For centuries, Catholics have looked on the Corpus of the crucifix and seen there the awful price of their salvation, the cost of their sins: the torture and death of God. “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him’” (Ac 2:38-39).
Jamie L. Manson, writing for the National Catholic Fishwrap, wants us to look up and see another oppressed proletarian victim of the system:
When I read the passion narratives of the Gospels, I don’t hear simply that Jesus suffered and died for our sins. Rather, I hear the four evangelists very clearly say that Jesus’ suffering and death was the will of those who conspired against him—those whose political systems he had undermined, those whose religious convictions he had offended.Jesus’ passion and death is a result of deeply-human intolerance, jealousy, resentment, hatred, and, most of all, fear.Jesus’ death may have been the will of God, but it was also the will of both powerful people and ordinary people who preferred unquestioning loyalty to rigid, oppressive political and religious regimes to the profound challenges of God incarnate.
Jesus as a first-century César Chavez. How mundane.
Manson doesn’t explicitly or strictly deny the redemptive aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice. Rather, it takes a back seat to Jesus the “embodiment of all good and healing things that we experience in this life on this earth”, who taught us to experience God’s fullness “by offering community to those banished by religions and societies, by inviting us to his table when no one else seemed to know we existed.” It has to co-exist with Jesus the Anarchist Revolutionary, whose compassion for the poor and downtrodden “shattered traditional religious practices and cultural conventions” … for which he was executed unjustly.
Let’s give her as much justice as we can: There is a species of Catholic for whom rites and rituals take precedence over justice, mercy and faith. There is a species of hierarch for whom apostolic zeal is quickly subsumed in bureaucratic administration, who seem to prefer to lead by letter rather than by example. There is a species of priest for whom being a priest is an ego-trip … although ego generally leads to dissent and schism rather than excessive abiding by rules.
Many of these people focus on afflicting the comfortable to the exclusion of comforting the afflicted. Others are too comfortable themselves to trouble about the afflictions of others.
But proto-Marxist language such as Manson employs makes Jesus a caricature of the Son of God and Savior. For while she doesn’t deny the redemptive aspect of his sacrifice, she treats sin as if it were almost irrelevant to Jesus’ real purpose (uplifting the oppressed), as if it were a handy excuse for The Man to keep the people down. Instead of the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), she gives us a garden-variety populist leader, of the kind that gets called “messiah” by critics as a term of derision.
It’s done. It’s been done. Jesus the Anarchist Revolutionary is so 1968 it isn’t funny anymore. It’s BO-ring!
Jesus the Anarchist Revolutionary isn’t the Jesus who said “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Lk 20:25), giving tacit recognition to the legitimate claims of civil government on the citizen. Jesus the Anarchist Revolutionary isn’t the Jesus who told the people of Jerusalem to practice and observe whatever the scribes and Pharisees told them to (Mt 23:3), giving tacit recognition to the authority of flawed, failing religious leaders over the believers.
Not only is Jesus the Anarchist Revolutionary passé, he’s fundamentally untrue to the Jesus of the Gospels. For Jesus spent time with the tax collectors and prostitutes not simply to make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside with a lot of I’m-okay-you’re-okay happy talk but to bring them to repentance.
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:12-13). Think of triage at a hospital, where patients are separated into three categories: those who need immediate attention; those who can wait; and those who are beyond help. He spent time with the worst of the sinners because that’s who needed saving the most.
People who are drowning in despair from their sinful, wasteful lives don’t need self-validation. They need hope. And Jesus gave them that hope, by telling them that, regardless of what they’d done to that point, God still loved them, and that they could be reconciled with Him.
That is the true majesty of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross:
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. … And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Col 2:9-10, 13-14).
For God so loves the world that He gave us His only Son to pay the ultimate price for our sins … not to engage in enviro-socialist agitprop. And Christ gave every ounce of his blood, when a single drop might have paid for all; for us he held nothing back.
How could anyone think that Jesus the Anarchist Revolutionary could begin to compete with Jesus the Divine Redeemer?
Hello, Ms. Manson? The Sixties are over. Liberation theology is spiritually bankrupt. Let’s get back to real Catholicism, please?