Sunday, May 25, 2008

What about Jeremiah?

We are at the beach with Rachael and HYM (Her Young Man). He is the kind of high school senior you hope your daughter brings home. He is Jewish and his faith and practice is central to his life and is as much a source of orientation and wonder to him as mine is to me.

We talk.

He took a pamphlet from an evangelical crew that had its pitch set up near the shore and later in the evening he asked me what I thought about the language "...His people rejected Him..."

I understood immediately what he was getting at. I said, though, that I didn't think that was an instruction to Christian antiSemetism. It was, I said, the archetype of the hero betrayed by his own, about the establishment throwing off internal threats to itself. It's what has happened everywhere to prophets, throughout history. It wasn't, I said, what charged people up for the pogroms.

This morning, though, I'm not so sure. I still believe that I am right in what was intended by that language--there is such language throughout the New Testament. The example that comes to me most readily is that about a prophet having no honor in his own country. It does not say that a prophet has no honor among the Jews and, although he had no "honor" in that location where it is written he uttered those words, he had plenty among other parts of the Jewish people.

The difference between last night and this morning, though, is that I am not so sure that this kind of language--notwithstanding what I think it meant when it was used--hasn't been read exactly as HYM thought, to create a case for discrimination based on the idea that the Jews killed Jesus.

Of course, Christians kill Jesus every day or rather, we kill Christ. How many times has the Easter story played itself out in my life when, on one dark "Friday" or another, I decided to stifle the voice trying to lead me away from this or that temptation and locked it in the tomb of my heart? Each time, of course, within three days (or less), out it came, again, seeking me and, with or without my humble nod in its direction, picked up right where it left off with me (OK, maybe a couple of steps back from where it left off with me).

The very statement "The Jews killed Jesus" kills Christ.

I don't know what happened all those years ago. The record is at best unclear and not free from various agendas. I don't trust the direction I can parse out of Book or hear from those who argue from it (I admire the law but am fearful of the excesses to which the mentality of those of us who do are prone), as much as I do the Spirit that gave rise to it. That Spirit, readily available to me, rarely occupies me with judgments long ago that have nothing to do with anything I did (although sometimes, if I lock it in the tomb...).

But whoever did the killing, it wasn't everyone around at the time called a Jew and it certainly wasn't anyone around now called anything. And the story is that he had to die, if one is centered in the propositional beliefs of the Christian ideology.

This is not a message for HYM, of course, it's a message for me. It reduces itself to something basic to Christianity, to all spirituality.

In Christ there is no Greek or Jew, no man or woman.

"There's a Light that shining in the Turk and the Jew,
There's a Light that shining, Friend, in me and in you."

We are not, as I am led to understand, supposed to be doing groups. So why does it matter the group from which killers come? If Islam is the enemy then so is Christianity. The killer is in all of us--as individual souls--and seems to come out most valiantly and most hideously when it seeks to kill killers, to be sarcastic with the sarcastic, to lie about liars.

"But you can't kill the devil with a gun or a sword."

But here is this blessing of a wonderful young man who, from the perspective of the other end of the stick, can see things in familiar words that I never saw, notwithstanding all the times I have read them. I am anxious for him to wake up so we can talk about this, some more, at breakfast; so I can tell him that this morning I appreciate as well as I understood last night what he was trying to tell me.

Who killed Jeremiah? Does it matter?

Who's doing the killing right now? How are they doing it? How am I involved?

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