I took a Good Friday break from blogging yesterday. Years ago, I heard a Catholic priest deliver a Good Friday sermon that began: "Today we commemorate the victory of absolute evil." Since then, my practice has been to spend some time on Good Friday thinking about the nature of evil. No, not just the evil that we Christians believe was perpetrated on Jesus of Nazareth (a preoccupation newly adopted by many conservative evangelical Christians thanks to Mel Gibson), but more to the point, the evil that Christians have perpetrated in Jesus' name, most notoriously on Good Friday, date of countless pogroms over the centuries. It's the cruelest irony of all: Christians marking the Crucifixion of their Jewish Savior by (figuratively) building crosses and crucifying Jews.
The Good Friday Pogrom is, so far as I know, a thing of the past, but at a time when blind self-righteousness, fear and hatred of The Other (whether it's gays and lesbians, Muslims, or "pagan" liberals), and highly selective attention to Jesus' teachings are again on the rise here among Christians in America, it's probably a good time to remember the whole point of the Passion story, in which Jesus' own disciples denied and betrayed Him.
This, the evil done precisely by those speaking in Jesus' name, was probably best expressed in Johann Heermann's seventeenth-century hymn:
Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee. --