Saturday, March 28, 2015

What Was the Motive for the Crucifixion of Christ?

 “What was the Motive?” the news media asked when three Muslim university youth were shot in the head “over a parking space.” Was it a hate crime?  In the intervening weeks, we’ve heard that question dozens of times. “What was the motive?” when someone “in a quiet neighborhood” (would a noisy one be different?) killed his wife and them himself? “What was the motive?” when a loyal employee of 35 years betrayed her firm by embezzling thousands of dollars.  How do we make sense of “senseless” crimes such as a mom picking up her armed son to chase a young man with road rage who in turn shot her?

As Christians enter Holy Week, what was the motive for the arrest and crucifixion of Christ? The events from Palm Sunday to Good Friday happened quickly. Was it about Jesus being a threat to the empire? (At Jesus’  birth King Herod killed all the children around Bethlehem.) Was it jealousy of the Jewish leadership? Was it because Jesus associated with the marginalized and healed the outcast?

Or perhaps a single, clear motive is not the question. Maybe it never is. Sin can be subtle as well as blatant. Even the disciples denied and betrayed their friend.

A specific motive may be the tip of the iceberg.  Beneath lay jealousy, threats, greed, fear, abuse, racism, classism, unjust systems which exclude and keep many people powerless.

Christ died for the sins of the world. Christ dies not just for my own personal specific sins, but for the entire entwined sins of rage, hate, suspicion, oppression of individuals and groups that build up and lead to the cross.  This understanding of the nature of the human problem takes the focus away from “God’s plan to save me by killing his son.”  That making sense of things can lead to my getting a gun to take revenge on people I label as “bad.” We do not have a revengeful God.  We have a loving God who in the midst of the mess of humankind bore all the sin of the world.

Let’s not jump too quickly from Palm Sunday to Easter missing Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. See Jesus in the Garden. Do you know betrayal?  Do you feel the world’s suffering? Be with him on Good Friday. Then when Easter comes, the open tomb is really a surprise.  What’s the motive for that?  Only God’s.  The surprise that in Christ’s resurrection life conquers death.

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Mother Used to Say, "Don't Make People Wait."

My mother used to say to me when I was a little girl, “Don’t make people wait.” Now that was a long time ago, and perhaps not always the right advice, but it has stuck in my head.

Sometimes it’s strategically wise to wait for the right moment. Sometimes keeping people waiting for you not only inconveniences them, but causes them to miss opportunities of their own. You probably know where I’m going with this.

“It’s time for Hillary to declare herself a candidate,” we hear. “She would have had people in place to publicly handle this email problem.” Or, on the other hand, “Not having to go through being torn apart in a primary saves her political strength for the battle with the Republican candidate.”

So, what do you think about Hillary? As a man? As a woman? We know a lot about her. Too much? She won’t be ignored. But she brings all that baggage. Each week new baggage, such as complications with contributions to the Clinton Foundation from foreign entities.

But, you see, there is always something wrong with a woman. That’s what I tell the women I teach who are preparing for public ministry. “You will be too young or too old; too tall or too short; too married, or too not married; too out-spoken or too soft-spoken; too fat or too thin, too . . .” Well, you have the idea. One woman, when interviewing for a position a few years back was told she didn’t receive it because she was “too happy.”

Women have been ignored for centuries, a classic way to pretend they had nothing to contribute.  (The saying that a woman who puts forth a good idea in the board room will have it ignored until a man puts forth the same idea is true, of course, again, and again, and again.) Or women are ignored as a way to pretend they do not exist. So, we need a candidate for president who is known.

We also cannot seem to deal with too many women in positions of leadership. That frightens people. Any “minority” group rising to majority status threatens those in power whether by  gender, race, economic class, or anything else. Women not actually being a minority makes things even worse.  “How many more of you are there out there?” I was asked when I became the first women professor in a tenure tract position in a seminary of my church body. “Quite a few,” I answered. (Or did I say, “A lot”? Probably not—I wanted the position!)

But back to Hillary. She is known. She is smart. She has tens of thousands of followers. She is a global figure. She is experienced, and not just as “the wife” of. . .  She has earned the right to become a presidential candidate. She is an amazingly hard-worker.  She is committed to helping people and her country.
And she will be vilified. For all sorts of reasons, including contradictory ones.  “She should not have stayed with Bill.” “She should have stayed with Bill.” Speaking of Bill, he has made major global contributions since he left office. Speaking of Bill, he could trip Hillary up in a well-meaning effort to be helping her.

Back to waiting.  There’s a strange thing about being the “first woman to. . .” Just because there has never been a woman in a particular occupation or situation, people seem to assume no woman but one is prepared for that opportunity. It’s all in the timing. Hillary knows that. And she also knows that she stands among millions of women worldwide with gifts to serve in their countries and communities.  Hillary has and will open doors for many women, speaking out for women and children and all who are oppressed.

She is more than qualified.  The time is now in the minds of many women and men. And yet for many others the time will never be right. “Can’t you wait a few more years?” I was told (not asked) when seeking ordination to pastoral ministry after having waited 17 years for my church body to be ready.

Too young.  Too old. Have you noticed that when a woman is finally deemed experienced enough to be qualified for a public position, or is old enough to have accomplished things in life, her first name becomes “Grandmother”?  Grandmother leads corporation. Grandmother chases away bank robber. Grandmother speaks out against. . . The first name of a leading male politician or male anything is not “Grandfather.” This is simply another way to diminish a woman and to put her back in her “domestic arena.”

Hillary is here in the public arena. Hillary is authentic. The time is now. No more waiting!