White Picket Fences Vs the Gospel

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

But if those don’t fit your criteria, at least desire neat gadgets, amirite?

I say this based on the thread of a very popular Christian humorist. This humorist has been known to make disparaging remarks about poor workers in Walmart, to prioritize  optimistic success-selling in a highly consumerist society through consumerist branding strategies, and – at least to my knowledge – has never engaged in any substantive critique of the power structures of the two worlds he collides in, megachurch Christianity and marketing business.

I became a bit upset this morning at his declared willingness to forgive Apple of its skimming of tax monies if only they’d release some headphones that don’t get all tangled. Considering the depth of austerity in this nation, considering the tax evasions from the super-rich (including not just Apple, but GE, Chevron, Bank of America,Goldman Sachs, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Mitt Romney for starters), I thought this comment inappropriate and wanted to give another perspective.

while people are starving in the streets. Thanks, Jon. i’m glad you got your priorities straight.*

Funny? No. But I didn’t particularly think the original post was funny either. So I should expect some push-back. This is what happens when people critique a joke, no matter how appropriate the joke or the critique. The Onion’s sexist and racist off-joke on child actor Quvenzhane Wallis, for instance, inspired critique from womanists and their allies – as well as several parents, of course – which in turn outraged (mostly white, mostly males) defenders declaring that the joke and the target of the joke are both for the taking and fully appropriate. Those who don’t approve are humorless, of course. So these kinds of responses to me weren’t surprising, just to be expected.

I don’t think Jon was supporting anyone skipping taxes. Instead, he was poking fun at a situation in a lighthearted way, in which nobody should be offended (besides perhaps Apple engineers)

and

 guilt juke??

and

This is SUCH an epic Jesus juke!

and

You didn’t kill the joke. [jasdye] killed the joke

Acuff’s joke was, I feel, not anywhere near the level of the Onion‘s – and neither were the defenses. Acuff wasn’t targeting anybody specifically and his joke didn’t seem to be made to shock or tantalize. I didn’t feel that he was having fun at the expense of the poor – but rather, and this is the point, that he ignores them and that his place in Christian communication furthers this ignoring of the poor to further the aims of White, conservative, middle class, consumerist American Christian culture. Not that what Jon does is implicitly evil. Middle class America needs assistance too, and learning how to handle money and not end up in debt is one way to do that – it’s a good service. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of the poor.

And that is troublesome, from a Jesus-follower perspective. Through the prophets and Jesus, we are constantly asked to look after the poor, to treat them justly, to consider them, to seek economic justice.

But instead, we get Christian-ese justification for treating the poor like crap.

However, Jason, it could also be argued that our country is over funding the poor, considering how many people choose to live off the government, and how many unnecessary luxuries are provided at taxpayers’ expense.

14-05-10 Happy Fence Friday!That was a serious reply. And the whole exchange put into context tells us much of what is wrong with typical White Evangelicalism in the US. It blames the poor for their problems. Because if it’s not the fault of the poor (or their proxies, the government), then someone else has to be blamed.

By creating such a well-manicured and manufactured world unto itself, Middle Class American Christianity tries very hard to maintain its image, to keep up the Truman Show it has created unto itself. It is imperative to not shatter the illusion of suburbia. If we look on the other side of our white picket fences, our world will crumble like pie crust.

If we look to the maids, the gardeners, fruits and vegetable pickers as fully human beings  created in God’s image and treated injustly and inhumanely, we begin to feel guilty about how little we pay for our services. And we don’t want to feel guilt. It impedes on the goodness that God has blessed us with because we are good and deserve it. Why else would we have our comforts? How else would we be able to enter a Walmart or Target and mock the employees for looking so beat-down, for not being one hundred percent happy about working at a company that works so hard to beat them down.

But then, for Christians, the Gospel is a pick ax chopping down the barriers between the affluent and the poor, between the bungalowed and the homeless. The Good News of the homeless rabbi from the outskirts of a poor colonized area should shatter the illusions of a fence dividing his followers from the poor, from those “lazy people on welfare”, from “takers”. They’re uncomfortable to look at, sure. But so was Jesus…

*I left Jon a message and am waiting to hear back from him.

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