As a columnist for the Good Men Project, I get writing prompts from time to time to help spur thoughts and conversations about topics that are discussed on the Good Men Project website. Usually, I don’t need a lot of assistance getting my ideas from “pen to paper”, but this time I thought I’d take a look and see what prompts might pique my interest.
The prompt read: Why is organized religion silent about the persecution of the marginalized?
As I looked at the question, I thought, “Perhaps the writer of the prompt is not familiar with Christianity, as this faith is anything but silent when it comes to issues of marginalized peoples being persecuted.
In fact, when Jesus is challenged by the “intellectuals” of his time as to what life’s greatest commandment was, Jesus’ response was clear and direct: “The most important one is this…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second [greatest commandment] is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30 – 31.
No ambiguity there. Christians are commanded to love others by the Founder of its faith. To not do so runs contrary to what he believed in and stood for. To help the marginalized who are being persecuted is part of the Christian mandate.
But let’s be honest. If that’s the mandate, Christians have been wanting in many ways.
I get it. We live in times where everyone is advocating for their rights and “organized religion” whatever form that might take has been seen more of a hindrance to people’s rights than a supporter, which includes the “organized religion” of Christianity.
What I am talking about, however, is the words and purpose of the One who initiated the faith of billions of people.
If you’ve ever taken time to read the Bible, there are countless stories of “marginalized” people in ancient times who were not only persecuted but were also rescued, forgiven or helped by God and his followers of that time. For example, the Jews, who are still a marginalized group in some sense, were abused and enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years, yet God set them free from slavery and gave them a rich inheritance in the form of the land we now know as Israel.
Women were considered a marginalized group in ancient times, especially if they were widows. Yet, there are stories in the Bible that recount women who found God’s favor and were provided sustenance because they were widowed.
Let’s not forget, unwed, pregnant mothers (another marginalized group) in the form of Mary, Jesus’ own mother who found her ultimate purpose in His divinity.
“Women of the night”, aka prostitutes, would qualify as a marginalized persecuted group in today’s times, yet there’s the story of how Jesus forgave the sins of the town prostitute and because of this, she became one of his followers.
Then, there are the sick and disabled (people who are still marginalized today) who Jesus both loved and healed.
Individuals who were robbers, thieves, and murders. Today, we call them criminals. Yet, the Bible tells stories about God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness for these individuals.
What other marginalized groups does the Bible discuss and is NOT silent on?
The Uneducated – Some of Jesus’ followers (aka the disciples) were uneducated fishermen, yet he chose them to preach and share the Gospel that is still shared over 2,000 years later.
The Poor – Several times the Bible talks about helping and giving to the poor.
The Mentally Ill – Jesus healed the mentally ill on more than one occasion.
Children – In one instance, the most innocent of any marginalized group was being pushed away by Jesus’ own disciples until he ordered them to: “‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone, who will not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16
Immigrants and refugees – The Bible speaks about being kind to these often persecuted and marginalized groups of people.
The list doesn’t stop there, but my point is this: Based on what I know and read about Christianity, there is no silence on those groups that are “marginalized”. In fact, the prosecution of marginalized groups is often highlighted in the Bible and that’s because God wants to emphasize that we (Christians) should love and care for them.
Plain and simple: God loves humanity regardless of what state we’re in.
I can’t speak about other “organized religions”, but I do know of one faith that proclaims freedom, hope, and grace for all peoples regardless of what “marginalized” group they belong to; because quite frankly, we’re all “marginalized” in one way or another.
The problem is that Jesus isn’t silent on the prosecution of marginalized groups, historically, it’s his followers who have been, including myself. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about these groups. That doesn’t mean that the persecution of marginalized groups will cease to occur.
What it means, is that I and others who are followers of Christ have a lot of work to do to change the perception that the Creator of the universe doesn’t love and care about them.
I’m not big on the “organized religion” thing. I’m big on the whole relationship with my Creator thing. Yes, that means, I go to a church. Yes, that means I read the Bible. Yes, that means, if given the opportunity, I’ll share my faith with others. And yes, that means that I’m called to not be silent on the abuse or persecution of any groups of people, including those who are marginalized.
But, thank God that He looks beyond our human frailties and failures and regardless if his followers are silent, He is not. The message of His love is loud and clear, that’s what the meaning of the cross represents.
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