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Palm cross

March 31, 2015

I am attempting to partake in, sometimes actively, mostly passively, the important dates in the Christian calendar; specifically the Anglo Catholic church’s take on theology. The latest in the sobering, varied, uplifting, depressing and somewhat qquestionable events was Palm Sunday.

So, I am lead to believe that the man called Jesus, probably a prophet, definitely a piece of propaganda, undoubtedly allegorical, probably not the son of god, found himself going to Jerusalem where he would be proclaimed king of the Jews. He did this on the back of a donkey, accompanied by the citizens and denizens of the city waving palm fronds in a show of respect and appreciation. Fair enough – plenty of meat on which to plan a service rich in ritual, role play and somewhat troubling imagery.

So, due to the less than pleasant weather – drizzle and a nasty, spiteful wind, there was a precession around the church accompanied by a hymn. The hymn was a good one, certainly those who raised their crosses on high seemed to sing with a hearty enthusiasm. I was told that the point of the precession was to somehow mirror the journey Jesus took in biblical times. Cleverly and subtlely the congregation were being manipulated, their minds synchronising into a shared sense, a form of passive mass hysteria, as with incense and bell the spell was cast.

The service contained hymns and prayer, the choir’s voices soaring, melting, dancing in the church’s fragrant air. But it was with a severe sense of unease that I watched a strange role play unfold.

One man took the part of Jesus (his voice anyway) another took the part of Judas, another narrated, The choir played the part of the people and the congregation in one clamorous voice took on the role of the mob, baying for blood.

I found this aspect troubling, as in one service, children very much present, we were treated to suicide – Judas hanging himself, torture, degradation and execution as Jesus was stripped, crowned and crucified. Whilst I fully appreciate that these acts were only verbally not physically expressed, I do feel that it was unnecessary. After speaking to a Christian member of the congregation it was suggested that the point of the “reconstruction” was to remind the congregation that this could be us. That, given the right set of circumstances we too could wish an innocent man’s death. We are reminded of the oratory and rhetoric of Hitler, we are reminded that the animal lurks just beneath the skin, that at heart we, with all the trappings and privilege of modern life could also become feral, undignified and brute.

Although the cross is a symbol of suffering, a signifier of torture and pain, its shape akin to the sword or dagger, its form echoes deep within us, Christian or otherwise. It tells us that we must be vigilant, on our guard, for whether we like it or not, the spilling of innocent blood is just as satisfying as the spilling of guilty blood. The beast in our heart growls, modernity and evolution is cast aside – beneath our designer labels, our clever syntax lurks the need to survive; the unsavoury fact is that we would rather see an innocent die than risk our own lives be split apart, suffer social exclusion, fear our family coming to harm at the hands of the authorities.

Surely we are all Judases, all human, all capable of making decisions in the heat of stress and terror. Judas represents us all, the real man and woman without the power of faith to hold us up, without the unflinching belief that we are in the right to see us through.

Whether Jesus Christ existed or not is a moot point. Whether he was the son of god or not is largely irrelevant . What is the point is that we see ourselves in his plight. I am not Christian, I don’t believe Jesus was the son of God, I don’t believe in a Virgin birth. I think most of it is nonsense. But I do believe that children should not be exposed to a scary resurrection myth, complete with torture and execution, not to mention scourgeing and stabbing with a spear. If we must teach children about Jesus, let’s stick to the nice stuff, god knows life can be nasty enough without more blood and thunder.

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