Friday, April 2, 2010

Some Thoughts on Good Friday

For the time being, we still are permitted to refer to today as Good Friday, although it seems that the name is offensive to the folks who govern Davenport, Iowa. However, on this day (which also is Good Friday on the Orthodox calendar), I don't want to reflect on politics or economics or even prosecutorial misconduct.

Indeed, Good Friday is the day on which Jesus died, crucified on orders of Pontius Pilate, who admitted he had no good reason to kill Jesus. This is the day when we are reminded that we the sinners killed the One Who Knew No Sin, and yet this very act of treason was the mechanism by which God provided salvation to those of us who did not deserve it.

On Easter Sunday, we will celebrate Christ's resurrection, the culmination of his triumph over sin and death. Unfortunately, others who call themselves "evangelicals" will claim that the entire event was mainly political. I looked on the Sojourners website today in hopes that I would see something that deals with Easter that was not political in orientation. Unfortunately, what I saw was yet another example of the use of words not to clarify the meaning of Easter, but to throw a cloud over everything. Take the words of Sojourners contributor Valerie Elverton Dixon:
In the eyes of the Roman Empire, Jesus was not an innocent man. He went to the cross because he was a threat to the state. His teaching of radical generosity, his ideas about a kingdom of heaven that ought to come on earth, his teaching of love of enemy that leaves no space for fear was a threat to a state government and state religion that thrived on fear. He did not come to overthrow the state government, but rather to institute a value system where love of God, humanity and creation stood at the center.
Say what? Basically, from what I can see, she is saying that the Roman authorities misunderstood the message of Jesus. Of course, we also have the accounts in which Pilate himself acknowledges that Jesus is innocent and no threat to him or Roman rule. Instead, he kills Jesus out of sheer cowardice because he is afraid of the mob and the harm they can do to his career.

Pilate was known for his cruelty and his abusive behavior, yet even this man who executed people without a second thought was troubled over killing Jesus. Had he really seen Jesus as a great political threat to the regime, he would have killed him at once, and without a second thought.

No, the innocence of Jesus as he stood before Pilate must have been quite real and quite obvious, so obvious that even a cruel and venal man like Pilate did not want to put Jesus to death. Pilate knew he was doing wrong when he ordered Jesus' crucified.

It is unfortunate that so-called evangelicals have decided to totally politicize the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for Jesus transcends politics and everything else. He did not do these things so we could take his "vision" and create Utopia. That is silly, demeaning, and just plain wrong. Indeed, the Kingdom of God is something that puts any Utopian ideas to shame.


jazzact13 said...

I'm starting see more how progressives and emergents have to tie ideas into knots to get a Jesus who was anti-Roman Empire. Taken on its own, the Gospels and New Testament as a whoel say little if anything against Roman, and are quite clear that we are to obey the authorities. The only place I can think of that may be against authority is when the disciples tell the religious leaders "We should obey God rather than men" when commanded to no longer preach Jesus.

I suspect their rhetoric has less to do with the NT being anti-Roman than with themselves being anti-America, or maybe anti-West as a whole.

William L. Anderson said...

Once one defines Christianity as being primarily the presence of a welfare state, then all bets are off. That is what we see here; people like McLaren and Wallis declare that only post-modern thinking is allowable, and then all Christian doctrines must fit into the Politically-Correct secular doctrines that guide our age.