Saturday, March 24, 2012

HOLY WEEK, JESUS AND VIOLENCE ..October 26, 2011...edited March 24, 2012

Our culture has a very deep seated violent nature which we have yet to face or understand.  Murderous shootings at Universities, high schools and public malls of recent years  brings this cultural fact home to us all.  And more recently the killing of  the innocent teen Trayvon Martin in Florida  by a possibly well  intentioned , but  archetype  possessed, self appointed community watchman.  The evil archetype is so strong that the entire  city leadership seems  unable yet to tear it from themselves and see it for the evil that it has wrought.
Trayvon Martin's Grieving Parents

We see ourselves as a Christian  nation but are in some ways morally and compassionately  far from it.  Or another way of seeing it is that America  is indeed a final product of Christianity and the archetypes that have supported it.  It has astonishingly and necessarily  separated and shown the difference between  good and evil but it has also demonstrated that its present interpretation is unable now to unify these  warring opposites .  This leaves us now with a split world made of people who also suffer much  internal split. The situation calls for the necessity of  reuniting, at a conscious level, all the opposites that have been so well clarified and separated in recent centuries.  It also leaves us with a violent climate, both with  neighbors and toward ourselves inwardly and  among the various religions and ideologies  externally.  Everything is now polarized.  And we now  frequently and  unwittingly support  economic, emotional and  physical violence against others as the solution to interpersonal and international frustrations.

I experienced a very safe childhood  in North Alabama ...could go for miles from home on my bicycle...we never locked the house. But now I realize that in those 'ideal' days for people like me, my    majority society was sowing the seeds of present day violence- by not owning the reality of discrimination against various groups of people and  not  preventively providing realistic fairness and  justice throughout  the culture. This is not to blame but to understand where we were then and seek to know where we are now.  We have such a strong tendency that our darkness is all in the past rather than seeing it acting out in our present mutually created culture. Perhaps this last presidential election  has re-surfaced some of our wounds so that our nation has another opportunity to face  some of  its own shadow,  seek healing and opportunity to  make the sacrifices needed to bring about a renewed effort for justice and equality  for all. The church also should examine why the Bible has been and is still misused for supporting injustice, which is always violent; against women, people of color, low income,  different sexual orientation, and ones 'different' by ethnicity or religious faith. For the Christian story to  be a non violent force, as expressed by Jesus and demonstrated  in our Civil Rights movement of the 60's, toward a less violent society  a renewed understanding of  the dynamics of Holy Week could help.  Jesus' message was the 'Kingdom of  God  is at hand.'  What did that phrase mean then and what could it mean now? This seems very much lost in much of popular American Christianity. 

Rome Colluded With Local Religious  Authorities To Oppress The Poor.
It essentially meant two things.  One is about how  the Roman Empire and the colluding top ranks of the  religion in Jerusalem,  the home of Jesus' Hebrew religion, were abusively dominating the common people. A greedy elite system had developed, as the Bible consistently implies always happens in human society. Common people were oppressed economically by both the reigning Empire and  by the colluding Temple rulers. They were taxed by both to the point  they could barely make a living for their families while those at the top lived sumptuously, greedily seizing the power and wealth produced by the common people.  Jesus is shown, increasingly toward his death, to act and speak against  this situation. So Jesus is saying it is to the 'Kingdom of God', not any abusive dominating kingdom or system, that he lends his full support, even to the point of dying to make message clear.

Once he  is pictured  being asked, by the religious elite,  if common Jewish people should pay tax to a cruel Caesar. Jesus asked them to look at their  coin. His questioners produced one that had Caesar's picture on it. This in fact, without a word, showed the encouraged common onlookers that his accusers already were Caesar supporters; for the Hebrews could request, by Rome's approval, coins without the Emperor's image. This was only a surface political  gesture to make the appearance that Rome understood the plight of the poor and oppressed.  Then the famous quote, 'Render to Caesar the things of Caesar and to God the things of God.  He is not saying 'keep religious values and politics compartmentalized' or that 'the spiritual and the oppressors are to be equally  served'  but rather that  'Kingdom of God' means that the Empire's abuse of people is to be opposed so that  God's rule, not Caesar's, will  prevail. That God's rule 'be on earth' and bring human justice, not Caesar's rule of abusive dominance. Then  the human situation can approach being 'as it is in heaven.'
He was clearly non-violently teaching truth to power. A message he fully knew would soon have him killed.

A second meaning in the gospel story of the last week of Jesus' life  is what  the 'Kingdom of God' that  Jesus supports centrally is.  To follow Jesus meant to follow  'the way' or 'the path' of God that Jesus followed. In Holy Week Jesus' path was to finally go into Jerusalem, the  center of the  Roman and religious abusive dominating systems and  make clear that God's way for people is one of a just sharing of  earth's gifts and wealth produced by human labor.  To discover 'the way' of God in any generation then means  to be ever aware of the potential evil of any dominating abusive system, whether  family, church, corporation or government. And to be ready to stand, as one can, non violently opposed to it.  To support  the 'Kingdom of God' is to trust that the  Spirit of  an Easter Jesus is alive and risen, and invites all people to stand with and for the used, abused and marginalized of society.  And against the social arrangements that  perpetuate the sources of  unholy  human suffering and greed.  'Kingdom of God at hand'  suggests that recognizing and acting 'this way' is the timeless and godly  approach for preventing and facing  violence of every kind.  Jim Hibbett

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