Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


April 3, 2012

LION AND THE LAMB: An elephant in the room

CROSSVILLE — This week many people around the world are thinking about various events in the last week of Jesus' life on earth. Not all, however, will be doing much pondering about the political context of these events. The main "elephant in the room" during Jesus' last week, the chief opposition he encountered in Jerusalem, was not from the Jewish colonial power structure but from the Roman Empire itself.

The divide was starkly dramatized in the two processions into Jerusalem on the original Palm Sunday, as described by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. Each year at the beginning of the Passover celebration Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, would enter Jerusalem through the West Gate at the head of a procession of imperial soldiers on horses. The purpose was to protect the Roman Empire against any Jewish uprising during the Passover celebration.

On this particular occasion Jesus engaged in some street theater against Pilate and the Empire. He entered Jerusalem through the East Gate on a lowly donkey, and was greeted by many people hoping for freedom and salvation from the hated Romans.

The next day Jesus led a demonstration in the Courtyard of the Temple, briefly occupying it and overturning the tables of the moneychangers who were involved in the Jewish sacrificial system. The Temple was in reality the chief center of national alignment and cooperation between the Jewish religious hierarchy and the Roman colonial leaders. In fact, the Roman governor was instrumental in choosing the chief priests.

If prayer breakfasts incorporating the religious and political leadership elements had been the custom in that day, Jesus might have also targeted those. Or if he had been familiar with an Occupation movement in his day, he might have organized a longer one for the Temple Courtyard.

As it was, the authorities began making plans to deal with Jesus and bring him to trial. They knew it was too dangerous to try to arrest him in public, surrounded by a supportive group of people. So with the help of an informer, they were able to accomplish this when Jesus and his disciples were alone one evening in the Garden of Gethsemane.

After being convicted by the Jewish and Roman authorities, Jesus was put to death in the customary way for rebels in the Roman Empire, by hanging on a cross until dead, as an intimidating message to others. Today this would be called a judicial lynching.

An interesting footnote to this event can be found in Mark 15:39 where a Roman centurion who observed the crucifixion was heard to say "Truly this man was God's Son!" For Roman citizens, "Son of God" was a title belonging to the emperor, and it was highly subversive to call any rebel by that name.

Walter Wink has referred to this imperial system of Caesar, his client King Herod Antipas, and the high priests in Jerusalem, as a "domination order": a "society of unjust economic conditions, oppressive political relations, biased race relations, patriarchal gender relations, hierarchical power relations, and the use of violence to maintain them all." Doesn't it seem strange for people today to call Jesus' crucifixion by such an evil system as God's will, especially on behalf of our salvation?

The character of God was compassion and justice. In Walter Wink's words, "Where is God's reign? Wherever domination is overcome, people freed, the soul fed, God's reality is known. When is God's reign? Whenever people turn from the idols of power and wealth and fame to the governance of God in a society of equals. What is God's reign? It is the transformation of the Domination System into a nonviolent, humane, ecologically sustainable, livable environment fashioned to enable people to grow and grow well."

Is there an elephant in our nation's room today?

Text Only
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    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. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

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