…Or Whatever. Matthew 3:12.
Our guest author is Jessica Vazquez Torres (aka JVT), a coffee drinking, craft beer loving, BBC watching, overthinking 1.5 generation Queer Cisgender LatinX Woman of Puerto Rican descent who cooks when not traveling around spreading the gospel truth about white supremacy: IT’S EVIL!
A microaggressive expression that conveys dismissal, doubt, and disbelief.
It is often accompanied by similar questioning expressions such as:
Are you sure?
Could there be another logical explanation?
You are being too sensitive.
Stop being paranoid.
I am sure that is not what happened.
Surely, you are mistaken.
Give me a break.
These expressions are often uttered by people in power and with privilege as they respond to the concerns about systemic racism, xenophobia, negative bias, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia raised by people of color, women, LGBTQI peoples. These expressions are also uttered when critiqued about our behavior, our perspectives, our experiences, and our choices.
The responses to such conscious or unconscious dismissal vary in tone. From the polite: “Are you questioning my experience and the veracity of my statements?” To the more forthright: “Fuck you.”
The residue that is left behind in those at the receiving end is apathy, mistrust, and rage.
The residue that is left behind in those uttering the dismissal is satisfaction, perplexity, and condescension.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them,
You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
I can imagine the expressions on the faces of the Sadducees and Pharisees that approached John the Baptists for baptism. It is not hard to imagine some of them saying, “come on, John, cut us some slack, we are here.”
And as John’s prophetic preaching reaches a peak, I can imagine some of these men turning around while saying, “hmmm, whatever.” After all, who wants to listen to the ramblings of a crazed man who is not only calling you dangerous while speaking of wrath, implying in prophetic prose that your ways are about to be cut down, calling you arrogant for assuming your lineage will save you, and demanding repentance and accountability from you.
His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
Surely, the lectionary is mistaken. This text could not possibly be addressing us anyway. We are John the Baptist, are we not? We are the prophetic ones spreading the news of the wrath that is to come on our Facebook walls, our Twitter feeds, our FB Messenger conversations, and the bumper stickers in our cars.
We could not possibly be confused with the brood of vipers those folks represent.
We are not those people arrogantly walking around propped up by the belief that they stand on the side of God, that they speak for God. We are not them. We are the wheat, correct? Unlike them, we are not invested in capitalist systems that require the diminution of living beings into things in order to produce wealth and extract resources. Come on.
Surely, the text is not implying that we are practiced at looking the other way as we encounter the evidence of our greed and violence in our daily path: the homeless veteran, the low wage worker subsisting and not thriving, the gentrified community where everyone now looks like me, the dead bodies offered to the altar of our security.
Give us a break, we are the good ones. We are the wheat, stop being petulant and paranoid. We are the never-doubting optimistic Christians that believe in the sovereignty of God, our own perfection and righteousness. We are the ones asking for a revolution of values, of the economy, of the systems that organize our life.
We are the revolutionaries following in the path of the one John is talking about. We are the wheat. Right? We are the wheat! Come on. Are we the wheat?
Twenty-one days remain in this season is waiting. May we find the courage to stifle the whatevers that rise within us and to face the questions of this hour.
•The writer’s reflection was made possible in part by her companions of Feasting in the Gospels, pages 38–43.