On Riots and Temples

Multiple protestors silouetted against a fire. One is holding a flag.

“I wasn’t there, but I’m guessing Jesus caused property damage when he cleared out the corruption at the temple.” I posted this yesterday almost as soon as the thought gripped me. And as a couple people shared it, I happened to catch some negative feedback from some folks of the white, female, Christian persuasion. I was struck by two in particular. Both said things like “it was his house” and therefore my thought about his causing property destruction had no bearing on what has been happening this week in Minneapolis and other parts of the country. Today new information has emerged that in many cities property damage was started by white mostly male agitators, many of whom then left the scene. Now it does seem that some protestors were still involved at various points, but none of that takes away from the emphasis I see in far too many places from white Christians like these two women who responded to my post.

Jesus in his statement about it being his Father’s house could lead one to make the connection these commenters did, sure it’s his house, however, that is not how his action would have been perceived by the religious leaders of the day. This story appears in all four gospels. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the synoptic gospels), they are trying to tell Jesus’ story chronologically and this event takes place during the same passover time where we later see Jesus crucified. Jesus was never accepted by the religious leaders of his day, and the clearing of the temple can be seen as another catalyst for them to get him crucified as a blasphemer. Of course, Pilate didn’t crucify people for blaspheming the religion of Israel, so they had to have painted him as a political revolutionary to catch Pilate’s attention (cf. Luke 23:2).

These details show us that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day very much saw his actions as a violation of the temple. And as he poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, I think we can definitely say he cost them money and caused property damage. The idea that it’s all fine because it was “his house” is imputing a theological concept to an action that would never have been perceived that way when it happened…

The rest of this story is now at: https://annahoward.medium.com/to-my-fellow-white-parents-how-to-talk-about-racism-with-our-kids-4de6cf34850a

Yes, I accidentally created two medium accounts… someday I’ll write a story about memory holes from chronic illness + distracted mommy brain, it’s loads of fun, I assure you.

Anna Howard writes highly caffeinated takes on shalom as a lens for everything from her front porch in Hendersonville, TN where she lives with her husband and two sons. She is a community organizer and movement chaplain with a background in youth and family ministry and is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary. You can find her at @aehowardwrites on Twitter and at aehowardwrites.com

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