Sunday, 12 April 2009

Stumbling Towards Veronica on the Via Dolorosa: A Paschalogue

"Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and 'Hallelujah' is our song". (Pope John Paul II)

"This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw these things". (Ezekiel 16:46-50)

"For the sake of ten just men, I will not destroy [Sodom]". (Genesis 18:32)

During the early days of my evolution into one of the worst Catholics in the Western Hemisphere, as a child crawling through Quebec's post-Quiet Revolution Catholic school system, I felt fatally attracted to the angry, militant Christ--the one who whips the money-changers out of the Temple with a length of knotted hemp after busting up their tills into splinters, the Christ who snarls "Get thee behind me, Satan!" when his most loyal apostle tries to divert him from his mission. To a fundamentally angry, alienated kid with a taste for extreme states and a longing to see the exterminating power of divine wrath visited upon his enemies, that was totally cool.

What occurred to me much later was the clear thematic unity underlying the only outbursts of outrage the scriptures attribute to Christ. In both cases, sacrifice--our highest duty to God--is being thwarted by the venal and the weak. Peter cannot stand the idea of being without his charismatic leader; he sees the disciples as a gang, and he's terrified of the profound vulnerability Christ is demanding of himself and of his followers. He cannot yet accept that Christ's mission requires total surrender, a ruthless and reckless giving away of self, without hope of any return on investment.

In the Temple, unscrupulous brokers are charging the poorest of the poor extortionate rates for something without which they cannot offer sacrifices to their God, without which they cannot properly worship and, thus, cannot be fully human. The money-changers are essentially robbing their victims of their humanity and turning their lost dignity and violated souls into equity.

It appears that, for Christ, the most odious sin--the one sin vile enough to move even the Prince of Peace to acts of violence--is the sin of forcibly removing from the already wretched their means of being fully human. This was the sin of Sodom--not the orgiastic homosexuality that haunts the lurid fantasies of barking fundamentalist preachers, but that the city, in its "excess of food and prosperous ease...did not aid the poor and needy". From this it follows that those who pursue prosperous ease whilst failing to aid the poor and needy have earned a most notorious soubriquet by dint of prophetic proto-canonical fiat: they are "Sodomites".

To us, they may be "capitalists", or "classical liberals", or "laissez-faire", or "Chicago School", or "neoconservatives", or "libertarians", but, to God (and, incidentally, to the many Evangelical/Pentecostal Biblical literalists who sit in Stephen Harper's caucus), they are Sodomites. And it appears that the ten just men (if so many yet remain) who've managed to stave off divine annihilation on behalf of an ingrate nation have scriptural sanction to bludgeon Canada's money-changers out of our temples--literally.

Thus ask yourself "What would Jesus do?" when formulating an appropriate response to Stephen Harper's government only if you're prepared to wield a baseball bat in illegal ways; it's becoming increasingly difficult to be authentically Christian without risking arrest, and perhaps that's how it should be.

In Stephen Harper's Canada, every day is an anti-Easter--a paschal parody. Instead of an empty tomb and a risen Christ, we get a cultural sepulchre redolent of the stench of Canada's rotting heritage and a national morale plummeting to heretofore unplumbed depths. The latest stage in the descent is the Abousfian Abdelrazik fiasco, a revolting injustice ably documented by dauntless blogger Dr. Dawg and journalist Thomas Walkom (among a very few others).

Basically, Abdelrazik is being refused re-entry into Canada as a "security threat" even though every responsible agency (including the RCMP) says he is not a threat. Harper is keeping the man in a wretched Sudanese exile, where he's spent the last six years--away from his children. There are no charges against him; there's not a shred of evidence to suggest he's done or will do anything remotely harmful to Canadian security. There is only the implacable hatred, corrosive indifference and Stalinist, technocratic arrogance of Harper's External Affairs apparatchiks and Public Safety commissars. To them, Abdelrazik's just another brown-skinned loser of whom there are plenty more where he came from (unfortunately) and who never really belonged here anyway. Good riddance, and the law be damned.

If every injustice re-crucifies Christ (as the Sisters of Notre Dame taught me it did), then this Easter is not just the ritual, abstract memorialising of an event far distant from me in time and space. It is also the hour when faceless government cowards, paid by my wages, sit beneath the suspended bodies of the weak and the poor, not to weep nor offer a draught of vinegar, but to parcel out the sad pieces of their lacerated humanity and to throw dice for whatever about them cannot be ripped into shreds.

Have a chocolate bunny on me, Mr. Harper--you worthless, contemptible pile of ordure.


UU4077 said...

Very good.

Ryan said...

Sir Francis,

Very well said. Powerful.

I know at my church, the day where the pews are actually full, the minister makes a point of making people feel "nice" on Easter. Probably so the strangers who will likely never return will tithe nicely so we don't cup our balls at the end of the year waiting for a deficit.

But you're right. Jesus could be one angry guy--not angry about anal sex so much. When ever he gets angry it is righteous anger at injustice.

Most Christians, even the "liberal" ones don't talk about it that much. Perhaps it's because a nice lap around at Walmart pushes the anger to the back for the time being. I guess we'll see when they are sent to the dog food aisle care of Stephen Herod. Sorry, Stephen Harper. What did I say?

Anonymous said...

Sir Francis,

I was with you (as was Buddha) right until you called Harper's caucus Sodomites...

That's not cool. Especially when the same argument applies to pretty much every winning and losing politician at the municipal, provincial and federal level in Canada. Pointing out the capitalist excesses of Harper's caucus while you peer around the giant shadows of the rest is quite obscene. Take a shower.

I once asked a Jesus scholar what Jesus would have thought of Calvinism, the Protestant Ethic, and the Captialist System. I expected him to do something along the lines of what you did, only fairer.

But he didn't. He said that Jesus wouldn't have cared. It would have meant nothing to him.

Yet you invoke his thoughts and views like you know how he would have reacted.

You don't.


Sir Francis said...


It's so nice to see your new-found respect for intellectuals, but, sadly, your "Jesus scholar" was talking nonsense.

Jesus' most explicit reaction to capitalism occurred when the wealthy young man asked him what it took to be truly holy. From Mt 19:21:

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.It doesn't sound like he's endorsing a corporate management training seminar, pal.

As for my presuming to know what Jesus would think--you vocally and proudly support a caucus full of Pharisees and Sadducees who arrogantly presume to know what Jesus would think about same-sex marriage and abortion--among a host of other contentious issues--and who seek to impose the fruits of their assumptions on a pluralist society. I'm just asking Christians to act like Christians and to not just wear the T-shirts and buy the fucking fridge magnets. Don't you even dare take a scolding tone with me in that regard.

I will insist on holding so-called Christians true to the scriptures they ostensibly take as the inerrant word of God. According to that word, your friends are, incontestably, Sodomites (as are most of our political élites).

If you prefer to believe that the Bible is rubbish, I will at least respect your lack of hypocrisy. That lack would elevate you far beyond Harper and his evangelical conclave.

As for Buddha, I have it on good authority from a friendly bodhisattva that he's with me all the way.

Anonymous said...

Sir Francis,

Who knows, perhaps you are right. Don't forget to point out the mote in the Liberal, Bloc and NDP eyes as well.

Thanks for the chat.


Will S. said...

Must it be either/or, rather than both/and? Can we not both deplore Sodom and Gomorrah's moral depravity in terms of their warped sexuality, AND equally deplore their lack of concern for the poor, their shoulder-shrugging indifference at economic injustice? And thus, from a POV that is opposed to both knee-jerk fundamentalism and wishy-washy mainline Protestantism, oppose all the major parties in Canada today - the Tories, the Grits, the NDP, the Bloc, the Greens - for all failing to stand for the good, the right, and the true, in varying ways?

I know I do.

Sir Francis said...

Can we not...deplore...the Tories, the Grits, the NDP, the Bloc, the Greens - for all failing to stand for the good, the right, and the true, in varying ways?
That's pretty much what I try to do on a 24/7 basis, Will...

Will S. said...

I thought so. Me too! I've been enjoying your blog for some time now, since I'm an old-school, George-Grant-type Red-Tory (who doesn't vote Tory, or anything, for that matter). And I miss KMG's The Ambler. Anyway, but while Christ may not have chosen to speak out against anal sex directly, nor condemn Sodom specifically for that, I'm inclined to think that's simply because it wasn't necessary, because that wasn't a problem in Israel in Christ's time, whereas economic injustices certainly were. In our time, BOTH are problems, and almost nobody out there, left or right, cares about BOTH issues, from the right, Biblical perspective. Which is why I can't vote for anyone, so I don't, thrice thus far.

Sir Francis said...


Christological thought requires a systemic, holistic approach--as you suggest. The more fully Canada becomes hostage to the nihilist, technological liberalism of which the United States is the prime mover, the harder it becomes to do that kind of thinking. That's the key thing I learned from Grant.

Toryism is founded in restraint, discipline, and loyalty whilst our continental drift has been, for decades, towards hedonism, licence and faithlessness. America has a special genius for generating those things and exporting them.

In the early '70's, Grant argued that American society had been reduced to a cult of "the orgasm at home and napalm abroad". We haven't reached that nadir yet, but we're getting there.

Will S. said...

Indeed, alas...