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.|
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.