Archive for April, 2011
Easter is one of those times when Christians everywhere pause and ponder the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. I consider myself included among them, but when studying last week, I was struck by how different some passages in Luke seemed to me now as opposed to how they had been in the past.
We’ve been doing an interesting study, and the focus last week was on the two instances in the Bible where Jesus cried. The second was the one I found striking. It was during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Luke’s is the only gospel that recounts his crying, and yet I find the description compelling.
37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying:
“‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’[a]
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
40But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Luke 19:37-44, NKJV
I am moved by the idea of being recognized and not recognized at the same time, and understanding that it was entirely due to the expectations of the people who were celebrating his arrival in Jerusalem. Reading of the cries of “Hosanna!” and knowing that they were asking him to deliver them not from sin that they could never atone for, but from conquerors who had overpowered the Maccabees who ruled a generation earlier under the palms like the ones the crowds now waived, I cannot even imagine the weight that Christ must have felt, knowing that because the people of Jerusalem were so fixated on physical deliverance that they failed to understand that he offered them something so much greater. He came to free their souls, and all they could see was their political bondage.
And the greatest tragedy is that people still are confused, and still look for physical deliverance, rather than seeking sustenance for their spirit. Only now, they frequently try to fill that emptiness within with everything but what will fill that emptiness.
I feel sorry for this woman. Not because she placed her hopes on a man promising it with no intention of ever delivering, but because the fact she believed it in the first place leads me to believe that she will never understand. Not that I can blame her. The indoctrination that is public education fails so many, who can look around them at all the evidence necessary to show that government is not the answer, and yet still cling to the belief that government will be their deliverer that will save them from their cares and their woes.
It is a perception not aided in the slightest by moments like this, either:
No, I am NOT comparing Obama to Christ. The only comparison to be made is that they both walked the earth as men.
What I would argue is that so many people have projected their desires for deliverance from the physical on to him, that it has allowed him to assume a divinity as he preaches a doctrine that says “I know your life isn’t fair, but if we make government bigger, and allow it to do more, if we change from a system of negative liberties that limit what government can do, then we can deliver you from your cares and your troubles. Charity is too important to be left to the individual; government must become an active participant to make sure that the needy are taken care of. And some people must sacrifice more than others to this method of distribution, because fairness can only be achieved through equality of result.”
America has real problems. Among them is an empty spirit that too many keep trying to feed with a trust in man alone (We will put science in its rightful place), and that we will find the answer that satisfies, but it will require us to try something different, which is actually still the same (We are the ones we have been waiting for)… in short, we are no better off than Jerusalem on that day. We seek to remedy the problems of our world through collective action, and by compulsion,when the real answers, the ones that will bring peace depend neither on the good will and compulsion of others to make our individual lives better. And too many are willing to treat those who promise it as if they are something they aren’t.
It was a great gift that was freely given to us. The fact that too many of us can’t even grasp the concept, let alone accept it, says something unsavory about us. The fact some among us conflate this gift with salvation of the body is insulting. We can’t stop this belief, but we can address the ignorance that drives it…and let the truth tend to itself.
Just something to consider this Good Friday.
Last night, I finally watched a movie that I have been anticipating for a while. And I’m still trying to process it.
I wanted to like this movie. I really did. I thought that a film about a decorated Royal Marine in retirement who gets fed up with the crime and filth plaguing his home would be impressive. Kind of like the juggernaut of violence that he played in 1971’s ode to violence, Get Carter. But that wasn’t what I got.
The movie started slow. We get a crawling introduction to Harry, now an old age pensioner living in ugly housing blocks. He is struggling with the fact that his wife is institutionalized, suffering from a nameless malady…dementia, Altzhiemers…take your pick. The parts of the days not spent in silence at her bedside, watching her stare off into space, are spent playing chess with an old friend, Leonard, at the local pub.
Leonard cannot conceal his contempt with crime and decay that surrounds him. He points out the openly conducted drug trade to his friend Harry, over a game of chess, horrifying Harry, because it might call attention to them. Leonard’s anger grows as the local gangs do what they can to terrorize him. Leonard cannot understand why Harry, a decorated veteran of the Northern Ireland campaigns, does nothing to even express dismay at what goes on around them. When pressed, Harry explained that when he met his wife, he knew he could never again be the man that he had been.
Two tragedies, one on the heels of the other, shatter Harry’s world, and after getting bad news from the Police, Harry surveils the predators living among his neighborhood. And then gets to work.
As the story unfolds, you get glimmers of the man that the mild-mannered Harry has suppressed, perhaps for decades. An interrogation scene offers a glimpse of the cold-blooded brutality that was necessary to be the Queen’s Man in Belfast and come home alive. But this hardness is still restrained, kept in check. While his age and ailments prevent him from unrolling the blanket of revenge all in one night, Harry does, inevitably, prevail. And by a quirk of fate, a major police raid, and an incredulous constabulary, Harry is not pursued by the law for his extermination of the trash poisoning his neighborhood.
One of the few moments in the film that worked for me was when he was confronted about the violence going on around him, and how he must be used to it from his time in Northern Ireland. Harry’s response was the same as the one in my head, namely, that at least those people were fighting for something, whereas the youths in his neighborhood did it for entertainment.
I wanted to like this movie. I really did. But the presentation was unnecessarily slow, even for a British production, and I found it impossible to believe that a man who had witnessed and participated in the horrors that he did would be able to lock that all away for the love of a woman alone. The payoffs, when they came, had no emotion, no slaking of vengeance. It was justice, and more than many of them deserved, but it was too restrained. Ultimately, Harry’s violence was no more than what was required to balance the accounts, but ultimately it left me cold.
As I thought about it over breakfast, it occurred to me that this was the British version of Gran Torino. But where Gran Torino’s main character sacrifices himself to give his neighbor and friend a chance to find his own life without living under the heel of the crime and decay that surrounds him, Harry’s act was revenge that gave his community some breathing room and a chance to come outside during the day. The cultural differences between we and our cousins remain well-defined.