28 March 2024

Death triumphs, or so it seems (mostly a repost)

When I wrote the meditation below back in 2018, we were reeling from the Parkland shooting and the terrible disaster at the Winter Cherry Shopping Center in Kemerovo, Russia.

The spring of 2018 was our first in the USA since leaving Russia. In November 2017 we had sold our furniture to our wonderful landlords, said goodbye to our beloved kitties, and ended our ten-year residency in Elektrostal, Russia.

But for many mixed reasons, Russia is still often on my mind. The war in Ukraine, the life and death of Aleksei Navalny, and now the searing tragedy of Crocus City Hall...these are parts of the Calvary Road on the way to Easter 2024 for me.

Many of us are also paying close attention to the agonies suffered by ordinary innocent people in the Holy Land. Last Sunday I spoke to Friends at Spokane Friends Meeting, confessing that I had originally planned to give a sermon on hope, but found that I was not in a condition to do so. Instead I promised that next time I visit them, I'll try again. For last Sunday I chose the theme of trust. Regardless of whether our hopes come true, as Peter says in his first epistle, chapter 2 (quoting Isaiah), "the one who trusts in [Christ] will never be put to shame."

Here is my meditation from 2018, based on Emmanuel Charles McCarthy's Stations of the Cross of Nonviolent Love:

Source (pdf).  
If you've been with me for a while, you'll recognize the graphic above as a page from Charles McCarthy's Stations of the Cross of Nonviolent Love, which I read every year during Lent.

A shroud from Assumption Monastery, Sviyazhsk.
(More information, in Russian, here.) Photo: V. Strelov.
In earlier years, when I mentioned McCarthy's stations in my blog, I usually provide a station a little before this one, number 13, which is (along with 14, "Jesus is laid in the sepulchre") the bleakest of all. But I'm still in a state of shock over two mass tragedies and the perverse backlashes that have followed those tragedies. I am not in a mood to avert my eyes from the evidences of bondage to violence and inhumanity represented by these incidents.

The first event was the shootings at Parkland, Florida, and the efficient killing made possible by an AR-15. The backlash: smear campaigns against the students speaking in favor of gun control.

My mini-shrine. A flower for Kemerovo's kids.
Screenshot from TV Rain's coverage of Moscow meetings.
The second incident happened since I last wrote here. Last Sunday, 64 people, at least, died in the Winter Cherry Shopping Center in Kemerovo, Russia, including 41 children. In some cases, parents were electronic witnesses to their children's last moments, thanks to mobile phones and social networks. The backlash: highly placed politicians charging those parents and other angry survivors with taking advantage of this tragedy for political gain.

(If for some reason you have a desire to throw up, just read senator Elena Mizulina's comments in this summary of Russian media coverage of the Kemerovo aftermath.)

[Comment from 2024: Some things don't change; witness the political exploitation of the Crocus City Hall tragedy.]

In the hours and days after the Winter Cherry fire, I watched as much coverage as I could, including the huge meeting outside the city administration building, and then Tuesday's memorial meetings in Moscow. A reporter asked one of the participants in Moscow for his feelings about the fire, and he said something that I've come to expect to hear every time something like this happens in Russia: "Whatever 'they' do, we live in the kind of country where these things will keep happening." It was this hopelessness that reminded me of Station 13: "Death and the dark side of reality are always the final victors."

Which is it? Violence, racism, elitism, cynicism, and death are the victors? We know too much about what that looks like ... what that continues to look like two millennia after Jesus.

OR ...

Will we realize something completely different on Easter Sunday? How will the world know that things are different?

Last year's [2017] station from McCarthy's booklet. And 2016's station (scroll down).

(Back to 2024...)

A group of performers honor Aleksei Navalny with a video in the style of his favorite TV show, Rick and Morty.

Putin's paranoia: Timothy Snyder on terrorism, delusion, and self-destruction.

Right Sharing of World Resource (where I once served as the one full-time staffer!) is now seeking a new general secretary.

The USA spends close to a trillion dollars on its military despite its string of failures in traditional war-fighting terms. But (says Tom Engelhardt) maybe the real World War III is best understood not in traditional war-fighting terms at all, but as a slow motion war on the earth—that is, on the physical planet that we live on.

"No more international travel"—Seasoned travelers Hal Thomas's and Nancy Thomas's "fairly firm" decision, until ....

Finishing up with some blues energy: Rick Holmstrom and Nathan James.


Daniel Wilcox said...

As horrific those senseless tragedies are (that you speak of), and the continual slaughters of Russia's invasion of the Ukraine for the last 18 years, and that in Israel's in trying to kill terrorists it has bombed 33,000 people to death, and many other horrific violent news stories--as hope-slaughtering as all of that...
For me in this dark time, the very worst of all is that most American devout Christians are fanatic for all that is most contrary to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and 1 Corinthians 15 love chapter and the fruit of the Spirit--peace, joy, humility, kindness, caring, etc.:_(

That is what leaves me feeling so hopeless. Years ago, I sincerely believed if we could just help many people accept Christ, our worst world problems would be greatly reduced.
But now, nearly every moral truth I deeply trusted in and sought to live for God back then (and still do now) is totally the opposite from what most of the Christians I know emphasize and for most famous Evangelical leaders...even some conservative Quakers:_(.

There is the ultimate tragedy, though I do know that Jesus' being crucified was caused by the most devoutly religious of his time, too.

Johan Maurer said...

I have no glib (or non-glib) comfort to offer. You're right. I find it fascinating that non-Christians often seem better able to cry out "That's not Christianity!!!" than those of us who claim that identity. I am not surprised when a grenade-thrower like Charlie Kirk tells his audiences that you can't vote Democratic and be a Christian, but where's the pushback????