Having just read Diana Butler Bass' new book Christianity After Religion--a thoughtful and thought-provoking read--and being in the midst of planning for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, I am left to ponder what the post-Christian generation might think about Good Friday.
In the book we learn that many people in our age are cross border shopping in faith traditions, taking what they need to supplement their personal experiences of the Divine.
What will a generation of people who have, according to Ms. Bass, a personal experience of the divine that exceeds anything reported by preceding generations, think about a day that marks a ritual execution and calls it 'good'? What will the post-religion people of Trail think when our group of walkers, on the way with Jesus, retrace the steps that led to his death upon the hill we know as Golgotha?
Will they see, in the stopping places –the stations of the cross –symbols of lives that continue to be lived under the thumb of an authoritarian and careless social system? Will they note, in the re creation of Jesus' path to Golgotha, the complicity of every person in the watching crowds--of not just priests, emperors and soldiers, but those who cry out against the suffering as agents of their own demise, authors of their own misfortunes? Calling out against the ones who now bear up their cross alone as fit and certain retribution for their failure to abide as we would have them do. Will they hear in the shouts and imprecations, echoes of their own refusals to offer or accept a loving option?
When the victims are hung on the three crosses. When the suffering are silhouetted against the sky. When the heavens themselves break open and weep at our refusal to recognize the divine in one another, at our desire to blame all upon the weak, the helpless, the downtrodden, the ones who call for love. When thunder refuses to keep silent anymore, when the earth herself heaves up in protest at the blood we rain down in tempest upon her cracked and open wounds. When the best we have to offer is a rag soaked in vinegar and a spear to the side of the dying, while we roll the dice of chance for the remnants of their stuff, will this generation see, in any of this, Good Friday?
Perhaps they will. Perhaps, in a post-religion world they will take from this religious ritual an indication that (as one of our hymns sings out) God weeps at love withheld, at strength misused, at innocence abused, and till we change the way we love, God weeps.
Keith Simmonds is a diaconal minister in the Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge serving Beaver Valley, Rossland, Salmo and Trail.