Bad Religion has officially brought me into the spirit of advent this season. I have my friends Wes and Tyler to thank for this. We have an emo and pop punk text thread called “Suckers for anything acoustic.” Tyler shared a Christmas playlist with us and on it was Bad Religion’s cover of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I have never head banged to that song before, and it was everything!
This led me to listen to the whole album by Bad Religion called “Christmas Songs.” I was quite taken with the last song on that album called “American Jesus.” In that song, they portray a Jesus that has been hijacked by an American nationalism that we most often associate with the Evangelical Right.
“I don’t need to be a global citizen
Because I’m blessed by nationality
I’m a member of a growing populace
We enforce our popularity…
We’ve got the American Jesus
He helped build the president’s estate…
I feel sorry for the earth’s population
‘Cause so few live in the U.S.A.
At least the foreigners can copy our morality
They can visit but they cannot stay”
You would think that Bad Religion wrote these lyrics for today, but this song came out in 1993! This was a reminder that this nationalist Jesus is not something new. Rather, this is something that has been deep into our system for a long time.
Since this was the last song on the album, after the song was over, Spotify decided to play a random song from the same artist. The next song was the 2002 jam, “Sorrow.” I love this song. Although Bad Religion would most likely disagree, there is a line there that accurately describes an aspect of Christian hope for me.
“When all soldiers lay there weapons down
Or when all kings and all queens relinquish their crowns
Or when the only true messiah rescues us from ourselves
It’s easy to imagine
There will be sorrow
Yeah there will be sorrow
And there will be sorrow no more”
I decided to listen to these two songs again, back to back. In it I found this message of advent. During the season of advent, for those in the Christian community, we celebrate the coming of Jesus into this world, and wait with anticipation for Christ’s return. We wait for a time “when there will be sorrow no more.” We wait and hope for the one who is to come because there are things in this world that are not right.
So yes, we wait for Jesus to return. We wait for that time when sorrow will be no more, but in the meantime, we are called to work for a better time and place.
Bad Religion reminded me that, in this advent season, I need to participate in bringing down the American Jesus. The American Jesus that comes in the disguise of nationalism, white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia & transphobia, and hatred & fear of the other. That is not my Jesus.
The Jesus I see in the gospel stories is one that comes in weakness. It is a Jesus that is a poor refugee. It is a Christ that comes humbly to deconstruct the systems of power in order to bring up the lowly.
I was reminded that I must do my part in this as we wait for the coming of Christ, by speaking out against what is not right, by donating to organizations who are doing the work in the trenches (and when called, I must also jump into the trenches with them).
You can join me if you’d like, but right this second, I’m gonna go head bang to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” again in protest of the American Jesus.