18 April 2019

Jesus is condemned to death by ...

Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, source (PDF)  
I responded to a Twitter survey yesterday:

All of these aspects are urgent and compelling to me. Somewhat to my own surprise, the answer I was immediately drawn to was "crucifixion."

Spoiler alert: the crucifixion isn't the end of the story. God showed definitively that "the Way" which Jesus invited us to walk with him had not reached a dead end at all. I want to stay committed to remaining on this path -- and what good company I'm in!! This daily reality is a constant refreshment to my idealistic side.

The sour, skeptical, cynical pre-conversion voice in my head reminds me that the "cannibals" mentioned by Ilya Grits, the torturers and executioners of the world's systems, still roam our globe, two millennia after Easter, seeking whom they can coerce or eliminate. Often they seek to persuade us to cooperate, or at least remain passive: they warn us that our civilization is under threat from migrants, or we must deter some threat, or just "trust us, we know better. Just keep minding your own business."

In some cases, they can point to an actual danger. Someone else attacked first. After all, demonic systems feed on each other; it's not surprising that violence in turn begets violence. My father's father was a lieutenant in the Norwegian resistance army (Milorg) in World War II. This army was, of course, responding to the violence of the German occupation of Norway, but, ironically, part of my grandfather's task was to dissuade grassroots Norwegians from acts of terrorism and sabotage against the occupation forces. Those acts would simply provoke retribution.

If you followed my family-history tour in Japan last fall, you might remember that I found my mother's childhood home through the Nazi membership list, where their street address was listed along with her father's membership enrollment date: April 1, 1934. I would love to know what my two grandfathers said to each other when they first met. They were both courteous gentlemen with no obvious violent tendencies at all, but both of them became dramatically enmeshed in systems of cyclical violence.

The princes of Jesus' time didn't know what to do with him. They traded Jesus back and forth ("I can't find anything to charge him with" -- "Crucify him; we have no king but Caesar"), but, in the end, nobody stepped forward to prevent that same old imperial solution: death to the troublemaker. Peter couldn't even admit to being his disciple! Jesus, the son of God, did not evade the corrupt will of the empire, but on the Cross he asked God to forgive his tormentors because "they don't know what they are doing."

Jesus, the humiliated victim of a kangaroo court, completely defies the cycle of violence. Forgive them! We, the Body of Christ and his ministers of reconciliation, are authorized to commit the same defiance. We don't always know when we're being invited or seduced or deceived into washing our hands of responsibility for each other's fate, but it's worth learning how it happens. Good Friday is a good day to recall and refresh this commitment.

John Woolman gave us some tools for discernment in his essay, "A Word of Remembrance and Caution to the Rich" (written shortly before his death in 1772).
... When that spirit works which loves riches, and in its working gathers wealth and cleaves to customs which have their root in self-pleasing, whatever name it hath it still desires to defend the treasures thus gotten.

This is like a chain in which the end of one link encloseth the end of another. The rising up of a desire to obtain wealth is the beginning ; this desire being cherished, moves to action; and riches thus gotten please self; and while self has a life in them it desires to have them defended. Wealth is attended with power, by which bargains and proceedings contrary to universal righteousness are supported; and hence oppression carried on with worldly policy and order, clothes itself with the name of justice and becomes like a seed of discord in the soul. And as a spirit which wanders from the pure habitation prevails, so the seeds of war swell and sprout and grow and become strong until much fruit is ripened. Then cometh the harvest spoken of by the prophet, which “is a heap in the day of grief and desperate sorrows.” Oh that we who declare against wars, and acknowledge our trust to be in God only, may walk in the light, and therein examine our foundation and motives in holding great estates! May we look upon our treasures, the furniture of our houses and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions. Holding treasures in the self-pleasing spirit is a strong plant, the fruit whereof ripens fast. A day of outward distress is coming, and Divine love calls to prepare against it.
The honest acknowledgment of our own complicity in systems that depend on violence should not paralyze us with shame, nor should it prevent us from confronting those systems. It just reminds us that we can't fight this Lamb's War in our own discernment alone; and the call to forgive our enemies also applies to ourselves, and should be very effective in preserving us from arrogance.

Here's a concrete example of helping each other in our discipleship: this month's Quaker Religious Education Collaborative "conversation circles" are on "Quaker Parenting: Supporting parents and other caregivers on the spiritual journey of parenting." April 23 and 25; you can register using the links on the Conversation Circles site.

And on May 3: a retirement celebration for a long-time collaborator in discernment, Ron Sider.

Yet another co-worker in Quaker discipleship: Ashley M. Wilcox spoke at Guilford College on Quakers, the prophetic tradition, and the recording of ministers.

Too good to hold over for a year: Palm Sunday and the gift of disillusionment.

Joanna Stingray and her new book on her involvement with Soviet rock music: the Meduza interview. (And here's a video of a presentation -- half in Russian and half in English -- of this book with Joanna and her daughter and co-author Madison.)

Around that same time, Jim and Nancy Forest began their "pilgrimage to the Russian church." You can read their book, now out of print, right on their Web site. (My own copy is still in a box in my garage. Bookshelves coming in two weeks!)

Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan reach back for a slow one, "Blues at Sunrise."

No comments: