Easter Sunday

Blue Gal over at Street Prophets is asking people to participate in blog against theocracy this Easter weekend, so that's what I had intended to do today. 

I've been thinking a lot about Jesus' death, especially for someone who isn't Christian. And it occurred to me that Jesus was a victim of theocracy. Bear in mind that this is coming from someone who doesn't believe that Jesus was sent to die for our sins. I see his crucifixion as a state-sanctioned murder of someone who preached a radically liberal message of inclusivity and threatened established authority, both religious and state. Although, if Jesus were merely a victim, he wouldn't mean much to me. The Romans executed thousands. It was the way that Jesus unflinchingly lived his values of radical love and inclusivity, in the face of overwhelming power, that makes him a "first amongst equals" - fully human, and also fully divine.

I digress.... Some may question the claim that 1st century Jerusalem was a theocracy. After all, the political power was Rome whereas the religious power was the Temple high priests. While Herod may have been installed by the Romans (Marc Anthony), the Temple priests surely were not. But Herod and the Priests had entered into a cozy deal with Rome. In exchange for some amount of autonomy (and ability to collect wealth), sacrifices were offered in the Temple on behalf of Rome and the Emperor twice a day. The net result was the perception that the God of the Jews endorsed the legitimacy of Roman power.

Thus, religious authoritarian structure was supported by the state and in turn supported the state. This mutually beneficial arrangement assured that no one would be looking out for the welfare of the people. Until Jesus. And as he threatened this unholy alliance, he had to be done away with.

One of the main purposes of the "Church" is to bear witness against the injustices of authority. This is what the Jewish prophets did, bearing witness against Egyptian pharaohs and even Jewish kings. No one was beyond accountability. But the "Church" cannot hold the State accountable if its livelihood is dependent upon the State.

This was one of the primary concerns of our Founding Fathers as they carefully crafted the system of checks and balances intended to keep tyrannies in check. Many people now, see the separation of church and state as ensuring "freedom from religion." They see religion as the tyrant that the 1st amendment protects them from. But the original intent of the wall of separation was "freedom of religion," protecting religion's ability to be an independent voice of conscience, against the State if need be. Either way you look at it, separation protects everyone.

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