street and feed on the garbage. A feeding trough/manger is most likely to be on a street corner as anywhere else. The open sewers and filth is overpowering. People scratch a living, their children playing with the dirt as they have nothing else.

How have we missed the shock of the incarnation? That God did not come to palaces. He did not even come to the comfortable middle classes so they could feel smug and superior. He came to the lowest, had the lowest birth story, the whiff of infidelity, the early experience of being a refugee, the life of an apprentice. Even with the 'three kings' and stars, this is not the story of a great messiah but of a child born in a slum to go on to live and die in obscurity.

Is there any wonder that the lost, the forgotten and the unwanted marvel in this story whereas in our comfort it is twee and covered in tinsel? That the lowest take the message of the story - that God is actually interested in them to the extent that he came to be like them - whereas in our culture it is all about obtaining more stuff.

Things I Relearnt This Advent: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Part 6 Part 7

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Anonymous Lampmeister said...

Ok, but there is no evidence to suggest that there were animals, wise men, a stable or that Jesus had "the lowest birth story". Surely the Christian message is that Christ lived and died for *all*?

5:22 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

MMmm, thanks for that comment. I'm just going to post something else to continue my thinking.

5:28 AM  

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