By Contributor Daryl Geffken
I am a Husky. For some, that may have been the last line they read. For you brave enough to continue, I’d like to share a story from a day I recently had.
As you might imagine, I am fairly reticent to share my allegiance to my Alma Mater in a town like Spokane. I have had my UW sticker scraped off my car more than a few times. I’m proud of the school that provided me opportunity, but I struggle with the snap judgment that comes from some folks with the label, “Husky.” So I have decided I will slowly share my purple pride with people. I work on relationships first, so that when others become aware of the depth of my Montlake Madness, there is a foundation of friendship. In fact, I am drawn to folks equally passionate about their schools, even if they are rivals.
My office is a great spot. I work at a place where Cougars, Zags and Huskies all seem to get along. We share a friendly rivalry in sports. More than that, we share our lives together and a growing friendship. So the other day, I blurted from my office door to my Cougar friend that Cal lost over the weekend, thereby putting the Husky men’s basketball team in first place of the Pac-12 for the moment. My timing sucked. Royally. I walked into the common area and into a conversation between my friend and a few others I did not recognize. They looked at me quizzically and it was explained that I was a Husky. And then it happened — the look; a scornful look on the face of a person I have never met, but who had somehow sized up me or my affiliation to a brand name and decided that she knew me, all of me, and it was found lacking. “Cheaters,” she spit. And that was it.
My last post talked about compassion as sharing life with others, collecting their stories to the point that we walk with them rather than talk about them. We must connect ourselves with the lives of others — others we would typically not choose. I believe our compassion grows in relation to its direct contact with suffering. We must find ways of engaging and deeply listening to the stories of others and then finding creative ways to allow those stories to find a larger voice. I also suggested that Jesus refocused people on what was important to God, not what had become acceptable to them. Jesus and his followers frequently challenge an attitude of privilege. One of Jesus’ main emphases was to treat people with value, so much so, that Jesus personally identified himself with the marginalized. The very manner of Jesus’ life reveals a literal identification with the poor and marginalized.
Jesus was born to migrant parents out of wedlock. The stigma this carried with it in Jewish culture at the time was severe. Tradition holds that he was born in a cave meant for feeding livestock and was celebrated by shepherds, some of the country’s lowest-class citizens, and foreigners that practiced astronomy — a taboo in Jewish society. At his circumcision, his parents offered a sacrifice of two pigeons — a Levitical concession offered to only the poorest class of citizen (Leviticus 12:1-8). Jesus and his family fled their nation as political refugees (Matthew 2:13-18), seeking asylum in a foreign country.
Jesus was homeless (Luke 9:58), and relied solely on the contribution of others to maintain his itinerant call (Luke 8:1-3). He was declared a state criminal and arrested. His trial displayed a flagrant abuse of the justice system of the day, having been tried in secrecy and without defense, physically beaten during the proceedings, disregarded by a politician that caved to popular sentiment despite finding no sufficient grounds for condemnation and tortured before his execution. He died without a single possession and was laid to rest in a donated grave. In “Generous Justice” Tim Keller said, “In all these ways, Jesus identifies with the millions of nameless people who have been wrongfully imprisoned, robbed of their possessions, tortured, and slaughtered.” The Bible records even after his death and resurrection Jesus continued to identify with the marginal. According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus chose to first reveal his resurrected self to women; those so discounted that in legal matters their testimony had no merit.
Judith Butler suggested that judging people is a form of emotional violence. By assuming you know another person denies them the ability to change, develop or grow beyond your expectations. Here’s my point: Jesus could have come into the world in any way imaginable. He chose this lowly status, and lived it out. He chose not to disdain others but looked at them with hope of a redeemed future.
Is it too far a stretch to attempt a connection between an interaction based on a sports rivalry and the manner by which Jesus entered into creation? Probably. But at the risk of reversing my initial title, you want to know what this Husky learned from his Cougar friend when she stepped into my righteous indignation towards the woman I felt had belittled my existence by judging me? I am wrong to dismiss another person on the basis of one action.