insulation

De-insulate!

I saw an intriguing video today that got me reflecting. It is titled, “What Happened When Strangers Saw A Little Boy Shivering Outside Without A Coat.”   It was filmed in Oslo, Norway and was staged by SOS Children’s Villages International Charity. It was part of campaign to provide warm clothing for displaced children in Syria. An 11-year-old sat at a bus stop without a jacket and hidden cameras captured the response of other people at the bus stop. The link is: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/19/norwegians-boy-without-jacket_n_4815716.html

The video captured some special moments when people at the bus stop graciously offered the boy their own scarves, jackets and gloves. Most people were moved to reach out and help the boy. My feeling is that people felt compelled to help because the boy was right in front of them. They were not insulated from his discomfort. They could see his distress and even share in it firsthand. The immediacy of the situation stripped away any inclination to rationalize or make excuses why they could not or should not help the boy.

It reminded me that this is one of the compelling things about Jesus in the gospels. He traveled the Galilean countryside and he engaged, embraced, touched and fellowshipped with the ostracized, rejected and suffering. He made himself vulnerable to the last and the least.  He especially engaged those who had been the victims of the insulation of religion.

In my four decades of ordained ministry I frequently experienced people using religion as insulation. People used religion to: justify making harsh judgments upon those they deemed sinners or immoral; justify violence;  separate themselves from others;  blame or shame;  justify greed; and much more!

Jesus did not do that. Instead, Jesus engaged and embraced those who were the victims of religious insulation, and he seemingly relished it and took joy in it. He saw real people in real situations, and he often acted to set them free from the prisons into which religiously insulted people and systems had cast them.   It is so easy and convenient to insulate ourselves from the needs of others, and an insulated state often leads to self-righteous pontification and inaction.

With Jesus as my mentor, I hold the conviction that if my religion is insulating me from the oppressed and suffering of this world, then my religion is spurious and phony. It is nothing more than the tool I use to legitimize my prejudice, ignorance and insulated security.

If my religion is authentic, it should de-insulated me from the needs of others and sensitize me to our shared humanity. Authentic religion should strip away pretense and rationalization and move me to share and advocate for the oppressed, poor and suffering around me – near and far.

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