J Walking

J Walking

Political temptations of Holy Week

It is Holy Week for Christians and there is a lot of chatter about politics. Nothing changes it seems; 2,000 years ago the story was about politics too.

This week it is about “the first primary” results for 2008 presidential race. This primary wasn’t about collective votes. It was about collective dollars. In order to be a legitimate presidential candidate next year, the conventional thinking goes, one has to raise buckets of dollars this year.

Sen. Clinton raised $26 million, Sen. Edwards brought in $14 million. Gov. Romney took in north of $20 million and Mayor Giuliani around $14 million. We haven’t heard from Sen. Obama yet but he’ll probably be fine. By the time all the dollars are counted nearly $125 million will have been raised to fund the campaigns – and this is just for the primaries that are a year away. Fund raising is just getting started.

A huge chunk of that money came from politically-inclined Christians on both sides of the political aisle. Their motives for giving are certainly good ones – America is facing grave problems overseas and serious problems at home as well. America need help. Politicians are promising answers. Christians want politicians to have the answers.

This is the same problem Jesus dealt with 2,000 years ago.

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for Passover, he did so with the broad expectation upon him that Israel’s Messiah had finally come. Despite his talk about suffering and dying and living again, his disciples still saw him as the conquering political and military leader who would deliver Israel from its oppression at the hands of the Romans (among others).

Jesus was the Messiah – but of a different sort. He was the Lamb of God; he was going to sacrifice himself for his people. He would conquer something greater than Rome. He was going to conquer death. And he did. In so doing, however, he disappointed many who wanted political conquest more than they wanted the spiritual conquest of death – man’s greatest enemy.

Why politics? Because then as now, politics is easy to understand. It has such clear lines. There are the “winners” and the “losers”. The promises are easy to understand too – “kicking out the Romans” and “preventing terrorism;” “easing taxation” and “easing taxation” and so on. Politics is easily fought – there are the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” It is an easy religion.

But Jesus’ call is so much more complicated, so much more demanding, so much more in need of self-reflection, so much harder. Jesus calls us to say no to ourselves and to our lusts for power. Jesus requires that we look at the world through a different lens – not a lens of power but a lens of self-denying service. Jesus extends to us a love so powerful we cannot fully grasp it. And Jesus says that the best way to change lives is to give ours for others.

This is not to say Christians have no role in politics. It is to say that in this Holy Week, it is time to make sure that priorities are straight. Historically one way to do that is through a fast; through a time of denial.

I’ve suggested that Christians take a temporary fast from politics – from giving money, from volunteering time, from obsessing about the political – and instead give that time, money, and energy to serving and helping the poor and those in need. It certainly isn’t as sexy as politics. But perhaps it is much more like what Jesus would have us do.

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posted April 2, 2007 at 8:48 pm

Holy Week for Catholics is filled with symbol and tradition. Many go to confession during the week – examine our hearts and minds and resolve to follow Christ more perfectly. Thursday night is the most beatiful of services as the priest washes the feet of those in the congregation, as Eucharist is celebrated and then very solemnly removed from the church and the tabernacle left open and empty. The churches on Friday are empty of the Eucharist – no mass is celebrated, but the words are spoken and we look at the cross and remember its whole meaning. On Saturday, we gather outside and the church is empty and dark. We read all of the great stories of salvation history, the lights come on, the Gloria is sung, bells are rung. It is the night when many are baptized, confirmed and receive first communion. It is the Super Bowl of liturgies and in all of it – the poverty of our humanity and the glorious resurrection of Christ is present in symbol and word. Holy Week is to be experienced in all its richness. Even if you are not Catholic, you might think about attending the Triduum (Thursday, Friday and Saturday Vigil). It is a way to feel and touch and sing Holy Week. I have many clergy friends who are Protestant and attend this Triduum to prepare for Easter. There is no room for politics and incivility in the midst of such beauty. Just our common humanity in the light of Jesus.

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posted April 2, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Thinker, Thank you so much for this explanation of what happens in holy week. I am a protestant associate pastor of contemporary church and this year we ventured into the world of Stations of the Cross. we created a version of it for our people to experience throughout the week in our sanctuary. It is bringing some of the richness of the Church and its traditions to our overly busy lives. I will have to look into attending a Triduum in the area. Thanks again.

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posted April 3, 2007 at 12:00 am

The Jesus you’re talking about got his hands dirty (in a good way).That just doesn’t translate in today’s rose colored glass society. Jesus will always be marketed with unrealistic expectations in this money oriented society. You’ve got to have a little more of an edge than that David Kuo. Seems to me you’ve still got to abandon those naive tendencies. Those tendencies that got you sucked in to all of this hype in the first place. Just calling it like I see it.

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posted April 3, 2007 at 4:28 am

Let’s see here . . . The republicans, we are told, only care about the richest in society. Democrats say that all the time. Hmmmmm, Hilary 24-illion dollars, Edwards 14-million dollars, Obama has Hollywood fawning over him yada, yada, yada . . . so lets double his amounts. And the poor????? How much money will they see of the 40-million from Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Edwards? Obama is the new Jesus so he just multiply that and we’ll all be fine. Yet, in America’s poorest cities, that vote exclusively Democrat, crime is rampant, bastard children and their Baby-Momma/Baby Daddy are now a cultural icons, Pimps, B-tches and Ho’s are role models . . . . . . and the funds for Democrat hopefuls keep pooring in. Now, how are the GOP guys the bad ones for Christians to help out? Didn’t Guiliani “clean up” New York City? Isn’t our current Republican President NOT HOSTILE to faith-based groups, like the Liberal-Democrat’s are?Doesn’t the GOP believe that marriage IS a man and a woman, at great political cost? Now wait a minute . . . 50, 60, million dollars for Democrats “SO FAR?” Abortion for convenience, taxing the family into poverty, Marxist socialism, Hate Crimes Legisaltion aimed at outlawing Christians, gay-marriage, DONATIONS OF 40-MILLION DOLLARS SO FAR!!!And a Christian is supposed to sit out politics why???? How???? David, you’re neck deep in politics. You have never taken a break, even as you demand it of Christians. Look up hypocrisy.

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Born on the Fourth of July

posted April 3, 2007 at 5:33 am

This website is a bust, isn’t it? “Tempting Faith” was timely but, I’m sorry, people don’t contribute anymore on here and the constant mixture of Jesus, progressive thought and Conservatism is getting creepier and creepier by the day. Very disheartening.

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Chuck Blanchard

posted April 3, 2007 at 10:27 pm

I am a Christian, am very active politiically, and a somewhat liberal Democrat. I think there is nothing wrong, and everything right, about putting ones faith into action. The challenge is this, however: sometimes we can forget that salvation is through Jesus Christ, and not through politics. I find guidance in the works of Reinhold Niebuhr, a 20th Century American theologican, who said Christain should strive hard through political and social efforts to improve the word, remembering always that these efforts can never save the world–only Chrsit can save a broken world.

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posted April 4, 2007 at 9:14 am

Christ in us all, Chuck

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posted April 5, 2007 at 4:32 pm

Keep studying Chuck. Since you’re right about salvation in Christ, you may well be heading in the right direction. You can always repent of your Democrat Liberal behaviors and actions.

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Chuck Blanchard

posted April 5, 2007 at 6:38 pm

Donny: Thanks for putting a smile on my face. Have a blessed Holy Week.

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