The ABP’s recent article on the mock trial of Jesus staged at First Baptist Church, Austin has sparked an angry response. Dudley Sharp insists that the New Testament endorses the death penalty. Moreover, he appears to argue that we should rejoice and be glad that Jesus was murdered by the Romans because, had he been acquitted, we would all be headed straight for hell.
It should be noted that the mock trial of Jesus does not primarily concern the death penalty. However, as the ABP article notes, “audiences must vote for or against death for Jesus using their own states’ laws on capital punishment” and, as law professor Mark Osler observes, “that often leads to a conflict between deeply held religious beliefs and support for capital punishment.”
Here’s Mr. Sharp’s letter:
To: Dr. Alan Bean Executive Director, Friends of Justice
Dr. Roger Paynter, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church
Dr. William Underwood, President, Mercer College (more…)
On Maundy Thursday, Mark Osler and Jeanne Bishop will be staging their 12th re-enactment of the trial of Jesus, this time using Texas law and legal procedure.
If Jesus was tried in a Texas court would he have been sentenced to life in prison, death, or would he have been acquitted? Holy Week is the perfect time to reflect on this question and this article from the Austin American-Statesman gives Osler and Bishop an opportunity to explain why they are putting Jesus on trial all over again.
Some might take offense at the very idea of placing Jesus on trial, in Texas or anywhere else; after all, he is the Son of God and all.
But there were good reasons for hauling Jesus in front of Pontius Pilate in the first century. As Jeanne Bishop puts it: “When you tell people to give to the poor and sell everything you own and follow me, or you’re saying, ‘Turn the other cheek; don’t resist an evildoer,’ those are subversive things.”
Saturday Night Live has everybody talking. Actually, the sketch described below has folks beating their chests, rending their garments and howling at the moon.
Is it blasphemy to portray Jesus as a revenge-seeking action hero from a Quentin Tarantino movie?
It all depends. If you portrait of Jesus is primarily culled from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) then the SNL spoof will make you wonder what these guys were thinking. On the other hand, if your vision of Jesus is a cross between the more graphic bits of the book of Revelation, a Jesus-is-a-badass Carmen number, and Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series (more on this below), then SNL is pretty much on target. Fred Clark, who has been writing a running commentary on the Left Behind books for edification and laughs, has some insights that will amaze and horrify you.
This reflection from Rachel Held Evans originally appeared on her website.
Those little Advent candles sure have a lot of darkness to overcome this year. I see them glowing from church windows and on TV, in homes and at midnight vigils, here in Dayton and in Sandy Hook. Their stubborn flames represent the divine promise that even the smallest light can chase away the shadows lurking in this world, that even in the darkest places, God can’t be kept out.
It’s a hard promise to believe right now, I know. The children in the pictures are just too young, too familiar. Our hearts ache; the darkness seems so heavy and thick. (more…)
Yesterday, I spent eight hours listening to Texans talk about the impact of mass incarceration (more on that in a moment). This morning I am sitting in a McDonald’s in Beaumont, Texas eating an Egg McMuffin and listening to the weather channel compete with FOX news. I usually tell the young woman behind the counter (if, as is usually the case, she is African American) that FOX is insulting to our president and that upsets me. But I don’t have the energy for that this morning.
I am in Beaumont to visit Ramsey Muniz, the Latino political leader serving a federal life sentence for his part in a non-existent narcotics conspiracy. Normally, visitors are allowed to enter the visitor’s area at 8:30, but this morning we were told that we would have to wait three hours to see our loved ones because “we’re doing a fog count.”
It isn’t foggy in Beaumont. Seasonably humid, perhaps, but you can see for miles in any direction. The sign on the prison door says, “No visitation until 11:30.” No, “we apologize for the inconvenience,” or “please accept our apology, but . . .” This is prison, folks.
I informed the four twenty-something attendants in the visitation area that this kind of messaging combined with a totally unnecessary “fog count” constitutes an insult to the families who have come to visit. They reacted as if I was being a smart-ass (which I was). The rules are the rules. Fog counts are very serious business. Some inmate might wander off in the fog. The fact that there is no fog this morning changes nothing.
So I got in my car and drove fifteen miles to this McDonald’s. I can afford the $3.50 in gas; most of the other visitors cannot. They will sit in the parking log for three long hours, trying to keep the toddlers entertained. The shame and disgrace of incarceration clings to the families of the incarcerated.
Which brings me back to yesterday’s full day of testimony concerning prisons, inmates, inmates-in-waiting (the children of the incarcerated) and the mechanics of the New Jim Crow. (more…)
The United States of America is an uncommonly religious nation. More to the point, we are an uncommonly Christian nation, at least insofar as stated religious affiliation is concerned (whether we actually reflect the soul of Jesus Christ is another matter altogether). In the midst of startling ethnic diversity, three great cultures dominate: Latino, African American and Anglo. Many things divide these three segments of the human family, but religion is not one of them. Brown, Black and White, we are all overwhelmingly Christian. In theory, we should all moralize and vote in a distinctly Christian fashion. We should share a common moral discourse.
But we don’t.
Latinos, Blacks and Whites are all divided by internal political and ideological disputes, of course, but valid generalizations are possible.
For instance, Latinos, as a group, are deeply concerned about mass deportation, Blacks agonize over mass incarceration, and Whites, for the most part, give little thought to either issue.
Stout walls have gone up between us. These fortifications simplify our moral worlds by ensuring that we don’t have too much worry on our plates. But the walls lock us into tiny, constricted worlds. We are deep in denial, imprisoned by fear and self-imposed ignorance.
There is nothing surprising in this. Humans have a limited capacity for pain and complexity. We worry more about our dogs and cats than the plight of the poor and the prisoner because puppies and kittens rub against our legs and demand our attention. We love our immediate families with a singular intensity because we share a common history and anticipate a shared destiny. We don’t care so much about other people’s kids because we don’t know them and most likely will never know them. (more…)
Richard Cohen asks why the GOP is beating up on Mitt Romney. Sure, the Republican candidate “espouses extreme positions he does not for a moment believe.” But what are his options? Republicans who hope to survive the Iowa caucuses are forced so far to the right that they surrender mainstream appeal. If they win Iowa, their feet are nailed to the floor.
Cohen thinks this explains why GOP politicians with talent and intelligence refused to enter the 2012 presidential follies–they saw the train wreck coming. Romney won, in Cohen’s view, because he was the most competent navigator on a ship of fools.
I suspect the Washington Post columnist is right, but how do we account for an electorate that forces Republican candidates to deny climate change, suggest that the US Constitution is a Christian document and kiss off the scientific community while systematically alienating Latinos, African Americans and women? How do we explain the strength of the Tea Party? Yeah, I know the Koch brothers have backed these insurgents with their megabucks, but it takes more than money to make a movement. There is some genuine outrage simmering in the heartland.
And why, despite Mitt Romney’s lackluster campaigning and embarrassing gaffes, is this race still close? Why is Barack Obama, a reputed radical socialist Muslim extremist, afraid to reference mass incarceration, mass deportation, pardons and commutations, Guantanamo, global warming, NAFTA, single payer health care, the rapid disappearance of American manufacturing, labor’s right to organize, a crumbling infrastructure, the tragedy of Iraq or the utter futility of Afghanistan? (more…)