Posted by: The Amoeba | April 10, 2009

What’s Good About It?

Good Friday, that is. Not that business yesterday. We’ll talk about getting old another time, with your permission. Compared with talking about someone who got dead, “old” doesn’t even appear on the radar.

So what’s is good about it? I mean, the day isn’t even a holiday any more. (Actually, it still is a state holiday in Hawai‘i. You can tell by looking at the rush hour traffic in Honolulu. Which is stopped dead. Just like it is on a workday.) Hell, more people are taking time off today to remember a baseball player than to mourn the anniversary of the death of The Biggest Name In Faith®.

I have a memory (perhaps you do too) of asking the question (I was, like, eight years old), “What’s so good about Good Friday? Isn’t that when Jesus died? This is good?” Or maybe it was the Sunday school teacher who asked the question. Sunday school teachers are pretty good at asking questions like that. And at giving out the set answer.

“Well, Juwan, it’s because Jesus died for our sins, so they can’t hurt us anymore.”

“OK, Teach, whatever you say.” [Kid’s translation: Huh?!?]

“And then he rose again after three days, and we have a party!

Now you’re talkin! Can we die too, so we can come back to cake and ice cream? Will it be chocolate cake?”

These days, the Good Friday lesson plan has to come with a warning label. When you teach the Crucifixion and Resurrection, tell your children that they are not to try this at home.

I suppose it has to be done, but how pathetic is it to try to teach the average middle-class eight-year-old kid about “how Jesus died for our sins”? Especially since, in all probability, the real Jesus of Nazareth had no intention of dying, for his sins or anyone else’s. Bottom line is, the Romans caught him, and snuffed him, and his followers ever since have been desperate for an explanation for how this disastrous failure of their leader and his movement could possibly be “good”.

But let’s stick with the kid. How is “Jesus dying for our sins” going to be meaningful when the kid hardly knows what sin is? When the closest thing to guilt the kid might ever have experienced is over having to tell the teacher that “the dog ate my homework”, and then having to tell the parental units that the teacher wasn’t buying it, and that’s how come he got that F. Which the parents will then sue the school board over. Leading the kid to think, of course, that he never did anything wrong in the first place.

Maybe that kid will never have to face his family with the words “I yelled at the boss for no reason and got fired; I don’t have a job anymore, I don’t know what we’re eating next week”. Or “I just blew the rent money gambling online; the landlord will probably throw us out on Friday.” Fully expecting to go hungry, to go houseless, and for his loved ones to walk away after slashing him to ribbons with his own fingernails and leaving the pieces on the street. And it’s all his fault. Death, in every way but one – the one that would be a blessed relief, and consequently will not be granted.

What is granted instead is his friend offering employment to keep his family in money and, for him, a chance to rebuild both his confidence and his reputation; his landlord pulling his cable instead of serving an eviction notice; his spouse taking a job instead of a hike.

In so many words, a resurrection. Or, as Americans often prefer to express it: a second chance. Or third, or fourth, or seventy-seventh.

This is what makes Good Friday “good”. Even if the real Jesus didn’t intend for things to happen quite like that.

But, when else have We allowed the truth to get in the way of a good story?

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

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Responses

  1. Okay OC I don’t want to get into a huge debate with you on this one. As you know, I’m not the religious type at all. I don’t bother those that are and I expect them not to bother me that I”m not. That’s not directed at you, it’s just how I feel as a person.

    That being said, I would think that any non-religious person would agree with everything you said in this post. I know I do. As I said in an earlier post, to me it’s just another day off. And I think to make our society a better place the resurrection as you described is what all mankind should do and it has nothing to do with religion.

    On the other hand, the religious people I would think, would take this day as the intention that its followers intended, whatever that might be. I’m not that well versed in what this holiday is even all about. But I would think as you said it has something to do with Jesus dying for his and our sins. I would hope that they celebrate it in the spirit that it is suppose to be.

    My point to all of this is isn’t this suppose to be a religious holiday and we here in the good ole USofA have just taken it a step farther by making it a holiday off from work and to be fair and equal it doesn’t matter if you celebrate it for its intended purposes or if you don’t? And I still stand behind your statement on the resurrection…that is how we as humans should treat everyone and therefore it doesn’t seem to me that it has anything to do with religion.

    The only other thing that disturbs me is that you say “…in all probability, the real Jesus of Nazareth had no intention of dying, for his sins or anyone else’s.” If that’s the case how did this become a religious holiday when he died in the first place? Zealots…can’t live with em or without em.

  2. to make our society a better place the resurrection as you described is what all mankind should do and it has nothing to do with religion.

    Thom, I fully agree. But when you stack up all the institutions in our society that support that, versus all the ones (including all the ones telling us to buy their stuff) who preach the opposite (me first, Dollar Almighty, etc.), the religions are almost alone in the first camp. No profit in it, I guess.

    “… the real Jesus of Nazareth had no intention of dying, for his sins or anyone else’s.” If that’s the case how did this become a religious holiday when he died in the first place?

    A lot of smart people have asked this very question (see, you’re smarter than you think), and have written whole libraries. Here’s my quick take.

    The Jews of Jesus’s time expected their Messiah to be a warrior-priest who would sweep away the Romans, like the Hasmoneans swept away the Greeks two centuries previously. Jesus failed to accomplish this, and as a result, Jewish leaders excommunicated Jesus’s followers.

    The Christian movement, however, was a quick sale to the poor and disaffected among non-Jews as well as Jews. For these people, who were used to being told that they were born scum and would forever remain scum, the message of personal resurrection, in life and afterward, was of great power.

    And the resurrection myth asserted the most cosmic of second chances: Jesus returning to Earth to have another tilt at the Messiah mission. This time with reinforcements sufficient to offer his puny human opponents an offer they can’t refuse. And when that happens, The Man, the oppressor, the bane of the poor, will get his.

    When the early Christians learned how to sell this message, their success as a religion was pretty well assured.

    Seems silly? Well, when you realize that millions of people now believe in a bogus box of gold plates, or, worse, even more bogus extraterrestrials, the Christian belief system doesn’t seem half bad – leaving the likes of Jim Jones aside for now.

  3. Well the point you bring up is another thing that greatly disturbs me about organized, or for that matter, any type of religion…They prey on the poor, uneducated and illiterates…Prime example…birth control…when you go around saying there should be no form of birth control in the poorest of nations and then you see the famine and just plain poverty in those countries it sickens me.

  4. They prey on the poor, uneducated and illiterates

    Y’mean, like TV advertisements? 😉

    Careful ’bout that birth control. We live in a democracy, right? One human, one vote, and the majority wins? Well, if one voting block practices birth control, and the other side doesn’t … The principle is consistent among all social animals, from bees and ants on up. The side with the biggest population wins … and you can’t afford to worry about whether that population is eating you out of house and home unless/until that happens, because if you do start worrying, and try to do something about it, the other side will charge in, and you won’t have a population to worry about.

    Yeah. That is scary. It’s one of the many reasons why the best minds of Europe said that the American democracy, back in 1789, had no more of a chance of survival than the Athenian democracy of the 5th century BCE (which died an ugly death). We keep trying to prove them right…

  5. Oh so what you are telling me, and just for example, the Catholics, the Pope’s one vote counts for more than the millions of votes that believe in every word he says?

    Well I guess for 220 years we’ve proven them wrong. I don’t know about in real time of today’s condition if that will continue. I only hope we always do prove them wrong as no matter what happens, we still live in the freest society known to man. I mean where else can we say what we want when we want and how we want. Yes there are limitations to that as we have rules and laws to follow, but I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I might bitch about our government and way of life, but I can do so with honor and without fear of prosecution…er…persecution…take your pick. And one of the greatest privileges we have is the right to vote. I am usually in the minority but at least I know I tried.

    • Actually, I’m saying that the Pope’s vote counts for exactly as much as the millions who believe in him and his organization. The more millions he can count on his side, the more his vote counts in the halls of power.

      The informed vigilance of the individual voter has always been one of the essential factors needed for the survival of the American Experiment. So long as we have it, we are relatively safe. Should we lose it, we would then be in peril.

  6. Given my recent events, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into my own personal Easter mythology. What did everything die for, how to find life after death, and whether the death meant anything anyway. Let’s assume for a minute that it’s the Jesus of my Bible school lessons and not the Jesus of history. I have to wonder if He died, rose again, and regretting coming back since the world was exactly the same as he left it.

    Sin continues to happen. And sometimes the friend doesn’t have a job to offer, or the landlord has to evict. And they typically find themselves in that position again and again. Second chances are great, but if there’s no progress, I still have to ask what’s good about Good Friday?

  7. A most interesting read, OC. I think one of the saddest things about our North American society today is that so many people refuse to take responsibility for what they do. Blame it on ‘the devil’, blame it on some other person, blame it on the dog… but whatever you do, don’t admit you made a mistake.

  8. Brig, if it’s the Sunday School Jesus we’re talking about, the state of the world at his return won’t matter, to his attitude or anyone else’s. For he’ll be coming back to set things right once and forever. Forever, that is, until the Entertainment Committee of the Elect submits a complaint to the Throne that Paradise is boring.

    The story of Jesus survives because, metaphorically anyway, it is grounded in human experience. So is, and does, the story of Job.

    Alice, thank you, and you’re right. I do think, though, that most of us occupy some middle ground, where we’re prepared to accept responsibility for some things but not others. And for those others, there are plenty of people out there willing to sell you an indulgence. ka-CHING!! But I guess that helps support the economy.


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