There recently has been controversy over the Extension School Cultural Studies Club at Harvard sponsoring a Satanic black mass that mocks Christian worship. Outraged people, spearheaded by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, protested vociferously and demanded that Harvard stop the mass. (This is CNN”s story about it.)
They were successful. The event was postponed until an undetermined date in the fall, with the Extension Club dropping its sponsorship.
Another victory for the Jesus people, yes?
I’m not sure.
Because, try as I might, I can’t imagine Jesus joining those protests.
I simply can’t square the outraged, overbearing defensiveness of these protesters with the Jesus who say, “ Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-31)
It’s easy for those of us who follow Jesus to forget that whenever we encounter scorn, anger, or even abuse from those around us, our first response is not to angrily defend our religious territory.
It’s to confess: remembering that far worse than a bunch of college students mocking Christianity is a bunch of professed Christians who mock Christ through the ways they live their lives.
It’s also to rejoice: because events like this give us a chance to show the humility and unconditional love that are the very heart of God.
A black mass held on one of the prominent colleges in the country deserves a response.
This is what I think it looks like:
As students and curious onlookers walk to the black mass on the Harvard campus, they are greeted by people offering them free coffee and water. They see people holding signs asking for forgiveness for their shortcomings as Christians and for the shortcomings of the church. They go inside and the place is swept spotless, the floors gleam: apparently a group of strangers had come in before to make sure that the space would be clean and comfortable. When they leave, there are another group of people, who invite them to a big community potluck on a nearby lawn and an invitation for conversation about what they experienced and about their disappointments with the people who say they follow Jesus.
We don’t respond with outrage, defensiveness, or judgment when someone mocks or questions us.
We respond with humility.
We respond with love.
Jesus doesn’t give us any other options.