Posted on June 29, 2012 by itccs
By Kevin D. Annett
Some of my readers are upset that I ran this image of Jesus, below, as part of a recent article about the conviction of catholic bishop William Lynn, who spent decades helping priests in Philadelphia torture and rape children.
I agree with my critics. This is hardly an accurate portrayal of Jesus. The truth is the man from Nazareth would do a lot more than passively gesture at child killers, especially if they claimed to be part of “his” church. Jesus, after all, was the guy who recommended tying a ten ton rock around the neck of anyone who harmed a child, and tossing the offender into the ocean.
Now, that was hardly a passive or non-violent thing to propose, let alone do: anymore than it is a gentle act to flog moneychangers from a Temple. But Jesus couldn’t dwell inertly alongside the slaughter of children like most of us do. Maybe that’s because he knew, and he didn’t simply believe, that children were of God. So I can only assume that in the defense of such God-ness, using force to stop whoever would harm children is not only permitted, but an order straight from heaven … if you believe Jesus Christ.
That makes sense to me, as it does to anyone who loves their children and any child.
Delmar Johnny, my deceased Cowichan native friend here on the west coast who endured a childhood of torture himself by catholic priests, blew away my idealistic stereotype of “indigenous traditions”.
Delmar told me once that among his people, before the whites invaded, if anyone harmed a child in one of their villages, the offender would be taken off into the woods by a special group of men and would never be seen again. Nowadays under white law, mused Delmar, the same destroyer of children gets maybe a year in prison, and then is out again to destroy more children.
“That’s why you whites don’t have a future, because you don’t care about it” he concluded. “My people knew that without healthy children, there is no community”
In the face of the global war against our children that is threatening our human survival, simply making gestures at church-backed child rapists is hardly the answer. And so I ask forgiveness from my readers for minimizing Jesus and his message like I did, with that mild and inappropriate image of him.
The times require the truth. So a far more accurate representation of Christ’s message to the child murdering Church of Rome would be something like this:
For those of you who are even more offended now … well, it’s like what I learned in the pulpit: you sure as hell can’t please everybody.
Indeed, what being a parish minister impressed on me very quickly was that it was those parishioners who were most concerned about decorum and “remaining positive” who were invariably the ones who cared the least in practice about the people for whom Jesus struggled, beginning with the helpless and the victimized ones: especially since such unwashed and discarded folks ran the risk of walking into our church.
But let me avoid any such assumption about my readers. Let me address the concern of those folks who are alarmed by “violent or negative” images, or messages, and who believe, to quote one of you, that “projecting that confrontational stuff out into the world is just fostering darkness and the very thing you’re opposing … We have to create a positive world”.
Okay, fair enough. After all, who doesn’t want goodness and light? And an end to the slaughter of baby seals, and even baby humans?
I don’t believe, first of all, that we are demi-gods whose choices of whether to be “positive” or “negative” will be the determining factor in generating a future Utopia. The Promised Land isn’t constructed by us, ultimately. We are just workers in the vineyard, to quote Jesus; and, as he suggested, we must allow both the noxious weeds and the good wheat to grow alongside each other, until the Day of Reckoning when a far wiser and better hand than ours will separate the good from the bad.
New Age philosophy, on the other hand, disagrees with Christ, and places the human self at the heart of history and makes the individual the God-force that will determine the fate of humankind and indeed, the entire universe. Such stunning arrogance is the real factor behind the mini-uproar caused by my Jesus-imagery, and is epitomized in the dubious quotation from Mohandas Gandhi, so over-used among New Agers, that “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
The same thing could have just as easily been said by Attila the Hun, or Hitler. And besides, Gandhi was also the man who said,
“The worst evil is not violence, but cowardice … I would choose the road of violence before submitting to unjust laws so that I may avoid physical force” (1921)
The Law of Nature says, contrary to and more humbly than New Ageism, that we are the world, already: we men and women are both life and death, destruction and creation, and it is only our legacy of Christian dualism that counter poses such light and darkness, and means and ends. For this is the dissociated worldview that causes such trepidation by my critics when it comes to doing what we must do to protect our future generations.
Is protecting a child by naming and shaming those who threaten them somehow “fostering darkness”, simply because doing so involves an act of force? Hardly. Confrontation does not imply violence, merely opposition, which is the seed of change and renewal.
When fifty of us in Vancouver stood quietly in the midst of a catholic mass holding a banner stating “All the Children Need a Proper Burial”, were we “projecting confrontation … and fostering darkness” because we were causing a real offense and disruption in a church service? Quite the opposite, as it turned out. For it was only after this confrontation that some of the torture survivors in our group were able to recover in a real way from their fate at the hands of the catholic church. And the confrontation in the cathedral that morning also provoked the government of Canada to begin issuing a public “apology” to residential school victims.
The argument of my challengers, that we must always stay “positive”, which I assume means never to criticize or attack anyone, is really a call to stay inert and morally disengaged in practice.
My experience with survivors of assault is that it is only when they are able to criticize and confront their assaulters that they can find a positive view of a future for themselves, beyond pain and oppression. Such “negative” acts in truth create a positive outcome, in a dialectical dance of cause and effect: a dance that only those with the courage to act can experience.
In reality, the belief of my challengers, and many Canadians – that it is better to do nothing than cause a confrontation or “ill feelings” – is a recipe for dysfunction and continued subjugation in a world like ours that rests upon violence and injustice. Their view that “negative” images like the one I displayed somehow morally or energetically degrade our cause is not an original one, but is based on a Christian bi-polar world view that my challengers inherited, ironically, from the Church of Rome itself.
So, while it would be comforting to my ego to believe that I, Kevin Annett, can determine whether a world of light or of darkness can come into being simply from my choices, I must defer to others far more in touch with cosmic truth than I am when it comes to believing such a thing.
No, I don’t think “projecting” a message of confrontation, or an image of an angry Christ, will contribute to evil in the world. As a matter of fact, I think it’s likely that Jesus cursed, farted, had orgasms and made rude gestures at passing soldiers and priests. He was only human, after all.
What I not only believe but know with certainty is that I can only do what any feeling man must do when children are threatened by institutions backed by law, vast wealth, and tradition: and that is, to fight those powers, with all the means at my fingertips and until my last breath.
What the outcome is from such a confrontation is not in our hands at all, but rather, it lies with that One whom Jesus used to appeal to all the time: not as a divine “Son of God”, but as a Son of Man who could not countenance the destruction of any of his neighbors.
Perhaps as a message to my challengers, Jesus once asked his listeners,
“How can you claim to love God, whom you cannot see, and ignore your suffering neighbors, whom you can see?”
Paraphrased, my friends, it’s like this: How can you and I debate the ethics of our actions in the abstract while our littlest neighbors are being slaughtered in the flesh?
Let me end in that vein of realism by invoking another apostle of divine outrage, the rebel John Brown, who came to Concord, Massachusetts in 1857 looking for money to arm his small anti-slavery army.
In the quiet parlor rooms of the wealthy anti-slavery reformers who confined their moral outrage of the African genocide to polite petitions to a United States Congress run by slave owners, John Brown blew in like a cold and unwelcome blast of reality.
When criticized one evening by a Boston politician for advocating violence to liberate slaves, Brown replied,
“The innocent negroes who are perishing on a cross of greed know naught and care naught of your concerns. It is within our means to end their suffering. That is the only morality God knows. If thou will choose to obey man’s law or God’s, let that be your decision; by not acting you are aiding the violence of the rulers of this age, and your clean hands are in fact tainted with the blood of others. But I have been shown that the crimes and evil of this generation can only be washed clean in blood, as our Master showed by the spilling of his own. For us the only matter is this: whose blood shall it be? The time has come to decide. Thou will stand with the slave or the slave owner. There is no middle place to stand anymore”
History reveals whose actions caused the abolition of slavery, and the liberation of unborn generations of men and women: John Brown and the victorious Union Army he inspired, and not the placid Boston aristocrat.
I wish the world was different, and no-one except a true lover of peace knows that yearning. But to pretend that it is different, and to shrink from what the times and the least of us demand, makes us an accomplice in the rape and murder of more innocent children, and the spilling of ever more blood.
You will stand now with the slave or the slave owner, my friends. The time has come for each of you to decide. That is not my verdict, but eternity’s.