You know that my interest in the historical-Jesus has deeply Jewish roots.
I consider that rabbi's public life and personal sacrifice one long, repetitive, creative and exquisitely painful and beautiful performance-art-protest against the collusion of Jewish religious authority with systemic structural Roman oppression of the Jewish Homeland and particularly of its destitute.
Authentic Jewish Authority -- The Torah/The Teaching -- demands that our poorest, our widows, our waifs, our landless, our ill, our infirm...be cared for by the very social structures and legal authorities that, under occupation's relentless and growing assault, still far too easily in Jesus' day, cooperated with Inauthentic Authority. Rome's rapidly dislocating, impoverishing, underclass-creating utterly destructive urbanization and military/economic rape of the Jewish God's homeland was an abiding, escalating outrage wholly inconsistent with that God's abiding demand for Justice in The Land.
The God of the Jews demanded Justice for the destitute and demands it still, over and above the human beings, Jews and others, who then and now flout Justice's demands, in the Homeland and elsewhere.
Despite the fact that he never stood trial before the Jewish High Priest, or Pilate, we know what his performance-art got him in his likely one and only sojourn to Jerusalem -- hung on a tree among hundreds of thousands of others.
It is, however, not too much to say that, despite the institution that stole that rabbi's name and subverted his performance and program to its own ends, glimpses of the authentic man and his art may, at times, even now, be seen.
You've caught many of those glimpses, at food banks, at clothing donation centers, inside women's shelters, marching beside Ghandi, beside Dr. King, and with the nameless thousands and their millions of supporters last year at Oakland, at Wall Street, and elsewhere.
Had you been in Providence, Rhode Island, this week, you might have caught another glimpse of the Ongoing Performance, a tiny yet very powerful one. It's a small, an unusual move, and perhaps one that won't be seen elsewhere or, if it is, not for a long while.
Yet it could; it could be replicated; it could spread.
The Associated Press reports that the legislature at Providence has passed the nation's first, perhaps the world's first,
'Homeless Bill of Rights'.
The law guarantees that the streeted-destitute may, unmolested by police and businesses
. use public sidewalks,
. use public parks,
. use public transport, and
. use public buildings
"without discrimination on the basis of his or her housing status" and guarantees a "reasonable expectation of privacy" as to personal belongings.
This is to say, Rhode Island now establishes a state-wide
Personhood of the Destitute
...one uplifting, creative law striking at the bleak heart of the contining American War on the Poor, a swift jab at vicious, demeaning, structural inequality, and in our time.
Two millennia late for the ancient rabbi, and in a single state jurisdiction, yet I'm betting the rabbi's applauding and nodding; his grin is very broad.