The symbolism of anguished mothers standing with President Barack Obama the day before Good Friday should resonate with all good people of faith. Obama’s call for American citizens to protect children, issued on a video featuring the President surrounded by women who’ve lost children to violence, should strike the hearts of Christians most profoundly of all. As they reflect on the suffering of their God and His mother that defines the darkest hours of Easter weekend.
Consider the painful similarities between the horrendous loss of small children’s lives and the brutal death of Jesus. Both are sober reminders of the risks of people not taking action to do all they can to stop predictable catastrophes from happening.
Citizens called for crucifixion
Citizens, not government, made the decision to crucify Jesus. Herod found Him harmless. Pontius Pilot advocated His innocence. It was religious leaders who judged Christ most harshly.
They lobbied for Jesus’ trial, preached against Him. And called for His death on the cross, the most brutal form of punishment available, normally reserved for slaves and political rebels. Pilot refused to be a party to the Leaders’ plot, so he let the people make the last call. The angry crowd by now was whipped up by the moralistic propaganda of zealous leaders whose histrionic rhetoric didn’t square with the murderous outcomes that, in the end, they achieved.
Leaders with high influence and well-paid positions felt threatened by Jesus’ peaceful agitations. So they coerced large groups of common people, enlisting them to revolt en-masse. And against all holy reason, to determine how a non-violent activist should meet His demise.
This small minority of vocal leaders’ fearful followers were left to decide the fate of a far more heartening and humble leader, Jesus. All He did was call them to Love. And told those who chose to listen, to care for children as if children were just like Him, the Christ Child of Heaven. “Truly, I say to you,” He said, “as you do to the least of these my brothers, you do unto me.”
Still, the citizens killed Jesus.
They and Jesus’ colleagues and friends, including disciples who’d long followed along, walking and praying with their Lord. Who when it mattered the most, didn’t speak up and, in the end, abandoned their Messiah. Most were nowhere to be seen, while women and mothers wept and mourned at the foot of God’s Son, wailing in helpless despair as He died on the cross.
This heartbreaking history should not be forgotten by any of us, regardless if we are Christian believers or not. Indeed it might serve as a potent mediation for us Americans in particular. Now, as another heartbreaking history fades away while Easter hopes are renewed. The massacre of twenty of our children shouldn’t be lost, left in the darkness of the long winter since it happened, just before Christmas four months ago.
Sobering spiritual connections should be made by all Christian people, as we ponder the parallels between the two holiest days of our Church calendar.
Children violently murdered just before the celebration of Christ Jesus’ birth last December. Fathers and mothers wailing. Righteous calls for justice. Some advocating for the innocent via peaceful means. Some fearful and angry, whipped up by influential leaders lobbying for violent means to achieve their unholy ends.
This modern day Calvary coming to life here in America, in the image of gun advocates who seek protection for their rights to own unregistered assault weapons above all, including above the rights of all American children to be protected in ways both Jesus and authors of the American Constitution would surely agree with.
These rights to Life, Liberty and Happiness were promised our children and their parents by our Founding Fathers, who bolstered and sealed it with a none-to-subtle reminder of who, in the end, is charge–namely the Father some of them believed was up above, in heaven. These were men of faith. And those who were so convicted, fought to include the reassuring reminder “In God We Trust,” to orient the government documents. These men knew Jesus loved children. They knew Jesus dedicated His life to assuring Life and Liberty, just as they dedicated their work for America. They knew, as all Christians do, that life and liberty were, in fact, the rights God died for.
Who among us here and now, 2000 years later, have abandoned such righteous reason and rejected non-violent solutions for deadly means?
Who among us, by contrast, remain vigilant still wailing for the dead children, while trying to protect the living children as our God demanded us to, with non-violence and love?
How will we feel if in the end we find we fearfully followed the wrong leaders to the worst of all ends?
Coldhearted Congressmen, complacent citizens
Which, in fact, it appears America is willing to do. And not only cold-hearted Congressmen. Common citizens, too, seem to be forgetting the promises they made.
“The entire Country made a pledge not to forget what happened in Newtown,” said Obama on Holy Thursday. “That’s not who we are.”
But if more Americans don’t call their Congresspeople and tell them to change the trajectory they appear to be on will continue to leave our Country and children unprotected from the same kind of unchecked gun culture that brought us into this unthinkable debacle. Which finds a tiny fraction of self-interested people succeeding in coercing the leaders we voted into office to serve the rights of all Americans citizens, into abandoning their spoken commitments, now when it matters the most.
“We need to feel like we felt 100 days ago,” beseeched Obama. “Make yourself heard.”
One can’t help but think of the corollaries between this United States president in 2013, and a civil leader overseeing the death of Christ 33 years after He was born. Pilot called on Roman citizens to let their judgement of Jesus be heard. Even though he disagreed with what he knew they wanted.
Obama, too, is calling on citizens to speak their minds. He, too, knows what they want. Only Obama, unlike his early Roman predecessor, agrees with the people he serves. Because unlike those who called for the death of Jesus, the vast majority of Americans are not buying the gun propaganda that mostly just supports manufacturers’ sales revenues via the violent means their products promote and achieve.
Calling for the majority to voice it’s power
“There’s nothing more important than millions of voices calling for change,” said Obama. Though highly-paid people in positions of power have all but killed gun control, “It’s not done, until it’s done.” Obama’s words harkened Jesus’ death on the cross, signaled by Jesus Himself, when after many agonizing hours in His last gasp He called out: “It is done.”
“Shame on us if we’ve forgotten,” admonished Obama of twenty innocent American children, brutally murdered. The president would dearly like to believe what he has long said: that given the power to express their shared voices, American people will in the end do the right thing.
Free Will, or Free Won’t
Is Obama right? Will we have the will to? Or, will we choose shame, instead?
Will we celebrate the full liberty and redemption Christians believe was painfully achieved three days after Jesus died? Namely His resurrection to life on Easter Day.
Were this week’s holiday only about candy and colored eggs perhaps we could let it passover without fear for the fate of more children.
But, it’s not. It’s about liberation from the slavery of our human failings — sins of power and greed in their most violent and life-draining expressions. And it’s about how miracles happen when human eyes are opened to see and live up to their intended role in the world.
We can’t forget the twenty children–and more–who’ve been forever deprived of egg hunts and jelly beans. And, too many parents deprived of little rituals like hiding Easter baskets for children gone now, forever.
Will we live up to our God-given job to love all His children, by protecting them from all harm? Including by walking our talk with gun control laws.