Bombs and Good Friday
The earliest known use of "good Friday" is found in The South English Legendary, a text from 1290. Today is "good Friday," but an obligatory examination of the nomenclature of "good Friday" that remembers the execution of a homeless Jew 2000 years ago seems ridiculous given the events of this past week in which the United States bombed both Syria and Afganistan.
On the news this morning there was a montage of yesterday's bombing set to Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue." This is real life. And while this kind of arrangement packaged as "news" is horrific, we must be willing to ask ourselves, "What within us applauds the death of human beings?" Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, notes that "on good Friday the central issue at work is the human inclination to kill others." Do we delight in the death of some because we easily view ourselves as the "good guys" and others as the "bad guys?" On that Friday that Jesus was sentenced to death by a mob, was this also their thinking?
This past week, many in our society have endorsed these actions which perpetuate our society's glorification of killings which is, of course, anything but "good." On Tuesday, a U.S. airstrike in Syria killed 18 Syrian fighters that were U.S. allies. With 3,471 deaths, March was the deadliest month for civilians killed by American attacks ever recorded by Airwars, a group that tracks bombings. We should be disturbed by the near unilateral applause of this behavior by media members and politicians from across the spectrum.
Jesus was killed by the Empire of his day that kept the peace through executing anyone who postured a threat to the order. His death deeply characterized how his early followers understood themselves, namely that the threat of death-by-Empire was an ever-present reality. Paul wrote, "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus." For the early followers, Jesus' death was where they saw God, not in power and wealth but poverty and weakness. "For we have died and been buried with Christ," the same Christ who commands us to take up our crosses and follow him. God's death on the cross recognizes Empire's pattern and exposes it for the lie that it is: the world is dangerous and one's primary experience is inherently characterized by violence. Rather, God's message and the one Jesus taught announced that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and called it "good." On "good Friday" Jesus was willing to be executed by the Empire for this message and while hanging on the cross, says, “Father, forgive them."
Today, the radical invitation for Christians is take up our crosses and proclaim our weaknesses, our proclivity to trust Empire, and our participation in the pattern of violence. Today, may we carry the death of Jesus within us. May we experience the death of violence. And may we be filled only with the love and forgiveness found in Christ's suffering.