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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Column: What would Jesus scream?

The roar emanating from the MU patio on Wednesday is best summed up as “Rabble, rabble, rabble!” It’s not a mob protesting the evil machinations of our regents. It’s not a frenzy incited by false cries of “Tube sock madness!”

It’s Angry Christian Sign Dude Day.

A clot of students, most of them jeering, surrounds a group of middle-aged men. One guy holds a three-foot-tall cross bearing the question, “Are you ready?” Four or five other men, scattered across the patio, hold ginormous signs with churchy words like “Bible,” “sin,” and “judgment.” But the crowd’s focus is on a hefty guy in a sandwich-board, shouting loudly enough to rouse Emil Mrak from the grave.

“Here we go again,” sighs one guy, waiting for the daily prayer at the flagpole to commence.

The ringleader continues his blustery harangue. He tells one girl God doesn’t love her because she’s gay. He calls out another guy for sleeping with his girlfriend. All this is accompanied by literal finger-pointing.

His sign enumerates all the kinds of people who better get ready for the wrath of God, among them “fornicators,” “liberals,” and “Dodgers fans.” Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t on the sign, but it can fairly be inferred from the combination of “drunkards” and “blasphemers.”

Angry Christian Sign Dudes drive me nuts. Track with me here for a few minutes. Christians are people who follow Jesus, right? And following Jesus involves trying to act like him, yeah? So let’s check out some of the wacky things Jesus did, in contrast to Angry Christian Sign Dudes.

First century Jerusalem. Early in the morning, Jesus is bringin’ the word in the temple because the people actually want to hear it. This is the ancient equivalent of Professor Enderle scheduling lecture at 7:30 a.m. and maxing out the waitlist.

Anyway, some official religious types bust in, toss a disheveled woman into the dead center of the room, and announce for everyone to hear, “This woman was cheating on her husband. We caught her red-handed.” Most likely wrapped in a sheet and sobbing, she knows what’s coming: execution. The witnesses would pelt her with rocks until she’s dead.

Whether they’re counting on Jesus’ soft spot for the damned or the conflict between Roman and Jewish law, Angry Religious Dudes have sprung their trap. Wise to their plan, Jesus does what anyone would in such a situation.

He squats down and starts writing in the dirt with his finger.

Honestly, I have no idea why he does this. He’s a man/God of mystery. But what he says next should stop Angry Christian Sign Dudes cold:

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

And then he starts scribbling in the dirt again.

One by one, the gang fades away. Even these guys admitted they weren’t perfect. After they had gone, Jesus asks, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”

“No one, Lord.”

“I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

Did you catch that? Jesus didn’t come here to condemn.

Notice he tells the woman to stop her wrongdoing. Cheating on the man who loves her? It’s not cool, and she should cut that crap out. But instead of getting angry or attacking the woman, Jesus stands between her and the moralizing mob.

The Lord gets pissed sometimes, all right. When religious profiteers are jacking up exchange rates in the temple, he goes all Incredible Hulk on their butts and flips their tables over. Later, he goes on a massive tirade, lambasting not your typical “sinful” types – prostitutes, thieves, the guy who dumps a pile of salt on your gefilte fish when you’re not looking – but the religious people.

The people who get so caught up in how stinking holy they are and how terrible everyone else is, they begin to worship themselves. Listen, if you think you’re perfect, you don’t need Jesus. If you’re whipping out the finger of judgment on your fellow man, you’re embarrassingly underqualified, so just put that thing away.

I’m not sure which Jesus the Angry Christian Sign Dudes are following, but that’s not the Jesus I want to follow.

I want to follow the Jesus who defended the indefensible. The one who empowered the oppressed and the self-enslaved. The one who ran full-tilt into an avalanche of humiliation and pain to rescue those who hated him.

BETH SEKISHIRO thinks Jesus would be rolling over in his grave – if he were still there. She can be reached at blseki@ucdavis.edu.

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