Letter to the Editor: Palm Sunday

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by Peter Snow

 

Why do we want to perpetuate hatred of Jewish people? Parishes are planning for Palm Sunday services and Good Friday for their lay people to scream out crucify him like at a political rally. They will be asked to cry out, “His blood be upon our heads, and upon our children” and so perpetuate the anti-semitic judgment of 2,000 years. Let us stop supporting the belief held for 2,000 years by Christians everywhere that the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus’ death. The temple clergy were responsible, and carefully packed the courtyard before Pilate.

 

The people of Jerusalem were not involved. Jesus was on the cross by noon. He must have been before Pilate by 8.00 am and before the people of the city could know what was happening. Two hearings, one scourging, preparation of a crucifixion detail and a visit to Herod all compressed into four hours? No, the time line is too tight and left no time for communication to the people. They were intentionally excluded, and the High Priest wanted Jesus dead before the people could react. The arrest in darkness, the hearing in the middle of the night, and the hearing by the Sanhedrin after sunrise, all speak of haste and secrecy. They could have condemned him within the Sanhedrin, but his trial would be open, a defense would be mounted, there would be debate and it would take 72 hours to kill him. No, the clergy wanted it done before the people woke up to what was happening. It was the clergy who wanted him dead in order to protect their monopoly which Jesus threatened.

 

It is the clergy of any faith or ideology that light the fires beneath the martyrs, populate inquisitions, and rouse people to genocide and pogroms. Enough already.

 


 

The Rev Peter D. Snow is a priest in the Diocese of Olympia, author of the book,  Jesus, “The God App,” and is now working on another book, “The Mind of Jesus of Nazareth.”

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

I have never been to a political rally. Do people really scream out, "crucify him" at political rallies?

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Philip B. Spivey
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Philip B. Spivey

Been to a Trump rally in recent times?

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Philip B. Spivey
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Philip B. Spivey

I wince with shame every time I hear this Passion passage; year after year. Because no one in the pulpit counters it with historical fact. No one says; "This passage is a cornerstone of historical Jewish anti-Semitism in the West". No one laments the vilification of an entire religious community at the very moment we lament the loss of our Lord and Savoir, Jesus. How ironic that the people we Christians have chosen to vilify over the centuries---are Jesus' own!

It's no good saying "I'm not anti-Semitic" or "I didn't pen that Scripture". We can't cherry-pick history; we can't cherry -pick the Bible; we have to own it all as part of our living history. However, as mature Christians with reason, we can offer a counter to history when we identify, label and speak-out against historical inaccuracies and distortions in Christian tradition and---Scripture. Especially when the Bible is used, nefariously, as justification for scapegoating any Child of God.

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Thomas Rightmyer
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I attend the adult class at Congregation Beth Israel, the Asheville, NC, Conservative synagogue. Three Christian clergy frequently attend, a Mennonite, a liberal Presbyterian, and me. I am a Prayer Book Catholic Episcopal priest. We alternate study of Scripture and contemporary Jewish literature. We begin to study John's gospel May 3. I have always taught that the opposition to Jesus came from the leadership who influenced the crowd as leaders have for many years - including the bad old days of segregation and continuing white privilege. The mob's cries are those of the lynch mob. None of us have participated in a lynch mob but some of our grandfathers and uncles did.

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Allison de Kanel
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I once had the privilege of attending a joint ELCA/Episcopal Good Friday liturgy. The liturgy included solemn reproaches, among which were the following:

A O my people, O my church, what more could I have down for you? Answer me! I lifted you up to the heights, but you lifted me high on a cross; I raised you from death and prepared for you the tree of life, but you have prepared a cross for your Savior.
C Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy on us.

A I grafted you into my people Israel, but you made them scapegoats for your own guilt, and you have prepared a cross for your Savior.
C Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy on us.

It seems to me that our Passion liturgies, whether on Palm Sunday or Good Friday, should include some form of repentance for the sin of scapegoating the Jewish people for the death of Jesus. And our educational programs and preaching should address this sin as well. We can't pretend it isn't in our liturgies.

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David Glidden
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David Glidden

Anti-clericalism has a horrifying history too. Isn’t the problem with all those who claim to know God’s will and then seek to punish others for their allegedly sacriligious views and values? Judge not, lest thyself be judged. Condemn not, lest thyself be condemned. And those who pick up stones to stone adulterers are just as evil and unjust as those leaders who contrived to crucify Jesus. And the same is true of those who criminalize abortions, I might add.

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Christopher SEITZ
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Christopher SEITZ

Do I understand the position being articulated here, viz., that the Jewish leadership called for Jesus' death, and so we can target them as responsible, but 1) not the Jewish people, or 2) crowds of non-Jews? Not sure how this helps with anti-semitism. Nor is the idea that all Jewish people killed Jesus a particularly regnant one, in our modern period.

I also do not what is gained by focusing on some isolated group. I am responsible for Jesus death, being part of the Old Adam. I called for his death. Like Peter, I denied him. God raised him and has granted new life in his name, for those forgiven by the Risen Lord, in the steps of Peter.

But perhaps I am missing something. Lenten blessings.

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Jon White
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Jon White

Christopher, I'm happy to see some agreement between us. I've never encountered intentionally anti-Semitic teaching or preaching in the Episcopal church, and have certainly never encountered anyone holding to the idea of blood libel or holding Jews responsible (and accountable) for Christ's execution.

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