What Does It Take To Be A Good Citizen?

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by Martin Brooks

The news has been full of debate about what it means to be a good citizen and leader. Accusations of racism and nationalism are leveled against some, while accusations of hating America are leveled against others.  

The kind of divisive rhetoric happening these days is dangerous and wrong, and the case can be made historically, sociologically, and biblically. When we dehumanize others and tell them their opinions don’t matter, we divide the populace. This is what happened leading up to wars in our past. The “enemy” is dehumanized, likened to animals and portrayed as enemies of the power structure.  When people are called names and framed as less-than, it allows some in the in-group to feel justified in hurting those being marginalized. After all, the thinking goes, they are not hurting people created in the image of God; they are attacking animals, enemies. Aggression and attack is seen as a loyalty to the in-group, and it becomes normal or acceptable to work to sIlence or even eliminate the “enemy.”

It’s not just the “squad” of four congresswomen in the last few weeks who have faced these dangerous practices. Black Americans, Muslim Americans, the foreign-born, the LGBTQ community, the liberals, the conservatives, the Democrats, the Republicans - all of these labels are used to divide us and make the “other” less than “us.” The out-group is framed as “less than” and not worthy of our respect or protection.  

The thing is, the out-groups were the very people Jesus told us to love.

Jesus confronted the rage and abusive labeling systems of his day, especially when structural power was used to marginalize the weak.  The religiously serious of Jesus’s day had created many policies that marginalized people. But Jesus broke through all of the cultural norms in favor of inclusion.

A “sinful” woman once crashed a dinner party at the home of Simon, a religiously zealous Pharisee. She wanted to be with Jesus. She wet Jesus’s feet with her tears as she was overcome with emotion. She kissed his feet, anointed them with perfume, and dried them with her hair.  

“Simon," Jesus said, “Do you see this woman?”

Of course Simon had seen her... and he despised her. He knew what kind of woman she was, but so did Jesus. While Simon emphasized her shame, Jesus emphasized her humanity and dignity. This was a woman who had been created in the image of God. As followers of Jesus, and as peacemakers, we defend and stand with the marginalized because we believe everyone is created in the image of God, be they Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, US citizen or foreign born. 

We seek the blessing of God for all people because we believe this is what God has modeled from the beginning of time. For the sake of God and country, will you join us in honoring and protecting everyone created in the image of God?