Appropriating Jesus

It seems to me that “cultural appropriation” only becomes problematical if the “culture” being appropriated is associated generally with people of color.  (White, by the way, is a color.  The Crayola people say so, anyway.  And the pale orange-peach tone that accurately defines the skin of this “white person” is a color, too.  But I digress.)

        In fairness, most Mexican-Americans seem genuinely pleased to have the Caucasians join in with their Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos celebrations.  (Certainly those who own and operate bars have no problem with it.)  And a white person may not get a sideways look upon reading a biography of Harriet Tubman during Black History Month.  But there are more than a handful of outspoken individuals in our culture who think ethnic cooking, traditions and regalia should be restricted to those who are native to the cultures being represented.

And yet everyone wants to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.

You may be surprised, but I do not entirely disagree with those who would stop cultural appropriation.  Personally, I tend to avoid wearing green on March 17.  If the Irish –Americans among us want to celebrate their heritage, what does that have to do with me?  If they invite me to join in, I may do so.  (No beer for me, though — a principle I touched on last week.)  But I see no need to “look Irish,” and I would understand if the true Irish would take offense at me trying to do so.

Mostly, though, I think it’s a tempest in a teapot.  I’m not going out of my way to roil the waters, mind you.  But I think “Leave him alone, he’s not hurting anybody” is pretty good advice in most instances of alleged cultural appropriation.

I make an exception for the culture of Jesus Christ.  A huge exception.

Disciples of Jesus are a very specific and unique subculture.  Peter calls us “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).  We are those who have been transferred from one kingdom into a completely different one, one belonging to Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13).  We wear the name of our Lord proudly (1 Peter 4:16).  We emulate His character determinedly (Galatians 2:20).  If an entirely new thinking process is necessary to get where He is trying to take us, we welcome it (Romans 12:2).

But every day we see the name, story and cause of Jesus Christ appropriated by those who have no intention of bringing Him honor.  The very name “Jesus” is used as a swear word.  His mission is coopted by unbelievers to promote their secular agendas.  He is seen as the poster boy for causes ranging from communism to free market capitalism, pacifism to armed revolt.

Enough.  If you do not know my Lord, please quit putting words in His mouth.

It’s worse than blasphemy.  Such heresy is actually affecting the true followers of Jesus.  Surrounded by righteous-sounding neighbors who appropriate the cause of Christ for their own ends, Christians often lose sight of what it truly is to be a follower of Jesus.  We protest injustice instead of turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39).  We rail against the government instead of submitting to it (1 Peter 2:13).  We trust human institutions to promote morality instead of trusting the gospel (Romans 1:16).

Being a Christian is special.  I celebrate it at the Lord’s table weekly and in my prayers daily.  Don’t take that away from me.