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Thursday, July 15, 2004

God Bless Bill Moyers

I will sorely miss Bill Moyers' presence when he retires. I don't really see him going all too quietly into that good night, though, so maybe I'll miss him less than I think.

I first encountered the good Mr. Moyers through The Power of Myth, his six-part, six hour series of discussions with Joseph Campbell. I had no idea who he was back then, but those talks (also in book form) changed my perspective on spirituality and religion, and life in general; one only a handful handful of truly life-changing influences. This was, of course, before I learned of Moyers' history in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and wide-reaching influence.

When it comes to matters of spiritual significance, few journalists can match Moyers' ability to take readers/viewers to the heart, the many layered, prismatic heart of the issues at hand. His exploration of the roots of the world's three major monotheistic faiths, Genesis, further solidified that strength. Here's a taste of a magnificent piece he's written for the August issue of Sojourners Magazine, which further proves his worth as an American treasure:

OVER THE PAST few years, as the poor got poorer, the health care crisis worsened, wealth and media became more and more concentrated, and our political system was bought out from under us, prophetic Christianity lost its voice. The Religious Right drowned everyone else out.

And they hijacked Jesus. The very Jesus who stood in Nazareth and proclaimed, "The Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor." The very Jesus who told 5,000 hungry people that all of you will be fed, not just some of you. The very Jesus who challenged the religious orthodoxy of the day by feeding the hungry on the Sabbath, who offered kindness to the prostitute and hospitality to the outcast, who raised the status of women and treated even the tax collector like a child of God. The very Jesus who drove the money changers from the temple. This Jesus has been hijacked and turned into a guardian of privilege instead of a champion of the dispossessed. Hijacked, he was made over into a militarist, hedonist, and lobbyist, sent prowling the halls of Congress in Guccis, seeking tax breaks and loopholes for the powerful, costly new weapon systems that don't work, and punitive public policies.

Let's get Jesus back. The Jesus who inspired a Methodist ship-caulker named Edward Rogers to crusade across New England for an eight-hour work day. Let's get back the Jesus who caused Frances William to rise up against the sweatshop. The Jesus who called a young priest named John Ryan to champion child labor laws, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and decent housing for the poor - 10 years before the New Deal. The Jesus in whose name Dorothy Day challenged the church to march alongside auto workers in Michigan, fishermen and textile workers in Massachusetts, brewery workers in New York, and marble cutters in Vermont. The Jesus who led Martin Luther King to Memphis to join sanitation workers in their struggle for a decent wage.

That Jesus has been scourged by his own followers, dragged through the streets by pious crowds, and crucified on a cross of privilege. Mel Gibson missed that. He missed the resurrection - the spiritual awakening that followed the death of Jesus. He missed Pentecost.

To all my Christian friends: Heed the man. Reclaim Jesus from the extremists.

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