How The Blood of Christ Will Destroy America

Donald Trump encouraged police in Long Island to exercise brutality with suspects. (White House Photo)

“Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r? 
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? 
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” 
— Elisha Hoffman, ”Are You Washed in the Blood?” (1878)

So Christianity is pretty gross religion.

We like to talk about Jesus’ blood, and we even sing about it. Like a lot. We’re washed in the blood. (Ew, unsanitary?) There’s power in the blood. There is a fountain, like, filled with blood. What can wash away my sin? You guessed it. Nothin’ but the blood.

Every Sunday, millions of us drink from a cup that we declare is filled with the blood of our God. Some of us believe that’s literally what’s in there. This idea grossed out some of Jesus’ own early followers (see John 6:53–66), and persuaded some ancient Romans that we were cannibals.

But I don’t think we always understand the cost entailed in covering ourselves with the blood of Christ. I think because many of us have forgotten who Christ actually is.

We worship a dark-skinned man from the Middle East, who died at the hands of unjust law enforcement, in a nation that oppressed his people. That is how the Christian faith teaches that God was made manifest on Earth.

And yet many of those who talk about the blood and sing about the blood try to pour that blood into an imaginary white body — the Jesus of our art and media — and wrestle their fake white Jesus into political alignment with a President who tries to stoke fear of brown people by telling scary stories about “thugs” and “animals.” A President who encourages police brutality.

“And when you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice. (Laughter.) Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay? (Laughter and applause.)” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/07/28/remarks-president-trump-law-enforcement-officials-ms-13)

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.” (John 19:1) You can’t be too nice with these Jewish rebels, after all. (Laughter and applause.)

We talk about the blood, we sing about the blood, but we ignore the body that contained it.

On the day Christ died — the day when the Roman Empire broke his body and spilled his blood on the ground — what did it mean to be covered in Christ’s blood?

Many of Jesus’ closest friends and followers never got close enough to be covered in his blood. As proud as they had been to stand next to him when he was preaching and picking up followers, on the day he died they wanted nothing to do with him.

A few remained. The Gospels teach us that a man named Joseph, a prominent man in the local community, accepted the broken, brown, condemned body of Jesus and wrapped it in linens for burial. He risked the condemnation and ostracism that other disciples feared, staining himself with the blood of a man that an empire had declared unworthy of life.

We’re taught that Mary, Jesus’ mother, stood at the foot of the cross. She had once been a young, unmarried pregnant girl. A disgrace to her community. She knew her son could threaten an empire: she once declared that she served a God who “has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:52). This was probably not the first time she had seen her son’s blood.

A number of other women accompanied the body to its tomb. One, Mary Magdalene, had been on the margins of her community when Jesus found her: the Gospel of Luke says that he cured her of not one, but seven demons. Jesus put her in a key position of responsibility in the new and different community that he built. He relied on her and her resources to help support the movement financially. He gave her a new life.

She loved him so much that stayed with him even when it all fell apart.

On that day, aligning yourself with the blood of Jesus was not a path to power and prosperity. Later, we honored Mary as the Mother of God. Mary Magdalene is now called “Apostle to the Apostles,” because she was the first one to tell the male disciples when Jesus was alive again. Joseph’s name is known the world over. But in order to make that happen, Christ had to turn the universe inside out.

This is why Christianity talks about blood so much. It stains the outcast and the oppressed and transforms them into vessels of God’s glory.

“Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

The unjustly spilled blood of this dangerous brown criminal, this thug named Jesus, is a credible threat to anyone who uses power to hurt other people. Christianity teaches that Christ’s blood cleanses us from sin. It heals and restores. It frees our minds, souls and bodies from the ways of thinking that underlie our corrupt world system. It convicts the rich and powerful and absolves the humble and broken. It brings down rulers from their thrones and lifts up the humble.

Properly applied, it can dissolve empires. Even this one.

I know that some people confuse the teachings of Trump with the teachings of Christ. But it’s really not that hard to tell the difference.

When Donald Trump endorses police brutality, he aligns himself with the system that killed Jesus. He teaches us that some people are trash, and deserve to be treated like trash. When he works hard to paint immigrants and refugees from Mexico and Muslim countries as scary brown villains, he conforms to the mold of the proud Roman politician who looked out on the people of the Middle East and saw an uncivilized mob who needed a good flogging now and then to be kept in line. Who met Jesus and saw a problem instead of a person. Who sent him to the cross because you can’t risk being too nice to these people.

The community of people covered in his blood can work together to peacefully transform this diseased nation. But we can’t ever forget that we bear the mark of a racially oppressed outcast, a convicted criminal. That awareness should reflect the way we understand the world and our place within it. We belong with the rejected and the condemned, the refugee and the stranger. We belong with the people our leader wants us to fear.

“Are you washed in the blood? In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?”

Trevor Persaud is a student at Boston University School of Theology.