A Disturbed Perspective

[I’ll move on to humor, the third pillar, in a few days. Today calls for perspective and humility. With heavily armed people patrolling the streets, peaceful protesters willing to risk gathering in large groups in this time of Covid-19, and opportunists taking advantage of it all to rob and destroy, it’s time for a wider, Biblical perspective. ]

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” John 11:49-53, NRSV

Taking a wider view, a longer look, can be a very good thing. It helps us put the troubles of today into a larger context, and it can move us from knee-jerk reacting to measured response. But that’s only if we are willing to see our own shortcomings in the process. Otherwise, taking a wider view is really just seeking wider justification for whatever it is we want to do.

Caiaphas is a good example. He spoke the truth: The love Jesus gave to the world, and the death he received in return, had powerful, holy consequences. But Caiaphas wasn’t really looking at that: he was a practical man, doing his best to maintain some freedom of worship during Roman occupation. Killing Jesus would keep the peace, and keep his world in its current state. The point wasn’t spiritual growth or sacrificial love for the world. He was willing to kill to maintain what he had.

I’m not comparing anyone today to Jesus. But in the willingness of this country to deny or try to explain away the toxic and deadly presence of racism in order to keep things as they are, I see the face of Caiaphas. The question isn’t whether the death of someone can bring about a better world – or it shouldn’t be. The question is whether it’s at someone else’s expense, or my own willing sacrifice. The means do not justify the ends.

There are so many words on this in our holy scriptures, and so many people who have done their best to point out this truth. They even have a special name: prophets. May we listen to them with open hearts and minds – and be willing to speak and act accordingly.

Disturbed, The Sound of Silence, Immortalized, 2015, Reprise Records (original version, Simon and Garfunkel)

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

6 thoughts on “A Disturbed Perspective”

  1. Wow! This version of The Sound of Silence is very powerful and profoundly sung by the vocal artist! The words speak, with his projective voice, about what’s happening in our lives these days! It makes me cry for George Floyd and many others who perished needlessly. Being silent is good and necessary for praying, but speaking out and taking action on behalf of those who can no longer, but would want to if they were here with us today, is even more necessary if we don’t things to stay the same. I believe most of us wish to strive with our words and actions to make the “new” change for Peace, Love, Hope and Unity for all. Thanks be to God.

    1. Thanks, Robin. If we all seek peace – and Bill has been kind enough to point out the “peacemaking” isn’t the same as peaceful! – we will leave the world a better place.

      1. Yes! Peacemaking requires ongoing and steadfast action and communication (in a calm and peaceful way) with a positive impact to strive for change. Blessed are the peacemakers!

  2. Well said, Robin AND Johnna. I grew up in the segregated south and much to my Dad’s dismay was something of a civil rights activist. Nonetheless there is still much unlearning many of us must do. Prophets were generally not very effective at effecting change–they were right but rarely successful (Jonah was probably the most effective and he didn’t even want to save Nineveh!) And we mustn’t forget that hatred on either side breeds hatred on the other–entrenchment even.. I’m more of the MLK, Jr. school. Back in those days our daily devotional guide was “The Upper Room” and I well remember a quote from Edward Markham’s “Outwitted” printed on the back for several quarters of the publication: “”He drew a circle that shut me out–Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win. We drew a circle that took him in.” There is a lot of good going on “out there”, many inter-racial adoptions, people helping others particularly because they are not of kith and kin but we don’t see this. From where I sit we are a world ahead of what it was like when I was growing up–and yes we always can do better which is blatantly obvious in the current state of things. We need that thing that Johnna has been writing about lately–a little “perspective”.

    1. Thanks, Bill. In our imperfect world, we do the best we can to love and include those we know and love – and in the name of Christ, also those we don’t know or don’t love. Peace, Johnna

  3. AMEN, my sister! And ain’t it grand that it’s all not up to us? Sometime back at C&C we talked about “getting what we deserve” and decided it was a really good thing that we don’t.

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