From darkness of our souls, Jesus rose again bringing hope with Him


Guest Column
By Lamar Massingill*

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln was offered the way of race extermination for Negros. The thinking was that this would solve the contraband problem Gen. Ulysses Grant faced. Lincoln turned away from the notion of mass extermination in, literally, what could only be called a shuddering horror. But that wasn’t the end of this dark idea. Less than 80 years later there came a man insane enough to act out the evil ideology of race extermination. That man’s name was Adolf Hitler.

Our dark ideas are nearly always acted out. We all have a penchant toward uncalculated risks and greed, which eventuate in the conquering of other beings who do not share our particular opinions. Human darkness, whether ideologies, philosophies, or fundamentalist theologies get “person”-ified in a host of human acts of terror from so-called Christians bombing abortion clinics to Muslims flying planes into buildings.

What about other ideologies of greed and power that have affected our world? The free sex revolution of the 1960s was simply a wholesale acting out of dark and secret desires that craved freedom and license with no responsibility (Ku ku ka chu, Mrs. Robinson…).

It’s no accident that the first credit card, Bank Americard, was introduced during this time. The message had the same sexual overtones: Have it now, pay later. Economic ideologies look great on the surface. Just watch the automobile commercials during the evening news. No cash? No problem!

The message, of course, is we will take care of ourselves while, at your expense, we pretend to take care of you. But they cater to the darkness of human greed. Marketers know this all too well. It’s our fault. We bought into their illusion, and now credit card and interest debt has become the American way, as has sexual promiscuity, producing everything from broken relationships to physical disease.

Anglo-Saxon arrogance is nothing more than tribal provincialism driven by fear, religious ignorance, and paranoia. It is an ideology now being acted out through white supremacist groups who commit all manner of terror toward not only those who are of a different color or race or sexual orientation but the things and people that represent government as well. And the Ku Klux Klan? Well, we don’t even have to go there.

These things are always done in the name of God, which makes them no less a terror from inside America as the terrorism we fight emanating from the outside.

Judaism in the time of Jesus was a sacrificial faith system. The Jews had used the symbol of the lamb to take away sins. These were searing, visible images of redemption. These stumbling bearers of hope with their throats cut; these longing, reaching quests for oneness with God, the epitome of our need to be right with the powers that be, Israel’s eagerness to be rid of its guilt.

These lambs were important symbols. They traveled to the heart of things – to the heart of what’s wrong with us. And for Israel they were symbols of forgiveness. The historian Josephus counted more than 248,000 lambs slaughtered in the Passover feasts in Jerusalem in the year 70.

But the idea of a sacrificial lamb would not do as a symbol forever. Remember, ideologies sooner or later get personified, and the sacrificial religion the Jews worshipped was personified not in the sacrifice of a lamb but in the sacrifice of a person: Jesus Christ.

It was a dark, greedy plan hatched by the religious leaders of the Jews to eliminate a person whom Pontius Pilate himself knew was innocent. But nothing – not even the darkest ideologies of human beings – can prevent the gifts of God from being given in such situations.

During Lent we reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus and how many gifts have come to us through an otherwise terrible human event.

*A published author, Massingill is minister at the United Methodist churches of Richton and Sand Hill, and religion editor at “The Magnolia Gazette.”