Jesus goes to Walmart, Romans turn up too

Police turn out as Ferguson protestors non-violently disrupt Black Friday sales

Here we are, where Jesus and the Romans are squaring off today.

The contrast is vivid. Militarized police protect Walmart from Ferguson, MO protestors who “protested peacefully, chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot!”and who “dispersed peacefully” when ordered to do so by police.

Jesus is going to Walmart today because of the many violations of fundamental human dignity and worth we are experiencing in the U.S.

This is why protests against the lack of justice for Mike Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot in Ferguson, MO, and the protests against the poverty-level wages paid by Walmart and other big retailers are moving together in solidarity and support.  #BlackOutBlackFriday shows how the economic roots of structural injustice need to be brought to consciousness and made the focus of concerted action.

It is crucial today to read the gospels through movement eyes, through the lives of people, particularly African Americans, who are increasingly struggling with a militarized police presence that, coupled with rampant abuse of power through racism, is creating war zones in our communities.  And like the war it is, innocents are killed with impunity.

Read the Gospels then as wartime literature; after all, they were composed after the end of the Roman destruction of the Temple. These texts have to be examined through the lens of an occupied people.

This oppression is very often felt directly as unjust economic practices. This is why Jesus “organized” workers in the fishing industry around the Sea of Galilee. Roman occupation had driven a lot of the Jewish fishers into poverty. As we know, Jesus came out strongly for workers being paid a fair wage, “for the worker deserves his wages.” (Luke 10:7)

Militarized police guarding Walmart from peaceful protestors is not the way of Jesus of Nazareth.  Justice and peace is.



About Susan Thistlethwaite

I am President Emerita and Professor Emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary; I write for the public here and in local papers. I am interested in what I call "public theology," or how deeper meaning is made and contested in the public square.
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