In the Meantime,
Scandalous! That’s what we say when someone really acts out. Or we used to say it. But you know what I mean. What you may not know is where the word comes from. It’s from the Greek ‘skandalon,’ which means a ‘trap.’ Think of political scandals where the media catches them in their sins – from Wilbur Morse to Mark Sanford to Matt Gaetz.
I am thinking of this word at Easter because for us the traditional message of Easter – the unjust death and miraculous resurrection – is scandalous. It asks people to abandon common sense and decency. And early Jesus followers knew that. But today, the original shock has worn off. What was scandalous 2000 years ago is now revered.
And that is a real scandal. Christians (mostly) have become inured to the horror of the story. Take the bare facts of Good Friday (which was not good in any sense) and what you have is an arrest, torture, and execution. That was nothing new in Imperial Rome. They had treated thousands like that, including lining the Appian Way with 6000 crucified slaves after the revolt of Spartacus. But today the horror of that story has been diluted by piety and theology such that the scandal of it all is gone.
I mention this because the acceptance of abuse and violence and death is the moral scandal of our times. This week we have seen yet another trial of a police officer for the unnecessary death of another unarmed black man, George Floyd. But we know the Appian Way of our history from 1776 to now is well populated with crucifixions.
That we accept this as the price of doing business is the real scandal. The American romance with violence is a scandal greater than the scandal of violence itself. The American denial of systemic racism is a scandal greater than the scandal of racism itself. And we can thank organized Christianity for making violence and oppression normal. Churches lit the fires of anti-semitism, justified the enslavement of Africans, celebrated the conquest of the Americas, and demonized women. This Easter that is the scandal now. – FW