Barry Crimmins

words to live near



Easter Sermon Monday, July 19, 2004

A Holiday Sermon From a Born-Again Optimist

by Barry Crimmins


As I write this, it's Easter morning so according to Christian doctrine, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is risen. His message may have at times become obscured and been co-opted over the several centuries since he walked the Earth but His teachings remain essential to millions of good and faithful people.

Legend has it that JC cast the only stone of his career out of the mouth of a cave on the first Easter morn. He did this so that he could go see people who believed Him to be gone for good. He wanted to teach them the meaning of the word "redemption" and how faith was essential to it. To consider Jesus on Easter 2003, one can't help but ponder the mystery of many of His followers, particularly the American variety. On this sacred morning, a lot of American Christians seem to be worshipping a new son -- not of God but of an oilman/politico/ex-president -- a son who is a false prophet in search of genuine profiteering. This American idol's name is George W. Bush. Thanks to a worshipful group of corporate scribes, aka/ the media, his image is far from craven.

But don't believe everything you read in the scriptures. The bible is a highly politicized book and its contents often shift during handling by men possessed of petty agendas. Jesus was a humble guy but I have the feeling that old King James may have learned a lesson or two about billing when he met his Maker. Maybe power is such a strong intoxicant that monarchs like King James and King Bush the W forget who came first. Maybe not; if GWB is as religious as he claims to be, it could be because he spends a lot of time praying that the real Jesus doesn't show up again. The original Jesus was a man of peace. Bush would surprise no one if he arrived at the White House Easter egg hunt adorned in camouflage finery.

Nevertheless, many of the court-appointed president's fellow Christians have deified this new son as if he were the Second Coming. Others have been a bit confused and so they have sought the guidance of their local Christian broadcasting Goliath, the Family Life Radio Network. A friend of mine listens to the station like members of the (if you'll forgive the term) French Resistance monitored Nazi troop movements. He reports that listeners have been calling in to express confusion over a war that was in part justified by the US Secretary of State bearing false witness at the United Nations. They are also concerned over the apparent betrayal of several Commandments, "Thou shalt not covet they neighbors Humvee propellant nor his really old stuff from museums," not the least among them. But mostly they were worried about all of the killing that the son du jour had decreed necessary. To put this wide-ranging violence against the question that has become the simplest increment of modern Christian measure: "What would Jesus do?" was to find neither comforting nor conforming answers with what the Born-Again Church was teaching. Its lesson seems to be: Do unto others and then persecute them some more if they don't thank you for doing it unto them in the first place.

And so the Family Life Radio Network did sendeth a pastor onto its good airwaves to tend to the conflicted sheep and he saithed unto them: that Jesus stuff is great for dealing with your family, friends and neighbors but governments are different than individual people. What they do is up to God. In fact, governments are elected by God and so we needn't question them or worry about their grander purpose. That is God's concern, my children.

Or he said words to that effect but the God elects governments is verbatim.

So it's God who is to blame for our political predicament. Well that should make a lot of Florida voters feel better. And all of us who question the morality of Bushs assault on the Islamic world simply need to get some faith because to believe unto George W. Bush is to believe unto God. Put simply: Render unto Caesar... God.

God saw the Earth and saw it was good. Bush saw the Earth and saw it was good... for exploitation, militarization, putrification, subjugation and imperialization.

If you think this mangles and misappropriates Jesus' teachings, remember that it's not just Christian principles that have been plundered to be thrown at the cowboy boots of this golden calf. To a person, the Christian warmongers will tell you that they are also great patriots who believe in freedom above all else. But if you compare the provisions of what they call their "Patriot" acts to the teachings of Tom Jefferson and Tom Paine, the first coming of American patriotism's holy fathers, you will find more Christian doubting Thomases than you can wave a flag at.

Oddest, weirdest and sickest of all is how the mostly economically-conscripted troops W has sent into harm's way have been solicited, through military channels, to pray for him. Although the request was draped in false humility, it was clear that the soldiers really were being instructed to pray to him.

And so on this Easter when He is risen, we should pause and consider all the things he, meaning George W. Bush, has risen as well.

He has risen contempt and disdain for America abroad.

He has risen the ranks of terrorists by creating enraged and grief-stricken victims on his extremely latter day crusade into the Middle East.

He has risen the likelihood of more terrorist assaults on innocents.

He has risen the number of massacred and maimed innocent men, women and children in the name of massacred and maimed innocent men, women and children.

He has risen the number of cases of political amnesia necessary for him to get away with using an old, if subtle, American ally as the premise to break from the community of nations to commit more atrocities against people to whom both he and the old ally have already done profligate harm.

He has risen the number of military combat veterans while simultaneously cutting their benefits.

He has risen contempt for culture and the sanctity of people's rights to their own history with his war that has facilitated robbing the cradle of civilization.

He has risen the confidence with which the other great occupying force in the Middle East can now commit acts of oppression.

He has risen corporate contempt for labor laws, security and exchange regulations and environmental protections.

He has risen corporate greed, which is, unto itself, miraculous. Why render anything unto Caesar when you can instead tithe the fair amount and make your check out to the Gluttonous Old Party?

He has risen the number of off-shore accounts, burgeoning with the ill-begotten life savings of corporate victims.

He has risen the danger on American streets for hundreds of thousands of American citizens who happen to be of Islamic heritage or, for that matter, of any sort of color other than white.

He has risen the specter of an America where reproductive rights may soon fall prey to the religious right.

He has also risen the unemployed until their numbers yea can be called multitudes.

He has risen hopelessness among poor and poorer Americans who are watching their dreams of a decent lifestyle disappear faster than WalMart's competitors while Bush squanders their hopes of domestic tranquility, on foreign agitation.

He has risen the numbers of Americans without health insurance at a rate only outpaced by the profit margins for large pharmaceutical and insurance corporations.

He has risen the number arrogant and vain reactionary braggarts and blowhards who believe that this political moment will last forever and that the fix will remain "in," permanently.

Conversely, he has risen the level of despair among sane and decent Americans because, at times, it seems like this tyrannical lunacy will never end. We know that our beloved nation has inflicted extreme injustice upon the rest of the world too many times to suddenly become a believable advocate of human rights just because it deposes a dictator, it once helped prop up. And so we shudder in shame and helplessness.

I feel this way sometimes and wonder if I will ever see my country become a place Paine and Jefferson could again be proud to have helped found. And I wonder if it could ever become a place where Christians emulated Christ rather than parrot those who falsely claim to be His agents.

I am not a religious person. I am a classically illiterate American about faiths other than Christianity. I only know about Christianity because I was raised in the "Christian country of the United States. I was a churchgoer only until I escaped the bonds of parental edict. Since then I have identified religion as the single most divisive force on planet Earth. "God on our side" in conflict after and all that. I do have a spiritual side, which might best be described as a conscience.

This morning, I was awakened by a perfect sunrise, replete with symmetrical rays protruding from the magnificent orbs corona. I immediately thought of Jesus and remembered it was His day. I felt something Id been missing during an awful winter and worse spring: hope. I knew that that sun had already warmed a lot of good people around the world today and it was about to get around to shining on the rest of them. I knew that there was still a chance for good lives of good conscience, for people of goodwill. I knew that I didn't have to go to church or turn on an electronic preacher to know what Jesus would do. On this Easter morning I am a born again optimist and Jesus would want me to share my faith. I believe that we can overcome false idols, whether they are in a square in Baghdad or wrapped thickly in deception, malice and hypocrisy in Washington D.C. I have faith that most people, given half a chance and something other than convenient and dogmatic lies in response to their earnest queries, are capable of connecting with people from all over the world -- if only as fellow strugglers. I think of how most of them, although unable to do much about it, would prefer a world where the little guy didn't die when the big guys have disagreements.

The stone rolled back this Easter morning after a war that was prosecuted during the holiest weeks in the Christian year. Our beliefs, be they spiritual, political, economic or otherwise, have been sorely tested during this Lent when America gave up its conscience and worshipped the pagan god of war rather than the Christian Prince of Peace. On this Easter Sunday, I ask you to redeem your faith in humanity. If we have the courage to listen to our hearts and follow our consciences, we can collectively roll back the stone, walk boldly from the darkness and bask in the warmth and love of the community of humanity. And so to all people of good faith, whatever that faith may be, I wish you a redemptive and wonderful Easter.

2003 Barry Crimmins