Good Friday. That’s what we call this day in the UK. Langfredag (Long Friday) in Denmark. Both are appropriate for me as I have to cross the country to Roskilde to play a lovely gig and then face the motorway and splendid Storbælt bridge once more to get home.
It is the day set aside by one of the major monotheistic religions (the one who by various means converted the most people in what we now call “The West”) to remember the fate of a working class dissident in Israel a couple of thousand years ago during the Roman occupation. Nearby the site of the barbarous brutality that (according to certain, though maybe not entirely reliable sources) was fortunately only temporarily terminal, there is – even today – murder, torture, hatred and intolerence. In the name of different versions of the same religion to which he belonged. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are, remember, basically the same faith sharing most of the same scripture and divided only on interpretation and implementation. They share the same God.
I don’t think that Jesus would be terribly proud of his legacy.
The current followers of the revised and edited books that describe the bits of what Jesus said that people could remember a half century later are spilt into many factions, who agree on a few things, but disagree on as many. These factions can be collected into two main groups: those christians who base their doctrine on the NT: Love your neighbour as thyself/ do unto others as you would have them do unto you; and those who take random texts from the laws of the Hebrews around 3500 years ago and base their values on those – ignoring the bits that don’t fit their views. eg. Leviticus 18:22 but not Leviticus 19:28 (tattoos??? Nooooo!) or 19:33 (be nice to foreigners!). This stuff is clearly for eyes that have not opened in 2 millenia. I say keep the historical bits, though with a pinch of salt (Lot has lots) and chuck the rest where it belongs – in a museum for long lost cultures. But don’t take any of it as gospel. The first group I have more time for, simply because the message is clearer (only the unfortunate addition of the stories of the apostles and the bizarre coded bad trip that is Revelation confuse the issue). The gospels, though they contradict in story, pretty much give the same – and rather refreshingly positive – message:
Be nice to people.
The first group mentioned above tend to have a good grasp of this. It’s pretty much the same message as in all other religions, if you take out the pretty poetry, swashbuckling stories and laws on personal hygiene. It’s so simple – chuck your ancient parchments away – you don’t need them. People are still being executed daily for spreading the message of being nice to people in societies based on outdated rules from bygone desert subcultures. I’m not saying chuck your beliefs (unless they tell you to harm other people or destroy our planet – in which case I am, cos there ain’t no god silly enough to think that’s a good idea), I’m saying stick to the essence of them and don’t get wrapped up in the frequently mistranslated details. There’s one message from the Easter story we can all take with us, whether we believe in magical mystical carpenters or not – it’s beautiful and it’s not the dubious resurrection. And I think that despite all the misuse of Christianity in waging wars and persecuting people, Jesus would be proud of those who remember only this:
It’s that it’s better to die spreading love than to live in hate and fear.