Once again it was a Lent of loopholes, of minor sacrifices deferred by family travels and travails and of minor irritations unredeemed, so that as Palm Sunday drew near it caught me in need of a new beginning, in want of a jump start.
Laughter was a hallmark of my family’s life as I grew up. Our family dinner table was so often marked by jokes and storytelling that we were the embodiment of those old canards about communities that know the jokes so well that all you have to do is call out the numbers and everyone laughs.
Most Christians are stubbornly fixed on being like Jesus. He is the gold standard for what it means to be fully human, in full union with the Divine. They tell me what it costs to love unconditionally, to forgive 70-times-seven, to show compassion for the poor—all essential hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry. What I hear less about is what it costs to oppose the traditions of the elders, to upset pious expectations of what a child of God should say or do, to subvert religious certainty, and to make people responsible for their own lives. Yet all of these are present in his example too.
A few weeks ago, oppressed by some worrying news, I stopped into our college art museum. On the floor devoted to American and modern European paintings, I paused to admire Charles Sheeler’s Rolling Power, a close-up of train wheels, pistons and steam commissioned by Fortune magazine to honor the dynamism of the industrial age.
In the wake of a deadly shooting in Denmark possibly motivated by anti-Semitism, Muslims in Oslo, Norway, have planned an antiviolence demonstration at the local synagogue. They want to form a “peace ring” around the synagogue as a way of distancing themselves from violence against Jews in Europe and to make a statement about the peaceful intentions of Islam. “If anyone wants to commit violence in the name of Islam, you will have to go through us Muslims first,” one of the organizers said. The leader of the synagogue approved of the plans as long as at least 30 people showed up. More than 630 people agreed on Facebook to be there (Times of Israel, February 18).