Because Lent is NOT about Social Justice

Good Friday
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April 22 is an odd day this year.  Some have made the link between Good Friday and Earth Day. Some have said ‘Please don’t‘.  Complicating matters for me, personally, is the fact that my daughter’s first birthday just happens to be April 22, 2011.  We will celebrate A.’s birthday on Saturday.

It’s not that Good Friday is a bad time to conserve energy, commit to better stewardship of the earth or fighting MTR.  Those activities know no season.  It’s that humanity is always looking for a way to skip confession, always looking for a reason bypass the crucifixion, always looking to point the finger at someone else’s sin.  This is where Good Friday, in its quiet power, says No.

In their justifiable ambition to save the planet, many have forgotten the communal nature of the sin of destroying the earth.  Many neglect to see one’s own sin in the destruction of a mountain.  Many have failed to see that the fate of one is connected to the fate of another.  Many have failed to hear Jesus’ prayer from Thursday night: that they may all be one.  Many failed to admit the filthy raggedness of their own righteousness.  Lent calls us to stop and participate in the process of redemption: confession, penance, repentance.  Good Friday reminds us of the universal nature of our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness.  You can’t really do that while playing the us/them game.

There are many evangelicals who want to save non-believers from eternal damnation.  They want these non-believers to become like they are, fervent for Christ, washed in the blood of the Lamb.  Good Friday must be pretty difficult for them to be reminded that Jesus died for the sins that they are still currently committing.  So they might as well pocket that crooked finger.

Likewise, there many social justice activists want to save bigots/racists/sexists/Fortune 500 CEOs/Republicans/fossil fuel users, etc. from perpetuating the ruining of the society/culture/community/planet for everyone.  They want these “non-believers” to become like them, responsible, free, sensitive, washed in the acid-wash of progress.  Good Friday must be pretty difficult for them to be reminded that there is such a thing as sin and their hands are dirty, too.

So, social justice is good.  Earth Day is good.  Saving the planet is good.  All that is good.  But it is not Good Friday.  Good Friday is for the hard, messy work of muck-raking one’s own soul.  Any muddling of this fundamental purpose can probably wait until Monday.

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2 thoughts on “Because Lent is NOT about Social Justice

  1. This morning (Good Friday, Earth Day) a young man I’ve never seen stopped in my study as I was preparing for worship. He didn’t seem to be alright. But I wasn’t sure. He wanted to talk. He had a bemused expression on his face. The short version of the long story he told me was vague enough that I wasn’t sure about what happened – but clear enough that what I worried was that he had actually raped someone early this morning. He told me that he had taken “speed.” He asked me to pray for him and for the woman he mentioned. But then he prayed a disjointed – and in some moments, obscene – but clear – prayer. So – I don’t know – but to me – Good Friday has all those things rolled up together (like all days). I guess Lent, to me is about social justice and that can’t be separated from my own individual sin and the sin of the world in which I’m caught up and complicit. I’m not sure that most people I know keep those separate all that much. Hmmmm.


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