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Representation Matters, Christian Edition

This post is particularly intended for my fellow humans who claim Christ, and more particularly a subset of these fellows who are white and think representation is a newfangled idea born of newfangledism.

Jesus’ story is a story of representation. Pretty much exactly as we mean the term today. The story of Jesus says representation matters. And it says it over and over again.

The story begins in the womb of an unwed mother. Jesus is born on the way to a religious pilgrimage. As a baby, Jesus, along with his mother and stepfather, become political refugees seeking asylum from certain harm.

Representation matters. Jesus was a Nazarene. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything to you, but to the people of the day Nazarene whispered words like thug and animal.

Jesus was the son of a carpenter. He was homeless as an adult. His friends were a rough sort—tax collector and fishermen and the like. He ate with prostitutes. He was unbothered coming near to children and lepers and bleeding women and Samaritans and a freshly caught adulteress.

Representation matters. Jesus broke the rules of his society. He angrily purged the temple for its failure in purpose. He fed people who were hungry and healed those deemed worthless and unclean by society.

His first recorded miracle was extraordinary in its simplicity and lack of religiosity: he turned water to wine for wedding guests because his mother asked him to.

Representation matters. Jesus avoided those in power who sought to trap him, to kill him. He made the powerful small whenever they interacted.

Representation matters. And Jesus died as a political captive. For no crime but angering those with power. On baseless accusations of nonexistent threats to overthrow Caesar. So hated that the mob chose to free a known murderer just to kill Christ.

Representation matters. From the one who bore his cross to the one who bought his tomb, from the sinner on his left to the sinner on his right, from his best friend to his grieving mother, the lowly are the ones highlighted.

Representation matters. Women found the empty tomb. If you wanted to build a false religion around a tomb not really emptied, it wouldn’t begin with women. With unbelievable, unbelieved people without class or station. But this is the story of Jesus and representation matters more than society’s systematic oppression.

Jesus challenged institutional racism (see the Samaritans), systemic oppression of the poor and those without a class, the lofty proclaiming their own loft, the way things have always been done. Jesus practiced socialized medicine and fed people in a socialized manner in that he fed whoever hungered.

Jesus even counseled that the first will become last and the last will become first.

Representation matters. It matters to Jesus enough to fill his story with people who had little representation. It still matters today.

Note that Jesus, obviously, was Jewish by birth, born in Bethlehem (Palestine). You can know if you view Jesus as default white simply by this litmus test: when you picture the Jesus you let into your heart, is he in any way a brown man of a dispossessed race?

Consider that Jesus was born as he was, where he was, and when he was on purpose. The savior we both claim walked this earth—and was always meant to—as a brown man of the Middle East, a member of an oppressed race.

I am represented in Jesus’ story as a woman, as a sinner, as a believer, as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, as a person who bleeds, as a person in need, as a member of a different race. I have found my representation in the story and it matters to me. And his ability to lift up the representation of so many, that matters to me too.

I owe no less in my story than to reveal a broad representation of people. Both in my real story and my fictional stories. There are many still waiting to see themselves in the story of America, the stories on our shelves and televisions, and the stories of American infrastructure. As Christians, we have a well-made blueprint of inclusion and representation. If only we’ll use it.

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My Election 2020: The In-Between

I lie awake at 3:50 am on the morning of an American presidential election.

The cynic in me strongly fears the hate to come in the next 24 hours and beyond. But I have this tiny kernel of hope. And it’s not based on a candidate but on the thousands of voters that threaded through a parking lot on Saturday.

Early voting was open at two locations, and my husband and I chose one Saturday. Delayed by a bad car battery, we got to the polling place about thirty minutes after voting opened. We began on a sidewalk. Beside the main thoroughfare. Not even in the parking lot.

If you’ve ever read this site, you know I am an anxious person. There was not a single moment in that line when I felt worried about violence. Reflecting afterward, I thought maybe I should have been more on guard. Maybe.

The line snaked into the parking lot of a big building and paraded around two sides and a bit more before turning on its heel and winding all the way around the building. People chatted. Some for each candidate. But they kept their voices conversational. Dogs and toddlers endlessly entertained the masses. And people greeted acquaintances as the line doubled back.

Some dragged chairs along. Others, blankets or books or children. One in a pair would sometimes disappear only to re-emerge with fast food sustenance. People held the line for bathroom breakers.

I chatted about the Yankees with a man whose political beliefs couldn’t be further from my own. I know this because he spent a good while quietly spiraling into rhetoric with another voter directly behind me.

Five hours and forty-five minutes. That was how long we walked that line to cast our votes. And it was not miserable. It was not hostile. Indeed, it was frequently adorable, humorous, and celebratory without ever being openly for or against anyone.

Last Monday through Sunday, our home had power loss due to an ice storm. We weren’t alone. Many in that line were struggling with all manner of private hardships. The stressors of race (particularly for people of color), election, pandemic, and economy were all present.

From what I’ve read in the press, we should have been balanced on a blade. We should have been at fisticuffs and throats. We should have had guns cocked and been ready to loot.

Herein I find my hope for this election. Not in dire warnings or free press or a candidate. Certainly not in polls. But in the America in between. In there between left and right, between policies and politics, between caricatures of opposing vagaries—that’s where the ideals of America still live.

For places and people who experience violence today—and I know it could be any of us—you have my heart. But maybe the in-between will conquer, as it does, quietly, unobtrusively, without a fuss. Maybe the in-between will not only be the backbone of America today but its very flesh. One can hope.

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