Have you seen one of these posters?
We’ve moved to a small town, so I haven’t.
This new campaign, with posters popping up in major cities across the country is two things that really get me excited. First, it is a guerrilla marketing campaign that arrests each person that sees a single poster. You stop, you think, and you feel. Like the recent anti-smoking ads with the effects of lung cancer. Or those old Truth ads about what’s in cigarettes. Or even that “your brain on drugs” omelet ad. You are stopped, you are thinking, and you are repulsed.
I also like that it is buzzy and noteworthy. They have us interested in finding out what it is all about tomorrow. I love that.
There is a secret, third reason I like them. They are our message.
I know that they are likely to be a health awareness thing about lung cancer. We are bound to be disappointed by what is revealed, because once we know what they are for, they will cease to motivate us.
Except that the message is much bigger than any one campaign. At least any one campaign that isn’t the Jesus campaign. Or, more precisely, the Kingdom of GOD campaign.
That message, of picking random people and saying that person deserves to die is our greatest sin. The church has taken these posters and made them true. They are our literalism. We have, and continue to vilify the other, the stranger, the friend, the lover, the sister, and the child. We have, throughout history and to this day, told innocent people that they deserve to die because of who they are. Because of what they believe. Because of who they love. Because of what they eat. Or with whom they eat.
We have called on the deaths of so many people. There is no amount of penance Christians can do to make up for its sins. We have been, and continue to be, evil.
And it may seem weak or ridiculous, and it certainly isn’t sufficient, but I am sorry. I am sorry that my people have sinned. That I have sinned. That Christians have been so unworthy of your sympathy or respect.
The campaign, though, is also about shining a light on the ridiculousness of wishing the death of others. It isn’t just a cross for us to bear, but a true opportunity to repent. An invitation to see what many Christians have always believed: that no one deserves to die. That there is no integrity to seek someone’s death, to hope for it. That our reconciling, as the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches, is not about getting back together with friends, but with enemies. That even our most detested, reviled enemies that warrant our hatred, must be given the opposite. That everyone must be given mercy and love. No buts. No exceptions. We can’t other someone and say the line stops with him. “I draw the line at him. What he has done. He is unlovable.” EEERN! Wrong Answer. No exceptions. Not even hipsters. Or cat lovers.
And maybe then we can realize how much of Scripture, and specifically the Torah, we misunderstand. That we aren’t to condemn or kill in the name of GOD.