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Today – April 12, 2020 – is Easter Sunday. That is, the …
… festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary [circa] 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.
And incidentally, the painting (icon) at the top of the page shows Jesus as “having kicked down the gates of Hades.” It also shows “Satan, depicted as an old man … bound and chained.” See On Easter Season – AND BEYOND, and Frohliche Ostern – “Happy Easter!”
Which could lead to one of this morning’s Daily Office Readings, Exodus 12:1-14. Specifically, Exodus 12:13, “I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you.” Which could be a reassuring Easter promise, in this time of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.
For more on more traditional views of Easter, check the two post-links cited above. But clearly this Easter is different, mostly because of the current coronavirus pandemic.
Which leads to this: Back on March 12 – what seems so long ago, and in light of the pandemic just then making headlines – I checked out two books from the local library. (Not realizing the libraries around here and the country would be closed, “for the duration.” And that I wouldn’t be able to return them for that “duration.”) One book was The Plague, by by Albert Camus.
The other book was What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills. I figured it might cheer me up. And it did, but initially I was most struck by this passage:
Christian leaders have often rebuked the rebelliousness of young people by offering them a pastel picture of the young Jesus as a model of compliance and good behavior. They make this mystifying child an examplar of “family values” in the most restrictive and conformist sense. But there are many indications that Jesus was more like those restive and resisting children who have all the idealism and absolutism of youth – young people who chafe against the boundaries of the past and who are panting to explore new horizons…
Which is pretty much one main theme of this blog. That the Bible was not meant to stuff you into some cubby hole, or make you just another a “carbon-copy Christian.”
Instead the Bible – and especially the message of Jesus (see John 14:12 and Luke 24:45, above) – was meant to help people break through the boundaries of the past and “explore new horizons.” Unfortunately – and as Garry Wills noted near the end of his book – many who “call on His name return often to the forms of religion He renounced.” Which brings up an opposing view to his, What Garry Wills Thinks Jesus Meant | Bible Thumping, which said this:
[A]ccording to Wills’ social justice Jesus, if we don’t love everyone, help the poor, and affirm homosexuals, then we will not be saved. But it gets worse… Matthew 25:35-40 does not command Christians to help the poor; it commands Christians to help other Christians – brothers – when they are in need, especially during persecution.”
Which I assume means that in the current coronavirus pandemic, the writer would help only “other Christians,” but not all Christians. Only those who agree with his Wingnut version of Christianity. (And incidentally, a “wingnut” is a person with “extreme, and often irrational, political views, primarily those considered to be right wing.” Which sounds about right.)
At the very least, “Wingnut” interprets the Bible in a “most restrictive and conformist sense.”
And that sounds a bit like one headline I read this morning, Trump Reportedly Weighed Letting COVID-19 ‘Wash Over’ U.S. Note the difference – and maybe the similarities – in “wash over” and “pass over.” And how in this case, the latter would be preferable to the former. As in, “Would you rather the Coronavirus ‘wash over’ America, killing millions in the process, or have this latest plague pass over our house and not strike us down. (Or compare this “wash over America” idea with the Conservative Christian health-care plan, which seems to be, “Let ’em die!”)
And by the way, it’s not helping the poor or “affirming homosexuals” that saves you. It’s believing in and following Romans 10:9, “If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved.” See Do this – “and you WILL be saved!” (Dumbass…)
But seriously, the “wingnut” view is a cross all us real Christians have to bear. And the only thing we can do – to try and “fight the good fight” – is not to refer to such wingnuts as “dumbasses,” tempting as that may be. Instead it’s getting out the real Christianity, the one that follows the Great Commission of Jesus, to wit: Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (See also 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think… God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.”)
Or as I’ve said before, “If Jesus was a conservative” – like Wingnut – “how come we’re not all Jewish?” (See “For many are called, but few are chosen.”) But we’re digressing here…
The Good News is that it is Easter, which means we celebrate Jesus – the Risen Messiah – rising from the grave “in a blaze of glory[,] holding the white banner of victory over death.” (Which is – after all – “what Easter Sunday is really all about.” Not Easter bunnies or Easter eggs…)
Which means in part that – as applied to even this latest and most devastating “plague-slash-pestilence” – it can be said, “This Too Shall Pass.” Which among other things means some day – maybe some day soon – we won’t have go around wearing those dorky-looking masks…
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The upper image is courtesy of Easter – Wikipedia. The full caption: “Icon of the Resurrection, with Christ having kicked down the gates of Hades and pulling Adam and Eve out of the tombs. Christ is flanked by saints, and Satan, depicted as an old man, is bound and chained.” Used here, an icon is “a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Roman Catholic, and certain Eastern Catholic churches. They are not simply artworks but ‘an icon is a sacred image used in religious devotion.'”
Other Daily Office readings for this Easter: “AM Psalm148, 149, 150; PM Psalm 113, 114, or118[,] Exod. 12:1-14 [AM]; Isa. 51:9-11[PM]; ; John 1:1-18 [AM]; Luke 24:13-35 [PM], orJohn 20:19-23 [PM].”
Re: The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic. See the specific Wikipedia article, and Coronavirus – Wikipedia: “The name ‘coronavirus’ is derived from Latin corona, meaning ‘crown’ or ‘wreath,’ itself a borrowing from Greek [for garland or wreath]. The name refers to the characteristic appearance of virions (the infective form of the virus) by electron microscopy, which have a fringe of large, bulbous surface projections creating an image reminiscent of a crown or of a solar corona.”
Re: “What Jesus Meant.” The “Christian leaders rebuked young people“ quote is from the 2006 Viking-Penguin hardback edition, at pages 7-8. The “near the end of the book” quotes are at pages 137-142. Also, Wills’ original had “his,” referring to Jesus, in the lower case. I capitalized “His name” and “He renounced.” (In an abundance of caution.) On another note, Wills commented – on page 20 – on the accusation that Jesus was “a drunkard and a glutton,” at Luke 7:34. Wills wrote, “For Jesus to be called a drunkard and a glutton was not a light criticism.” In fact, such was a serious violation of Levitical law. See Deuteronomy 21:18-21:
If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you.
Re: “This Too Shall Pass.” See e.g., Is the Phrase, “This Too Shall Pass” in the Bible? The answer? Apparently not, or at least not directly. The link-article noted, “In Deuteronomy 28, the phrase, ‘It shall come to pass’ is repeated twice.” I.e., in Deuteronomy 28:1 and Deuteronomy 28:15. The article noted a number of other passages with similar thoughts.
The lower image is courtesy of Plague Doctors Beaked Mask – Image Results. For more on the “beaked mask” get-up, see the notes to On Moses, Illeism – and “10 Plagues.”