Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Those Squeezed Out Deliberately as Human Junk from the System’s Own Evil Operations": A Meditation on Eve of Palm Sunday

For this weekend that begins Holy Week, some meditation points (for me, at least, they seem valuable meditation points connecting to Holy Week):

Charles M. Blow notes that studies discover that when we sort ourselves into ghettos of like-colored, like-believing, like-consuming people, our tolerance for those different from ourselves seems to shrink — and vice versa: when we choose to mix with those who are other, our horizons (and surely our hearts?) are expanded. He concludes:

We need to see people other than ourselves in order to empathize. If we don’t live around others we do ourselves and our society damage because our ability to relate becomes impaired. 
It’s easy to demonize, or simply dismiss, people you don’t know or see. It’s in this context that we can keep having inane conversations about the "habits" and "culture" of the poor and "inner city" citizens. 
It’s nearly impossible to commiserate with the unseen and unknown.

In his powerful study of the historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (NY: HarperCollins, 1994), John Dominic Crossan writes,

In any situation of oppression, especially in those oblique, indirect, and systemic ones where injustice wears a mask of normalcy or even of necessity, the only ones who are innocent or blessed are those squeezed out deliberately as human junk from the system’s own evil operations (p. 62).

Many biblical scholars connect the decision of the Roman rulers of Jerusalem to put Jesus to death to his cleansing of the temple. That provocative act was an act of deliberate contravention — an act of outright defiance — of the social and religious norms on which the Roman rulers of Jerusalem, abetted by the religious rulers controlling temple worship, counted in order to maintain social stability.

Jesus's cleansing of the temple evokes echoes of the prophetic (and always exceptionally dangerous, when social stability is our primary value) insistence that God's house is made for everyone — and, in particular, for the outcast, the least among us, the barren woman and the eunuch. It's the accent on for everyone in Jesus's revolutionary message and his practice of open commensality, particularly with outcasts, with women, who were regarded as always potentially impure, with half-breeds and religious misfits, that made Jesus so very dangerous to the powers that be in his society that they sought to squeeze him like human junk from their world's operations.

His cleansing of the temple, with its explicit repudiation of the exclusivism of those controlling the temple and of their exploitation of the poor, only cemented the determination of those running things in Jerusualem to hang Jesus on a cross. Where, to their shock and the shock of all those who have ruled all the churches that have grown up in Jesus's name over the centuries, he refused to remain dead . . . . 

The video: a powerful, soul-stirring rendition of the old Negro spiritual "Were You There?" by Victor Trent Young of Three Mo Tenors.

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