Wednesday, May 15, 2013

2013.05.15 Field Trip Into Easter

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat who blogs as the Velveteen Rabbi (don’t you love that blog name?) wrote recently of a time some years ago when she took a friend to a Christian church on Easter Sunday because he needed to go. And because compassion trumps religious difference. (My words)

Rabbi Rachel felt uncomfortable, worrying that she might stand out as an outsider AND worrying that she might blend in. Was she being spiritually dishonest? She remembered once in college singing with an ensemble group that sang frequently in churches and hearing a sermon that identified the Holy Cross as meant to be “a stumbling block to the Jews.”  She ran out in tears. Ardent Christians in the a capella group followed and comforted her, “bless them.”

The “Velveteen Rabbi” however survived her Christian Easter field trip. She remembers acolytes with bright yellow streamers, Easter Sunday best outfits, and a sermon that quoted the poet Rumi. At the end of his sermon the rector said, “Will you rise?” Everyone was so moved they all sat there, thinking his question was rhetorical/spiritual.  But he meant it literally.

It’s a good question to consider spiritually as official 50 days of Easter draws to an end. Easter never ends. Will you rise? Will you get up from your habits, your lethargy, your imitations of piety, your fear, and whatever attitudes you might have about Christian superiority?

And will you rise up again, as we women did in the 60s-80s, to promote and encourage the use of inclusive language for Divinity? And will you rise with courage to say: “I would rather lose votes and lose my job than see more lives lost to gun violence”?  The Hartford CT. chapter of the UAW had the courage NOT to take a position on Obama’s gun control proposal, even though it would have been expected and congruent  for a Union that represented workers at a local gun manufacturing company to go strongly against gun control legislation.  That’s brave. 

And will you rise up and begin to preach about the history and context of the Second Amendment, constituted not out of concern for sacred individual rights and liberty but for the sake of permitting the establishment of local militias in cases where the need for defense was urgent? And will you politicians scrap fear and rise up against the intimidation of the NRA? 

Rabbi Rachel’s wariness about the passion of Christ and her worry about the history of Christians who labelled Jews as “Christ killers” are well founded.  The gospel of John references “the Jews” repeatedly in accusatory terms at Jesus’ trial and execution. Most sensitive Christian clergy recognize this rhetoric as part of the semi-hysterical polemic of early Christians who feared for their lives and that of their faith. So many Christians change “the Jews”  to “the Temple authorities” to be accurate historically and to make sure it is clear that not ALL Jews aligned with Rome to eliminate Jesus. After all, Jesus’ followers were all Jewish, like him.   

Rachel concludes: “Whatever was dormant in me years ago, was washed away this Easter when she took a field trip to an Easter service, 8 a.m. at a local Episcopal Church service. She wrote that wariness was replaced with a renewed awareness of how sweet it can be to be (in Reb Zalman’s terms) a “spiritual peeping Tom,” looking to see how other people “get it on with God.”

Thank you Velveteen Rabbi!