Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pilate

Sometime last week or the week before I was talking to a group of young people about the teleological argument – you know, the way you do. It’s the one about design, how an explosion, like the Big Bang, should create chaos rather than order - evidence for God, perhaps. Maybe there are chaotic parts of the universe, but Earth-wise we are precisely tuned for life.

The question that started it all began with “If you were God what parts of the universe would you keep/get rid of/like/not like. I mentioned wasps as my candidates for getting rid of.  They talked about religion.  It was days after Belgium.  Islamic State at their suicide bombing worst. It seemed easier to get rid of all religion rather than hold on to specific good bits.  I tried to bring Mother Teresa into the conversation and Gandhi and said that without their tireless work, we would be in a worse state. I also pointed out that non-religious people did as much bad as their religious counterparts. There was almost the gentle pat on the head and a concession for me personally because I was religious and perhaps a part of the good bits – but some kind of acknowledgement that  I wasn’t living in the real world.

Sometime during the last couple of weeks I have been confronted with Pontius Pilate. As was my usual habit before writing a poem, I read a few articles. He wasn’t the neutral man that people say he is, nor was he manipulated or afraid of Ciaphas and the religious leaders. Pilate wasn’t a governor struggling to keep control of a volatile country. He was a part of the elite of the Roman Empire, a part of Caesar’s extended family.  His aim was to protect the status of the elite – for that alone he would never have fitted in to the kingdom Jesus came to bring.

Pilate was responsible for the death of Jesus – because it suited his purpose.  In the process he had won a declaration from the religious leaders that Caesar was their only king. I felt Samuel turn in his tomb at this point – all his prophecies about Israel asking for a king way, way back coming to fruition.

I know that Jesus never said to Pilate, “Follow me.” In every encounter Jesus had there was an unasked invitation, perhaps. I imagined Pilate refusing the offer, explaining how there were aspects of the Kingdom that he found impossible to comply with. The elite, like Pilate, were unlikely to be the ones who will turn the other cheek.  In truth, the more I thought about it, the more Pilate seemed to take on a George Osbourne/David Cameron face – and elite maintaining the elite at the cost of despising the ones not elite.

The second stanza crawled out from beneath the woodwork and wrote itself into the poem. Men like Pilate, the men of power and cruelty, have found their way in to the hierarchy. They are not there to serve the community of faith but to be served. There is too much history of the abuse of the authority of the church, an elite maintaining an elite, to be able to say that we are always part of the good bit.

Men Like Me

there is no room in
Your kingdom for
men like me -
the ones who cannot see
their poverty of spirit and
refuse to shed tears
who wage war on meekness and
never really bend the knee
all other allegiances not unmade -
men of power and cruelty

yet they still find a way in and
make a place for themselves
hooking up, tapping in, syphoning off and
never for God’s sake

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