Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!
* * *
Today is Palm Sunday. Today Christians will march in Brasilia, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Beijing, Mariupol, and Moscow, and on the Pentagon, flashing water pistols, waving sunflowers, hoisting images of Thich Nhat Hanh, and shouting: HOSANNA HEY SANNA SANNA SANNA HO. MAKE LOVE NOT WAR.
That’s what should happen. But that’s not what will happen.
Instead, children will parade along with adults chanting hosannas and waving green branches while processing into church sanctuaries. Palm Sunday is fun. It celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus—Israel’s true king, the Son of David—into Jerusalem to claim the throne.
Five days later the acclaimed king was dead, crucified beside a highway like 10,000 other Jewish young men the Romans considered terrorists. It’s what empires do. Quash dissent. Assassinate dissenters. Send a message to would-be dissenters.
(Putin uses that playbook.)
The first “Palm Sunday” was not what most people think it was. It was street theatre.
Jesus rode on a mule accompanied by a battalion of children waving toy swords, mocking the Roman garrison poised on their stallions at the gates of Jerusalem, ready to brutally crush any outburst of Jewish insurgency during the high holy days of Passover, when patriotic fevers always ran high. The Romans would meet violence with violence.
But Jesus, as it turns out, was not a warrior like David. Nor was Jesus a spineless pacifier. Jesus taught and practiced nonviolent resistance to the brutal Roman occupation. Bread, not swords. His partisans would later call him “Son of God,” “Prince of Peace,” and “Virgin born” to subvert Emperor Augustus who had bestowed all those titles upon himself and stamped them on Roman coins.
The gospels are sectarian tracts advocating compassion for all and nonviolent resistance to evil. Love your enemies. Do not return evil with evil. Turn the other cheek. (Show them you’re not afraid.)
That’s how I read the gospels. That’s how Leo Tolstoy, Harriet Tubman, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, and Thich Nhat Hanh read them.
But that’s not how Emperor Constantine or a host of bishops, popes, kings, and presidents have read them. They coopted Jesus.
I believe in the original way of Jesus. But Putin’s savagery in Ukraine is testing my faith.
See Paula’s new photo on the home page. Posted April 10