Getting in Front of Jesus: The Politics of Progressive Christianity (Part II)
By Brad R. Braxton

How can progressive Christians "get in front" of Jesus by using the gospel forward to address pressing social dilemmas? In response to this question, I will discuss two moments from Jesus' story and "remix" them. A remix occurs when fresh elements are introduced into an old framework, thereby creating a new story.

The Birth of Jesus: A Progressive Remix

According to the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was born in a social context where a cruel king worked on behalf of Rome to ensure Caesar's sovereignty. After learning of Jesus' birth, King Herod plots to kill Jesus. An angel warns Joseph of Herod's wicked intentions. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus become immigrants, fleeing the harsh conditions of their homeland to secure safety and a better future in Egypt. Unable to locate Jesus, Herod sends a decree to murder all children in and around Bethlehem who are two years old and under.

Every Christmas, Christians look back to the birth of Jesus. We even replicate the sentimental parts of the story with pageants and live nativity scenes. My progressive remix focuses on the more tragic elements of the story. Instead of looking back and adoring the "sweet little Jesus boy" in the manger, the story can be a launching pad for prophetic discipleship and twenty-first-century social justice activism.

Here is the remix: let progressive Christian communities insist that President Obama and Congress enact just and humane immigration reform. The story of Jesus might have been different if Joseph and Mary had been sent back to Israel from Egypt because they were considered "undocumented workers," or worse, "illegal aliens." There are many Latino, African, and Asian "Marys" and "Josephs" who are returned to deathly contexts because of U.S. immigration laws. U.S. immigration laws should protect and preserve families, especially those already victimized by economic and social oppression resulting from policies benefiting the United States.

Furthermore, progressive Christian communities should insist that our nation become serious about reducing youth violence. How can we read about the innocent children slaughtered in Bethlehem and not immediately think about the innocent children being slaughtered in our cities? In the ancient world, Jesus escaped death as a child because he had resourceful parents with a "holy hookup." But what about those parents in Bethlehem who lacked resources to escape? And what about the countless contemporary parents who lack the means and influence to live in well-policed neighborhoods with safe schools?

In Chicago, hundreds of young people are constant victims of gun violence. How can the United States posture as a leader of peace when we can't even ensure the safety of children in our schools and neighborhoods? If we can raise money and public interest in a failed attempt to bring the 2016 Summer Olympics to Chicago, we can raise money and public interest to fund serious violence prevention measures in Chicago and across the country.

Additionally, in order to prevent the further massacre of young people, progressive Christians must persuade President Obama and Congress to stop the deluge of automatic weapons that floods the streets of our country. We send brave men and women to fight Al Qaeda thousands of miles away but are scared to take on the National Rifle Association right across the Potomac River. By going beyond the story of Jesus' birth, we faithfully follow Jesus into areas of social engagement concerning immigration, violence prevention, and gun reform.

The Death of Jesus: A Progressive Remix

Jesus, a young, innocent African-Asiatic Jew, was sent to the Roman death chamber on trumped-up charges. A brown brother in his thirties wrongly executed by the state -- which century are we talking about, the first or the twenty-first? Indeed, twenty centuries after Jesus' execution, injustices abound and continue to sentence other young, innocent people to death, whether by lethal injection or suffocating poverty. In the name of a just God, this must stop.
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