Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that hateful, hurtful, homophobic speech by a church that oddly enough calls itself “Christian” is protected as a First Amendment right seems to have eclipsed other really big church news: Pope Benedict XVI has exonerated Jews for Jesus’s death.
According to the Associated Press, the revelation was unveiled in excerpts from Benedict’s upcoming book, “Jesus of Nazareth-Part II.” If this declaration had been reported by The Onion, rather than the AP, I would be able to wrap my head around it. But this was not satire; it was just…well, sad.
Reportedly, the Pope’s new book explains biblically and theologically why there is no basis for “claims that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus’ death.” Wait a minute!
As a whole? Hmmm, is that like: Saudis, “as a whole,” were not responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks? (Fifteen of the 19 suicide terrorists were Saudis.) Or is more akin to: Iraqis, “as a whole,” were not responsible for 9/11? (Not even one terrorist was Iraqi.) There’s a big difference.
Methinks the Pope hath forgiven too much; he has actually perpetuated the un-Christlike myth that the Jewish people killed Jesus. Anyone who’s read the New Testament or has seen a movie about the crucifixion knows that the Jews did not commit the crime, just as the Iraqis had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. By dismissing the facts, the Pope’s grandiose forgiveness of the Jews is as much an attack on an innocent people as America’s violent invasion of Iraq to “free” its people.
Centuries before Benedict put pen to paper, it was an indisputable fact that the rabbi we know as Jesus was tried in a Roman court and suffered an inhumane execution at the hands of Roman military torturers because the declaration that he was the King of the Jews was a threat to the Roman empire.
So why isn’t the Pope forgiving, oh I don’t know, the Romans who conveniently live in the city surrounding his walled compound? That loving gesture would be such a warm and fuzzy highlight to this year’s Lenten season. Forgiving the innocent, not so much.
But here’s the beauty of his declaration of forgiveness: What Benedict unwittingly has highlighted are the impossible-to-connect dots that form the foundation of our beliefs as Christians—and the gaps that simply cannot support us, except through blind unquestioning faith:
Dot #1: Jesus’s life purpose. For centuries, the Church has taught that God sent Jesus to Earth to do a couple of really important things. One was to spread the good news that God is Love, and does not do things that Love would not do—i.e., is not intolerant, violent, punitive, unforgiving, condemning and judgmental. Jesus also taught that the kingdom of God is within. We don’t have to go anywhere to find God, and we are not an abomination, filthy rags or unacceptable to be in God’s presence. Wherever we are, God is—truly good news.
Dot #2: Jesus’s fulfillment of his mission. What theologians tell us is that Jesus’s Good News ministry lasted all of three years. With today’s technology and air travel, the good rabbi could have spread the word to everyone in the entire world in that time. But he didn’t get very far on foot and donkey before it was time to complete his other important task: Be brutally slaughtered for crimes that he didn’t commit.
Dot #3: Barbaric live sacrifice demonstrates God’s love. This is a critical dot. The premise here is that God loved us, His guilty children, so much that He sadistically forced our innocent brother to die a protracted and excruciatingly painful death so that we wouldn’t have to. Christians generally protest unfairness, particularly an innocent person being executed; but we’re glad as hell that it happened to Jesus because…
Dot #4: Jesus died to save us from eternal damnation. We Christians rejoice that we are “washed in the blood of Jesus,” a satanic concept, to be sure. But more damning, we believe that contrary to Jesus’s famous parable in which a faithful father excitedly rolled out the red carpet upon his sinning child’s return, God’s forgiveness has strings attached: Only sinners who believe that God inhumanely subjected Jesus to a slow and tortuous death will be spared worse treatment throughout all eternity.
Those who believe that God is Love—and believe that Love would not do something so barbaric and satanic—will regret that mistake throughout a God-awfully painful eternity. Which brings us to…
Dot #5: God’s orders should be obeyed. So many dots, so little time. Let me simply cut to the chase: If the Pope believes what Scripture tells us to believe, exonerating the Jews is utterly oxymoronic. What is he forgiving them for exactly: Following God’s orders?
And that, dear Thinkers, is the question of the day: If the Pope believes that God ordered Jesus to be brutally tortured to death, and he believes that the Jews obeyed, I’m wondering if Benedict couldn’t have exerted his authority as a spiritual leader more effectively by forgiving Christians for reviling the Jews for centuries.
In the interim, why don’t we simply exonerate the Pope?