How to change a society? – World Baptist News
The gospel calls for social justice, not just individual and personal salvation. Societal justice. Even if it is not the same thing, social justice is not foreign to the call for “freedom and justice for all”.
It is too commonplace in our superficially Christianized culture, but it is difficult, and can be dangerous, to modernize Jesus, take him out of his historical framework and import and impose his words and actions on a completely different culture. It is not, however, difficult to understand that his words, his actions, the offense that ultimately cost him his life, was the challenge he posed to the religious and political systems of his time.
It wasn’t an ideological quarrel with Pontius Pilate, it was his disappearance, and not a personal theological disagreement with Caiaphas, the high priest who brought the whole building of the temple to bear on a sentence of death. Jesus’ encounters, his confrontations captured in Gospel accounts and parables, were with the powers that be. Jesus died because his message threatened the status quo of systems.
How to change a society? You challenge systems.
This week, a brief video posted to Instagram implicated a system. It could change our society. Carl Nassib, a defensive lineman for the Las Vegas Raiders of the National Football League, said casually that was menacingly, “I just want to take a moment to say I’m gay.”
How to change a society? A 30-second video might be enough.
Homosexuality analysis and all the tangents related to the focus of our sexuality – sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression – is one of the most controversial conversations of our time. He continues to divide the church between so-called Biblical “literalists” (there is actually no such thing) and more progressive interpreters. He continues to separate congregations that preach “hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner” (there is actually no such thing!) And welcoming and assertive communities.
The conversation is also a dividing line for the state, a bold demarcation between left and right, conservative and liberal, blue and red… good and evil, righteous and ungodly. (You can see how quickly the conversation goes from demarcation and discussion to full-blown demonization).
The conversation also spared few families. Coming out stories, which will become more and more common as the culture slowly learns to accept the reality of sexual diversity, all too often drive deep chasms within homes, between parents and children, siblings. . And in a deeply divided culture, these experiences are too often shrouded in the narratives of church and state, in the language of those systems that are primarily designed to protect the systems.
“When the National Football League, which is an almost perfect symbol of all the good and bad in our culture, begins to accept gay men, muscular and courageous enough to be gay on the grill and in the locker room, the tide may have turned. “
But the are these moments, these personalities, these events that change cultures.
Carl Nassib represents what could be considered the best and the worst of our culture: competition, camaraderie and cultural celebration. and male chauvinism and toxic commercialism and celebrated violence. This American hero, icon of success in our version of the gladiatorial contest, has just confessed, without much noise, that he identifies with what is often stereotyped as an effeminate weakness and too often denounced as an unholy perversion. Yet this professional football player, in all his confident homosexuality, embodies both the masculinity of the NFL, the robust individualism of American achievement, even a vision of religion that binds them all together.
When the National Football League, who is an almost perfect symbol of all that is good and all that is wrong in our culture, is starting to accept gay men, muscular and cheeky enough to be gay on the grill and in the locker room, the wind may have -be shot.
The power of the gospel is that its challenge to today’s systems offers a vision of social justice. Justice for a whole society. The specter of a professional athlete, so casually dismissing a century of NFL taboo, may just be a clue that part of that vision is becoming visible.
For Carl Nassib, and the rest of us, we can only hope this is the case.
Russ Dean is co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC. He is a graduate of Furman University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Beeson Divinity School. He and his wife, Amy, have been co-pastors of Park Road since 2000. They are parents of two sons. Russ is active in ministries of social justice and interfaith dialogue. He is the author of the new book Find a new path.
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