November 22, 2017

Easter II: Lee Camp on “The Politics of Easter”

Spring Flower small

I saw this referenced and quoted over at Jesus Creed, and it is too good to not repeat.

The following is from an article at the Huffington Post called, “The Politics of Easter,” by Lee C. Camp, professor of theology at Lipscomb University.

Christianity is often misunderstood, and often misunderstood by the “believers.”

Easter is a political fact: that the merciful governance of a power beyond our understanding has been inaugurated in human history. Easter is not a mere “religious doctrine” to which Christianity calls potential adherents to give their intellectual assent, so that they might receive some reward in the after-life.

But if Easter is to be rightly recognized as a political fact, it must always be kept in tandem with Good Friday: what Easter vindicates is not the self-righteous claims of any particular group of people who see themselves as the good guys. Instead, Easter vindicates suffering love.

Note that Easter is not the triumph of suffering love. The triumph of suffering love is demonstrated on Good Friday.

When the powers-that-be would trump the truth with their big sticks and walls and torture, and yet the threatened one chooses, still, to bear witness to the truth: this itself is a victory. When the powers-that-be mock the one who protests the conceit of the powers, or when the powers-that-be spur the crowds to violence: in the midst of such fear-mongering, where is one who will stand undeterred, who will exhibit courage, who will not return hatred for hatred? Where is the one who will embody the meaning of being a true human?

Good Friday exhibits the true human, victorious in suffering, undeterred by the arrogance of the powers.

But he was a loser; he was torturedkilled; and if he had had a wife and kids, they might have been tortured and killed too.

Yes, but, the true human’s apparent defeat is in fact a triumph. How else could the fundamental truth of this claim — that suffering love is the grain of the universe — how else could this public, political claim be tested, except in such a public, political ordeal?

And the true human’s apparent defeat is, in fact, a triumph in this way too: in showing the arrogance and the ultimate emptiness of the powerful for what it is. It was a representative of the super-power who stood by on that Good Friday who realized, watching the torture and killing of the true human, what the empire had just done. “These are not good people, kill ‘em, shut them up” — this is the glib way the super-power killed the true human. But at least some, through the ordeal of that Good Friday, saw the conceited, bombastic display of power for what it was.

To be willing to suffer well is itself, then, the triumph of suffering love.

What then, of Easter, the politics of Easter? Easter is the vindication of suffering love. Easter: a non-repeatable, public, political claim that the true human shall not be kept in the grave. To cultured despisers of religion and any notion of “revealed truth,” it seems laughable.

But if it is true — that the way of suffering love has been vindicated, has been shown to be the way in which the universe ultimately works — then it is a question with which we must all deal, religious or not. To argue with Easter is like arguing with gravity: it does not matter whether one “believes” it or not; it is simply a matter of whether we will continue to wound and harm and destroy ourselves by refusing to respect its reality.

That the way of love, even when tortured and killed, shall not be kept dead: if this be true, then such a claim would re-order not merely one’s private life, but the whole of life, and the whole of history, and the whole of politics.

Comments

  1. Easter, then, is civil disobedience. Pilate sentenced Jesus to death. On Easter, he disobeyed the civil magistrate.

  2. Christiane says:

    ” . . . the way of love, even when tortured and killed, shall not be kept dead” (Lee Camp)

    ” . . . For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the Earth:
    And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
    Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another . . . ” (Job 19 KJV)

    • And death shall have no dominion.
      Dead man naked they shall be one
      With the man in the wind and the west moon;
      When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
      They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
      Though they go mad they shall be sane,
      Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
      Though lovers be lost love shall not;
      And death shall have no dominion.

      —Dylan Thomas

  3. That’s very well said.

    • Ronald Avra says:

      Yes, it is very well said. And because things are frequently well said on this blog, I’m generally restrained from commenting. I find that there is little that I can add that would other than fill the page with redundant words.

  4. Damaris says:

    I like it! And it was in the Huffington Post, too. Good for them.

  5. In the book of Acts, virtually all the earliest sermons about the significance of Easter, such as Peter’s Pentecost sermon that resulted in thousands of instant converts, had the same points to explain its significance:
    1. God thinks highly of Jesus
    2. You did not
    3. God has raised and exalted Him

    (Acts 2:22-25, Acts 2:36, Acts 3:13-26, Acts 4:10, Acts 7:52)

    “’Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’”

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    …if this be true, then such a claim would re-order not merely one’s private life, but the whole of life, and the whole of history, and the whole of politics.

    But the whole of history and the whole of politics reacted to contain this infection.
    In the words of the prophet Robert Zimmerman:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4EkQfXtheg

  7. To be willing to suffer well is itself, then, the triumph of suffering love.

    I recognize that this is not about merely gleaning a nice little morality or paying lip service to a theology of the cross that I can give two thumbs up to and go on my merry way. It is about Christ and the very heart of the Gospel.

    But honestly, a little critical self-examination reveals that I spend virtually all of my time and energy trying to avoid suffering of one kind or another.

  8. A couple of quibbles over poor choice of wording about Easter that are serious in that the piece is presented in a public, not specifically Christian, venue. I believe that in fact “the merciful governance of a power beyond our understanding has been inaugurated in human history.” Jesus in fact is recorded as saying that all power in heaven and on earth had been given to him. I believe this in fact happened, but that does not make my belief a political fact in the eyes of a skeptical world steeped in modern scientific thinking. To call it a political fact in your denominational magazine is one thing, to equate it with political science publicly quite another if your goal is to educate and convince. It is a fact that most Christians believe all power was given to Jesus and that this is stated in the Bible. That does not prove it or make it a fact on the same order as a list of United States presidents along with their party affiliation, not in the eyes on non-Christians. This is shifty, weasel, lawyer rhetoric in the eyes of the world.

    His choice of wording in explaining what he means is even worse. He claims that Easter “vindicates suffering love” and that the “triumph of suffering love is demonstrated on Good Friday.” My red flag is about to be torn to shreds here. It is true that Jesus suffered mightily on what we strangely call Good Friday. The point is not the suffering, the point is that it was a result of the ultimate in self-sacrifice. We may in fact be called to suffer, perhaps mightily. Jesus told us to be ready for tribulation. That doesn’t mean suffering is a good we should pursue. That sounds like something a power hungry pastor tells the bruised and abused wife. If suffering is the point, maybe the Aztec religion has a better handle on this, and there are supposedly Satanic religions today which purposely inflict great suffering so as to feed off the pain.

    I don’t care if you are Richard Rohr, anyone promoting suffering as a goal to be sought for spiritual advancement is going to find me on the picket line outside their door. It is quite true that following Jesus calls us to sacrifice our self as an expression of love, in contemporary terms our ego, and that this is often quite painful. It is one thing to think of this as like the ancient sacrifice of a lamb on an altar, quite another to think of it as torturing the lamb to death in order to get the most benefit.

    I believe most non-Christians can understand the concept of self-sacrificial love as advancing the human condition, whether or not they choose to follow it, but I would guess many of those same people might rightly regard the concept of suffering as a good in itself as masochistic and sick. This poor choice of wording is likely a holdover from a church history we are still trying to extricate out of. There are indeed many people in the world today enduring great suffering. Please, can we as Christians stop telling them how lucky they are?

    • Robert F says:

      Agreed, Charles. It is Jesus’ self-giving, suffering love that is victorious and salvific, not yours or mine or the other guy’s (or gal’s). It’s important to be careful in the way that the language advocating suffering and self-sacrificial love is deployed. Too often in the past, and today, it has been, and is, used by those with more power against those with less power, to justify the continuation of patterns of psychological and social understanding and behavior that keeps some people dominant, and others subordinated and vulnerable. There are many situations that it is plainly wrong, destructive and debilitating, to speak that language of voluntary, suffering love into; the situation of an abused wife or child are among the most obvious, though by no means the only ones.