Ludwig Müller, who became the Nazi-sanctioned Reich Bishop, went so far as to “Germanize” Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In his 1936 translation, Jesus says: “Happy are those who are at peace with their fellow Germans [Volksgenosse];”
In doing this, he captures how German Christian nationalists had already redefined who counted as their neighbor. If neighbors can be defined primarily as the “non-foreign” members of one’s nation first, then one can morally justify all sorts of actions against people who are categorized as outsiders.
I want to focus on my own white Christian community here. We are seeing this redefinition in action right now in our nation. Americans who consider themselves Christians are reading Facebook, watching FOX News, and watching Trump’s speeches and going “you know we definitely do not want thugs or illegals in our streets! LAW & ORDER!”
But the “thugs and illegals” are whoever Trump considers them to be today. That photo op at St. John’s Episcopal in DC? Among the “violent protesters” that were dispersed with tear gas and flash grenades was a priest from the church Trump wanted to visit.
We must take stock and recognize how much even our faith has been shaped by the systematic recism of our nation, and re-evaluate our worldview in the light of the scripture we claim we follow:
Who Is My Neighbor?
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” …
This is what Müller’s false interpretation was targeting, for the same reason the questioner in Luke did: to narrow the definition of who he was expected to . But Jesus insists on the wider interpretation - even to the those whom the Jews considered heretics to be treated as dogs:
33 “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out [his own money] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
(Emphasis mine) While our cities burn and police departments are instigating riots… on whom will we have mercy?
If we are not heartbroken and angered at the every day treatment of black and brown people in our communities, cities, and nation, if we will not speak up for them, if we will not spend our resources to give them reprieve, then we no longer consider them our neighbors.