By Ted Braun
Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem.
Borg and Crossan suggest that Pontius Pilate’s military procession entering Jerusalem from the West Gate was for the Jews a symbol of the domination system that they were living under—one of political oppression, economic exploitation, and religious legitimation. Jewish society had become one in which only a few who had become quite wealthy ruled, and where the political, economic, and social arrangements were given additional legitimacy by the Jerusalem Temple.
Borg and Crossan suggest that it was likely that the second procession led by Jesus on a donkey that entered through the East Gate and was welcomed by peasants and the marginalized and common folk, took place on the same day. This dramatic example of street theater carried with it a strong critique of the Roman procession and all it symbolized.
A second event then took place the next day that revealed Jesus’ even stronger opposition to the Roman domination system: a demonstration in the Temple courtyard when he took direct action and overturned the tables of the moneychangers. These financial officials had been helpful, especially for foreign Jews who had come to make a sacrifice at the Temple and had to buy lambs, goats, or pigeons in the local tender. More fundamentally, however, this response had to do with the corruption of the Temple and its priests who were collaborating with Rome and its domination system. Jesus was above all concerned for the renewal of Judaism, focusing on shalom and wholeness, true devotion to God, justice for the poor and stranger, and hospitality to all.
Two other examples of ways that have been used to demonstrate opposition come out of more recent tImes. On July 28, 2012 three peace activists—Greg Boerje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli—broke into the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge that makes thermonuclear cores for W76 warheads. As an act of nonviolent direct action, they painted peace slogans and poured blood on the side of a warehouse that stores hundreds of tons of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium before being detected and caught. Although they claimed that their act was symbolic in order to raise global awareness on behalf of the cause of nuclear disarmament, two charges were brought against them: vandalism and sabotage. On February 18, 2014 the Roman Catholic nun received a sentence of 35 months in prison, and the two men, because of previous involvement in direct action, sentences of 62 months.
Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Peace Alliance, commented, “Nonviolent direct action is required of us because our government responds to nothing less. It is required of us because of the planet and the future. It is required of some because they feel a divine imperative; the God they follow requires them to beat swords into plowshares and blesses peacemakers. It doesn’t seek an end itself—it seeks to open a conversation, to encourage jurists, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the public, to search themselves to see what they can do and what they should do.”
A fourth example of direct action has been provided by the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina. Since we wrote about them in an earlier column (February 19), we won’t take much space here except to mention that it is a movement with a “fusion agenda” that is bringing together a wide variety of people and groups concerned about democratic rights, economic justice, and the “soul and future of the state.” This movement is now spreading to other states and is helping individuals and groups to be more effective in demonstrating opposition and bringing about positive change.
A sad example of an individual taking taking violent direct action from a motivation of hatred took place this past Sunday (April 13, a day before the beginning of Passover) in Overland Park, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. Frazier Glenn Miller, a 73-year-old former Ku Klux Klan leader with a history of anti-Semitism and racism, shot and killed a doctor and his 14-year-old grandson in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas (both turned out to be Methodists) and a woman in the parking lot at Village Shalom, a nearby senior living community. The retirement community, with a cafe of kosher food, a dental clinic, a day spa, and a library had been established in 1912 by a benevolent society of Orthodox Jews in Kansas City. It’s ironic that the word “shalom” in Hebrew means “peace” and “wholeness.”
It would be great if we could now start working on some life-affirming ways of dealing with the less beneficial forces of opposition in our nation, including those that have been paralyzing our Congress.
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This column by local writers is dedicated to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world of peace and justice. Opinions expressed in “Lion and Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, column coordinator, at 277-5135.