compassion Archives - St. Croix Church

Jesus, the Lousy Politician: An Easter Story

By Articles

Once upon the time, there was a young man named Jesus who cared deeply about people and wanted to improve the way they lived their real lives in his community. So people told him, you should run for an election! We’d vote for you!

But Jesus said, “I don’t think that would be a good idea. I’d rather just tell stories to people and love them and show them that there is a better way to live and be whole.”

But people insisted: “But you’d have so much more power if you were a politician! You could change things!”

Jesus sighed. “I don’t like the idea of changing things with that kind of power. I think I have as much authority as there is love in my heart, truth in my stories and integrity in my actions.”

“Oh, bless your heart,” they said, “but that won’t get us anywhere. You’d be no better than a poet.”

Some of these people were mainstream politicians, and they said, “Come, meet some of our corporate lobbyists – I mean friends – and they can support your campaign.”

But Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor and woe to the rich. And I don’t have a campaign.” These friends didn’t find that very helpful.

concrete memorial cross

Cross misused at Spanish fascist memorial

Other people were populists, and they said, “Look at these crowds! They’re angry and want change! Tell them – and the other corporate lobbyists – what they want to hear. It doesn’t even have to be true! And we’ll be a huge voice together.”

But Jesus said, “I don’t think these crowds are really committed to the kind of love and challenge that I’m trying to encourage. Following me is hard on the ego – kind of like dying. I don’t want anything to do with an angry mob.”

Instead, Jesus kept telling stories and healing the sick, and he lived so much in solidarity with the poor that when he saw injustice, he did things like flip over the tables of exploitation. But he also kept telling people not to make such a big deal about who he was – and that everyone could do the kinds of things he was doing, if not better! He even said they shouldn’t even call him good!

But people were getting upset by it all anyway. So much so that the people in power decided he was their enemy, even if he wasn’t running for office. They threw him in jail, then mocked him and killed him – just to make sure that nothing big got started.

“Wow, what a lousy politician,” people said when they saw him dead – just hanging useless on a tree.


But then a funny thing happened. The women and men who had really been following Jesus were discouraged at first, but soon they started saying that Jesus was still with them!  And with some real enthusiasm, they were saying it was true that they could live with the kind of love and trust that Jesus had. That the Spirit of Jesus (which was the Spirit of God!) lived in everyone and made that possible. This started getting people’s attention again.

Then the people in power said, “Ah geez. You got to be kidding us. They’re just going to be a pain in the butt.” So, they started persecuting and killing the followers too. But it was like playing “Whack-a-mole”; the more they tried to eliminate them, the more they kept spreading – somehow without any campaigns or angry mobs. And without any help from corporate lobbyists. It seemed impossible!

This kept going, more or less, for a couple of centuries until an Emperor finally gave up. “Forget it,” he said, “Let’s stop killing them because it’s just a waste of money. In fact,” he said brightening, “Let’s brand our Empire with their logo! It seems like it’s trending!” It was like he didn’t even remember that the cross was a symbol of suffering and dying at the hands of Empire.

Jesus would have rolled over in his grave, if he’d still been there.

Sadly, the Emperor’s re-branding did more to wipe out the following of Jesus than all the persecution did. In a generation or two, people seemed to forget what a lousy politician Jesus had been, and they used his name to back up their own power, while conveniently forgetting that his love had been especially for the poor and hurting.

On the other hand. just like Empire kept getting mixed up in faith, the radical love of Jesus kept showing up in the stories and symbols that they were using, even when they were being used for the opposite purposes. From time to time, little communities of life and love would spring up and start spreading a healing message again.

Some people said it was getting confusing because Jesus and his symbols were so often being used by different groups for opposite purposes. But others said, it might not be that hard to tell them apart because true followers of Jesus were the ones actually trying to follow Jesus – by loving and serving others the way he did, even though he was a lousy politician.

Sculpture of two men arguing

Loving Enemies – Pt. 2 (Stories and Compassionate Curiosity)

By Articles

In the first part of this series, the focus was on a two-part commitment aimed at helping us to avoid dehumanizing the other in the midst of conflicts and challenges. In this part, I want to focus on how personal stories and compassionate curiosity can help the opposite of dehumanizing: the building of Sculpture of two men arguingempathic connections with others, including those who so frustratingly see the world differently from us.

But first, I just want to name the fact that a lot of other factors besides our tendency to avoid difficult emotions can make us lean toward dehumanizing the other:

  • Decontextualization: so often we are interacting and relating to people whose histories and contexts are nearly completely unknown or very misunderstood
  • Depersonalization: it’s hard enough for us to remember the unique individuality of the people we live with, let alone remembering that the billions of people on our planet are just as much unique individuals
  • Unfamiliarity: it can be hard for us to see what we have in common with people whose lives are so different from ours
  • Capitalist exploitation: from algorithms that keep us in social media bubbles to systemic demands for cheap labour, there are huge forces at work that benefit from and encourage dehumanization
  • Prioritization of abstract principles and beliefs: ideological principles and religious beliefs can demand such loyalty and passion that we don’t see when they are crushing humanity

There are so many obstacles! And I will suggest that one attitude to help us overcome them is the development of “compassionate curiosity.”

Curiosity has occasionally had a bad reputation, but compassionate curiosity is “de-weaponized” curiosity. This is not curiosity that is used against others or even at the service of our own agenda, but curiosity for the sake of mutual compassion and growth. This is a desire to learn honestly and fully with open minds, with courage to see what can be seen.

Here are a couple examples of questions that grow out of compassionate curiosity when we disagree. Or when we hear someone say something that we hate, and we wonder what we can say or do:

  1. What’s your biggest/deepest concern in all of this? What are you mostly concerned about?
  2. What kinds of things do you find matter the most to you in all of this?

We can then deepen the potential of this compassionate curiosity by listening for the human, personal stories that form the context of people’s lived experience and the mix of prejudices and worldviews that understandably grow out of them.

In the early days of our most recent trajectory toward polarization, Parker Palmer made a post shortly before Thanksgiving. He’d heard that many people were dreading holidays and a shared dinner table surrounded by sharply opposing views. I’ve lost his exact words, but he encouraged us to ask each other about the stories that gave rise to the strong feelings we had. Listening to these stories and deepening our understanding of family whose views have felt toxic to us would be far more beneficial than argument around the table. I’ve had enough experience of both to know that he was right.

So the encouragement in this second part on loving enemies is to practice compassionate curiosity and use it to invite stories that help you understand why the points of view that you find so difficult matter to others. Asking with genuine compassion is far more potent than opposing.

If you’d like to read more about this, I’d encourage you to read this OnBeing post by Sharon Salzburg, and, of course, continue to part 3.

bronze sculpture of thoughtful face by Paul Day in St. Pancras Station

Compassionate Curiosity – An Invitation

By Talks

On New Year’s Day, we had a “combined service”: we used the Celtic liturgy from the early service and added a beautiful song by Ray Funk during communion followed by a short homily by Walter Thiessen in which he invited us to consider “compassionate curiosity” as a phrase for the year.

Read More