Sunday, April 08, 2012

Jesus Christ 'the all-time poster child for the innocence movement'

Grits offered up these musings about Easter last year and thought I'd reprise them today:
Easter is strikingly filled with criminal justice themes, isn't it? The Christian religion was essentially founded on a repudiation of Roman capital punishment. Easter celebrates the sinless Man-God killed for His beliefs who triumphed over the grave, mooting, even while respecting to the end, the earth-bound laws that condemned Him. Jesus, a blameless man executed, is the all-time poster child for the innocence movement. Corrupt and biased prosecutors prevailed in His case because of a judge's personal indifference and deference to the mob. Christ's betrayal by Judas was the archetype cementing into Christian values a lingering distrust of snitches and informants. Romans accused the disciples of grave robbery. St. Peter committed assault with a deadly weapon in the Garden of Gethsemane then thrice lied about his identity to avoid arrest. And taken as a whole, the passion story documents Jesus' arrest, trial, and execution all taking place in an incredibly short span, as though criminal convictions could be obtained as quickly in real life as on an episode of Law & Order.

Christmas is a story about family. Easter is a story about a wrongful criminal conviction, the misapplication of the death penalty, the overweening power of the state, and the irrepressible urge of humanity to resist it.

Happy Easter, gentle readers. Enjoy this beautiful day.
RELATED: For more Easter-themed Grits, see: Snitching on Good Friday: Rethinking Judas.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

That should be a part of every defense attorney's closing argument repertoire. Just to remind jurors that the more things change, the more they stay the same...

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking most jurors--at least the Christian ones--might be a little offended by this analogy. If anything, I suppose there might be some analogy between the passion of Christ and the perils of mob rule. Nonetheless, most believers understand that the crucifixion of Jesus was preordained by God--not the product of the first century jurisprudence. I think Grits would be better served keeping theology separate from his hug a thug advocacy. On the other hand, lots of people find religion in jail and prison, so maybe there is some connection

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Grits-can't see where to respond to your post, reprinted in Sunday's Statesman. You end with a paragraph on Rep. David Simpson's TSA irritations and linked them to conservatives who really do want the government out of our private lives. Unless, of course, you are a woman. Listening to these guys scream like scalded cats that someone might brush their privates in some way during an airport search, then turn around and legislate invasive procedures prior to a woman's exercising her legal medical options is NOT getting the government out of women's lives at all.

Doc Ellis said...

Greetings Mr Henson,

Shared this and the essay Snitching on Good Friday: Rethinking Judas.

Thank you for writing these essays

Doc Ellis 124

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks Doc for the kind words.

2:37, that post was a few days ago, see here.

2:26 says Jesus' crucifixion was "not the product of the first century jurisprudence"

That's completely farcical! Have you actually READ the passion story? The trial before the Sanhedrin, the appearance before Pilate, the legal maneuverings? Do you believe those events were mere symbolic fiction writing and not things that happened in the real world? That's the only way an intellectually honest person could remotely support your contention with a straight face, at least unless you think the passion story was entirely made up and don't believe Jesus was an actual historical figure.

Such comments from believers amount to hypocritical excuse making, trying to pretend the Bible doesn't speak to your closely held beliefs when Jesus' teachings contradict your biases. Jesus' attitude toward criminals was far different. In that vein, a few years back Grits posed the following question that bears repeating:

"Christ once asked his disciples, 'When I was in prison, did you visit me?' They replied by asking him when were you ever in prison? He responded that if they'd never visited the 'least of these,' their sin was as great as if they'd failed to visit Christ himself.

"If you're a Christian, answer me this: If you died today and met St. Peter at the pearly gates, and he said you can enter depending on the answer to just one question: When Christ was in prison, did you visit him? Would you get in?"

ckikerintulia said...

Grits, Anon 2:26 was probably basing his comment on Acts 2:23:
"this man [Jesus], handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law." (NRSV) Sounds pretty clear, doesn't it. The whole thing was acting out the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. But does it really say that? It seems to me that it was the handing over that was in the plan of God. The killing was by the hands of wicked men. God gave Jesus. Lawless men acted on their own to kill him. God gave Jesus to us. Humans could have taken his live positively. Instead we took it away. John 3:16 does not read, "God so loved the world that he killed his only son."

ckikerintulia said...

correction: "Humans could have taken his LIFE poitively . . ."

Anonymous said...

There is not much snitching in places where they have "open air" drug sales. They know how to enforce the no-snitching rule.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting discussion. Are you suggesting, Grits, that the secularization of society plays some role in how we treat prisoners and those convicted of crime in today's society? It is odd that the expansion of incarceration seems to have paralleled the decline of prayer in public schools and the percentage of people who regularly attend a Christian worship service. Certainly, the forgiveness of sins and the Golden Rule don't have as much meaning to non-believers. Wouldn't it be something to find that one of the principal consequences of the decline of religiosity and advancement of the "Separation of Church and State" is a corresponding decline of compassion and forgiveness toward those who make criminal mistakes? Kind of a secular liberal conundrum, huh?

Anonymous said...

Just ask yourself, 2:26, who would Jesus be drawn to today. Would he be drawn to the arrogant politicians, the lawyers, the judges, the privileged? Or would he be drawn to those you label as "thugs." Jesus hung around with some pretty unsavory characters. In fact, many of the people God used throughout the Bible did things that certainly would not meet your high standards of conduct.

No Christian should be offended by Grits analogy, at all. I really don't understand why you would say that. After all, aren't we, as Christians called to minister to the people you label as "thugs?" Aren't we supposed to love our enemies as well as our neighbors? In fact, aren't the people you label as "thugs," actually you're neighbors.

I once found myself sitting in a courtroom observing the proceedings. I looked around at the judge, the lawyers, and at the men in the orange jumpsuits who were awaiting their turn before the judge. My first thought was that the men in the orange jumpsuits were probably the most honest people in the room. My second thought was, if Jesus were here, who would he be drawn to. I suspect the judge and the lawyers would have little use for Jesus if he showed up in a courtroom.

So, no, there is no reason a Christian should be offended by Grits' analogy. If they are, then maybe they need to spend a little more time in God's word and on their knees.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:40 here again:

One more thing 2:26. Doesn't the Bible tell us we are all sinners? A person who is a Christian knows this. And, by knowing this you realize that you are no better than anyone else. That's right 2:26, neigher you nor I are no better than those you label as "thugs." You and I are sinners just like they are. We are all the same. A Christian knows that.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:40 here again:

Another thought, 2:26, isn't saying "hug a thug" pretty much the same thing as saying "love your neighbor." Seems Jesus was a "hug a thug" kind of guy too. Grits, you should take 2:26's comment as a compliment.

Harry Homeless said...

It's easy to spot those who have the blood of Jesus on their hands. They are the ones who say his death was "pre-ordained", thinking that somehow absolves them of responsibility to truth, justice and life. There is not now and never has been a scenario where that is possible.

ckikerintulia said...

Mark Osler,former federal prosecutor and currently a Professor at St. Thomas School of law, is author of "Jesus on Death Row," and champions Jesus as the prime example of the death penalty gone awry.

Arce said...

I heard Osler "preach" that sermon while he was still a law professor at Baylor. He is a former Federal AUSA who prosecuted criminal cases.

DM said...

While Jesus' execution was clearly wrongful, Grits, do you think he is better understood as "innocent" or "guilty." I think, perhaps, the latter.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

DM, he may have been "guilty" of your crimes and mine from a theological perspective, but from the perspective of the Roman justice system, according to gospel accounts, an innocent man was railroaded.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BTW, Osler's book looks really interesting. I just ordered it.

Charlie O said...

Anon. 3:52. Why is that you so-called christians assume that non-believers have no morality. I am a devout atheists and very anti-religion. Yet, I find that I have more compassion for my fellow man and I certainly have stronger belief in forgiveness and redemption for those who have served their time. I think the US has a horrible record in the way it treats ex-inmates. Why, because this so-called "christian country" can't find a way to forgive those that have served their time. And I very much subscribe to a philosophy of leaving others alone as I want to be left alone. I don't any mythical scriptures to tell me that treating others fairly and with respect is the proper way to conduct yourself.

grandmom said...

A fertilized egg has no enumerated rights in the USA Constitution; a human being has lots. But actually, a prisoner, wrongly convicted of capital murder, has fewer rights than an egg.

hyperqube said...

I get your point, Grits. Only christians so wrapped up in their hypocrisy would take offense.

Anonymous said...

It obviously has not occurred to you Grits, but when you criticize someone else's understanding of an event for their failure to have "read the passion story," you are suggesting that a person can learn the truth from reading 5 disparate accounts of an event written by biased observers reporting to specific audiences anywhere from 15 to 70 years after the fact. Seems to me your own writings on this very blog have suggested that no one should seriously consider evidence like that with the utter credulity that you seem to give it.

And your analogy to Judas being an unreliable snitch? Really? First, he didn't testify at Jesus' trial, second, wasn't Jesus exactly where Judas said he would be? Seems like he was both credible and reliable.

You ask "Do you believe those events were mere symbolic fiction writing and not things that happened in the real world?" as if the answer should be clear. In fact, while Jesus almost certainly was an historical figure, executed by the Roman authorities, very little of the remainder of the trials can be corroborated by any independent sources. The Gospels place the greatest weight of the blame on the priests, and indicate that Pilate doubted Jesus' guilt and "washed his hands" of the decision to execute him. But the Gospels indicate that Jesus was guilty of crimes which, at the time, were very serious, including blasphemy and treason against both religious and secular laws. Whether his followers, then or now, believe he deserved the punishment the law demanded does not make him innocent of the charges. That's like saying, "I don't believe in the death penalty, therefore all accused capital murderers are innocent."

Jesus Christ may be the all-time poster child for martyrdom, and accepting capital punishment as a means of protesting an unjust law if probably the ultimate form of civil disobedience, and may be admirable as such. But Jesus' case has little in common with the typical innocence case, and your analogy is utterly inapt.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

5:19, that Prof. Osler, a former federal prosecutor and law prof, finds the parallel convincing enough for a book-length treatment seems to fly in the face of your assertion that the analogy is "utterly inapt."

If Jesus was not "innocent" then the entire Christian orthodoxy holding his blameless martyrdom paid for the world's sins falls apart from the get go. If you simply don't believe in Christianity, of course, you can dismiss the parallels to the innocence movement. But for actual believers, the parallel is both on point and quite significant.

Anonymous said...

Jesse Jackson, the president and founder of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, doubled down on a statement he made in London in December proclaiming Jesus was an “occupier,” this time tying the proclamation to the story of Easter weekend.

Speaking at an Occupy Chicago rally in Grant Park on Saturday, Jackson told a crowd his interpretation of why Jesus went to the cross: “He fought for the poor because he was among the poor. He faced crucifixion as he fought occupation.”

Specifically, Jackson said Jesus was killed because he confronted the money changers in the temple in Jerusalem, as told in the New Testament.

“But why was he killed?” Jackson said. “He fought and he occupied the corrupt temple.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Actually, 9:33, there is a school of thought that holds Jesus did not intend to found a new religion (that was Paul's agenda, according to that view) and his movement was actually an expression of anti-Roman Jewish nationalism. See the fascinating but massively overwritten scholarly work "James, the Brother of Jesus" for a taste of that view. If that's accurate, Christ may indeed have been executed for opposing "occupation."

But that is a revisionist, wildly unorthodox view that essentially undermines the very foundations of Christian belief as we know it. For believers, Christ was a innocent sacrificed. From a theological perspective, if Christ were executed for his own sins, then he did not pay for yours and mine.

Anonymous said...

President Obama calls the Reverend Jim Wallis his adviser on “spiritual” matters. Redistribution of wealth is what the Gospels are all about according to Wallis. He is also urging an “economic leveling of society.

ckikerintulia said...

Anon 9:10 PM--Wrong blog. Grits doesn't have any Association with Jim Wallis or Sojo. Fishing in the wrong pond.

Tasheka said...

Good post my friend