I’ve been obsessed with the subject of religion for about 8 years now and have committed myself to studying not only the Christian faith but also other Wisdom Traditions that offer a glimpse into the Great Mystery. I will soon be working on my PhD in Process Philosophy and will continue this geeky journey of religious studies for the rest of my adult life.
I’ve been enamored with the study of entheogens (psychedelic drugs often used in Shamanistic rituals), higher states of consciousness, Gaia theory, the ecological crisis, and other strange hippy-sounding ideas that are best discussed over marijuana.
And in all of my studies, I have come to one bizarre conclusion: Be kind.
I have three bookshelves staring at me as I write this; they’re stuffed high with books, long articles, and papers many brilliant women and men have written to deconstruct religion, politics, and culture. They offer feminist, liberal, womanist, liberationist, ecological, philosophical, theological, historical, and Eastern perspectives on all sorts of subjects.
But once again, after all those many pages and hours of reading, the message I can relate through big-fancy words and theoretical concepts boils down to one thing: Be kind.
There’s this story recorded in the Gospel attributed to Mark that tells of a woman whose young daughter had an “unclean spirit” within her. Heartbroken as she watched her child suffer, this mother traveled to find Jesus hoping he would heal her daughter. The text reads that she “begged Jesus” on her hands and knees for her daughter’s health to be restored.
Between her gasps of breathe and rushing tears, Jesus responds, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Before you begin to playfully interpret this uncomfortable text, let’s be real, this story makes Jesus out to be a total asshole. In the midst of a broken hearted mother and a sick child, Jesus looks this woman in the eye and calls her a dog – a fucking dog.
Ain’t no body got time for that.
Get this though; the mom responds to Jesus, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
This reminds me of my friends back home, the Immokalee migrant workers. They work obnoxiously long days in the sweltering Florida heat, picking buckets of tomatoes. They are paid virtually the same rate (50¢ per 32-lb. bucket) as they were in 1978. At this rate, a worker must pick nearly 2.5 tons of tomatoes to earn Florida minimum wage in a typical workday. For the past 10 or so years, they’ve been asking for one thing: One penny more per pound.
They’re asking for just the breadcrumbs that fall from the table.
It’s those who suffer most that continue to ask so little of others.
In this Jesus-story, we read of a mom whose suffering has amounted to so much she’s willing to fight for bread crumbs that liter the dirty floor. She’s been beat up and tossed around so much that when Jesus calls her a dog, she doesn’t rebuke his nasty words but claims that identity and pushes for just an ounce of respect, an ounce of his attention, just a penny more.
Then Jesus says to her, “’For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.”
Such a human response is far more impressive than the super-hero perfection of many Christian traditions. And it’s texts like this one that offer a sober reminder that even Jesus needed some adjusting when his inner douche-bag came out.
When we look to the centerpiece of our faith and we see that even he struggled to be kind, it makes sense that we would too. We can learn from Jesus’ mistake and truly listen to the words of those in our lives that are asking for just an ounce of kindness.
Before we liberals save Jesus from the Church, before we shatter the stain-glass window he’s been frozen in without flesh or blood, before we continue to dismantle the oppressive theologies of omnipotence, fear-based fantasies of an afterlife, and the violence of an economic system based on the exploitation of the poor for the sake of the .001% we need to learn, like Jesus did, to be kind. His life teaches us that we can be more loving than right.
My dream is that we would begin our hyperbolic saving of the world, with kindness.