Monday, April 25, 2011

Complacency, Complicity and the Cross

I read once that if you ask Frenchmen of a certain age what they did in the War, a large number will claim to have worked for the Resistance. However, nowhere near that number actually did. It's human nature to claim the heroic after the fact, isn't it? When at the time itself, we were far more likely to be keeping our heads down, if not actually complicit in the activities around us.

During the Good Friday service, I thought a lot about this. At St Paul's Cathedral San Diego, the Passion is chanted, and the role of the crowd is played by the choir. This is very lovely musically, but as BP and I discussed on the way out, it misses the point. Really, the congregation should be singing those words: "Crucify him!" We all like to think that we would have been amongst the 11 loyal disciples. It is far more likely that we would have been keeping our heads down at home, if not actually in the mob demanding death for this challenging political prisoner.

Good Friday brings these thoughts into focus. Too often we become complacent about what is done for us, what is suffered for us, for our easy lives. Whether it's the suicidal workers in China who manufacture our beloved iPhones, the animals that suffer brutally to bring us cheap meat, the migrant workers picking the vegetables in hot sun, we manage to keep the suffering out of sight, out of mind.

When they carried in a big cross on Friday, and thumped it down in the chancel, I thought about complacency and complicity. Given that Christianity's major icon is an ancient torture device, it's remarkable how many of people really don't grapple with its true function until Good Friday. And then, too many of us leave that torture in the past. It's Easter! We're celebrating!

Except that around us, the crucifixion is still taking place.

This is an image from Abu Ghraib, where our military abused and tortured and killed people. The soldier might as well be wearing a Roman tunic and holding a spear. It is our flag on his shoulder. They blamed "rogue soldiers", but continuing abuse elsewhere suggests that this is a systemic brutalization of and by our military.  And what happens when that soldier comes home?

What about the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay, held for years without trial? The latest news tells us of suicides and further brutalization, as we hold these people prisoner indefinitely without trial.

This is waterboarding. If performed on Americans, it is torture. If performed on foreigners, it is "enhanced interrogation." No American who has used it has been charged.
The CIA snatches people off the street and sends them to be tortured, a policy called "extraordinary rendtion". They are often the "wrong" person. Yet torturing the "right" person is still torture.
I know it's Easter, and everyone is celebrating the Resurrection.   But I suggest to you that part of its message is to truly claim the role of disciple and bring Easter to others who are still in the dark.  Not by evangelizing "traditionally", but by actively working for peace and justice.  Not in complacency, where these things are "out of sight, out of mind" but by active mindfulness of what is being done in our name.  And doing justice in His.

Hear endeth my sermon.

Update:  as Grandmere Mimi says in the comments, We Christians would do well to live our lives in remembrance that every day is Good Friday, and every day is Easter. Oh, and every day is Christmas, too. All around us crucifixions, resurrections, and incarnations happen every day. 

And for those of us not Christians, these ancient stories still have something to tell us.


Grandmère Mimi said...

IT, yours is a fine sermon. We must not forget. Your first photo is a powerful representation of a present day crucifixion.

We Christians would do well to live our lives in remembrance that every day is Good Friday, and every day is Easter. Oh, and every day is Christmas, too. All around us crucifixions, resurrections, and incarnations happen every day.

Ann said...

Crucify him Crucify him - we still shout it with action and inaction.

JCF said...

"It was expedient that one man should die for the people".

It's not that we WANT to kill Jesus (all the Jesuses, past and present).

It's just that we believe that it's him (them) or us (me!).

And I don't want it to be me. Lord have mercy.

Erp said...

What 11 loyal apostles? Peter denied him. According to Matthew and Mark none were at the cross (some women watched from afar). Luke has some men also watching from afar. Only John has any of his followers at the cross.

We do tend to do that.

Counterlight said...

Beautiful sermon.

The irony of the Christian message is that Jesus' life, by all worldly measures, was a disastrous failure: a young man who left the family trade, wandered around unemployed and dependent on the charity of other people, finally dying condemned for blasphemy and sedition. All of His followers except for His most immediate family abandoned Him. Everyone rightly believed that His cause died with Him. And yet, we proclaim that life and its resurrection to be the final victory over death, the ultimate rebuke to all power, the end of the grim arithmetic of power and powerlessness, success and failure by which the world has always worked.

I think you are right. Most of us are in denial about how much pain and suffering supports our lives of convenience. If Christ were to repeat His first coming in our time, the result would be the same, and we'd agree with the mob in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, that blaspheming Nazarene troublemaker is getting what's coming to Him!
Caiaphas would be a "Christian" this time.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Just stop it! Now!

it's margaret said...

Excellent post IT. Thanks.