Part of the Jesuit tradition of reading the scripture is to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as you read, slowly and carefully, over a section of text. If a particular word or phrase jumps out at you, the discipline urges you to stay with it and examine the thoughts and feelings that arise in response.
With this in mind, I have recently re-discovered Green Day and, in particular, their very fine 2004 album, American Idiot. One phrase from the album jumps out at me and stays with me. In the first half of the album, “Are We The Waiting” contains the line “the Jesus of Suburbia is a lie”.
Whilst acknowledging that “Jesus of Suburbia” in the context of the album is something quite different, this line got me thinking and keeps me thinking. We live in a rich, Western, democratic country. We are a nation of polite people who don’t want to bother others and certainly don’t want to be bothered ourselves. We are a nation of suburbanites, and we often want our Jesus to be a Jesus of Suburbia, who will reward us for our neat lawns, well-painted fences and the purity of our teabags.
As Green Day point out, however, the Jesus of Suburbia is a lie.
Jesus came to kick bottom, turn over tables and cause such upset that the authorities fear a riot. We need to be the radical voice of love in our society, the dissident voice of solidarity with the migrant and the refugee; we need to be the warm hearth that others can come to when they need one; we need to be out there clothing the naked and feeding the hungry if we ever want the words of St James not to sting: “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James 2:14-26