“When they take down the nativity scene in the town square, and I say or do nothing, I feel like I’m not standing up for Jesus.” That phrase, or one very close to it, has been occupying my brain waves since I heard it spoken to me last Sunday. There was a sense in me that it explained everything that I could not understand about a dustup in this Iowa Town. I wrote a post about it on Dec 13th. I certainly see how the words of the song “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the Cross” have shaped something about us and how we feel when it seems Christianity is being slighted in a public way.
Here, if you want to read some background for yourself, are links to two online news pieces related to the controversy about having a nativity scene in the town square: Nativity scene Controversy calls for a special meeting of council. Article includes relevant portions of the letter of concern. http://oskynews.org/?p=52188 The decision to return the nativity scene and add secular displays (a Christmas Tree!) to make it legal. http://oskynews.org/?p=52224
The letter the lady wrote to object to the nativity in the public square as the only seasonal display was fairly reasonable, except that she seemed to see it as a claim of Christianity being superior. That confused me a bit. Well, the dust has settled like snow in a snowglobe set back on the mantle above the stockings, and now all that remains is armchair review of what was really going on.
My point in the earlier reflection is that we stand up for Jesus by incarnating him and the values of the Kingdom of God, even in tense, conflicted situation like debates about placing nativity scenes. Especially then! Because we have a chance to show how peace on earth works. But we live in a time when “soldiers of the cross” and soldiers of the kingdoms of men are confused with each other, and when the account of the crossed supports that held a manger that held a vulnerable saviour seems threatened we take up our pitchforks and our forked tongues and go to bat up in arms for that baby’s being there. Hmmmmm.
Where were the onward soldiers to defend the helpless ones who were killed just for being born in the same area around the same time after the baby had been warned and moved to the safety of Egypt?
Where were the Christ defending soldiers when as an adult, when the time was right, he was betrayed with a kiss from what had been a soldier of his and was about to be grabbed by soldiers in service of religious and political authorities? Oh, yes, there was a guy with some kind of a weapon there, and since he had vowed to die valiantly as a soldier of the Messiah, he wielded it without hesitation – he wasn’t a very hesitant guy – and cut off an enemy’s ear. Good onward solider, marching as to war! But wait. The manger man-King reprimands him for it. Those who live by the weapon die by weapons, he says. Bizarre! How can we be even foot soldiers in an army that may not fight? Where do we march to? When do we march? What battles do we engage?
Well, at this point my thoughts end with questions, and a conviction. An inner awareness that mixing earthly weapons and earthy majority votes, and earthly powers and principalities with being soldiers of a King who chose helpless vulnerability, who chose being scapegoated, who chose torture and death in order to verify his Kingdom, well, that’s just off limits. But explaining how and why, in any simple way, escapes me for the moment. All I can see is what does not promote the Kingdom of only comfort in life or death in belonging to him. Belonging to that King, whatever violence, miniscule – like my nativity scene being displaced – or major – my own death by slow or quick violence does not justify me living violently to defend that King or any representation of him.