Sunday, March 24, 2013

Holy Week

     It was a crowd mentality that held sway when agents stormed my clinic to raid it nearly two years ago, and its crowds who govern public opinion.  So many people whom I considered my friends and allies have decided, it seems, that I am guilty.  It's a crowd phenomenon, and someone in my circumstances has to learn to defray its force.  The events of Holy Week help to depersonalize what happened to me, that week, and to put in its rightful place what continues to hurt.
     The crowd mentality was never more evident than during Holy Week, which starts today.   There may be something we can learn from this historical precedent.
     First, Jesus was celebrated as a new king, the Messiah, and rode into Jerusalem greeted by throngs of shouting disciples.   It was hoped he would replace Herod (who was Herod-the-Great's son), an abusive, tax-mongering ruler in a top-heavy, corrupt government.   Herod was complicit in the Roman occupation and oppression of Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, and therefore was unpopular.  The Jews hated paying taxes to the Romans, and looked for a new King David who would rule with justice and freedom from Roman rule.
     "Hosanna!" his followers hailed him.  "Blessed be the kingdom of our father, David, that cometh in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!" (Mark 11:10)   "The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen--" (Luke 19:37).
     What greater adulation could any leader hope for?  People loved him, on Sunday.  He rode into Jerusalem in triumph, on a donkey, expressive of his humility and perhaps even more beloved because of his decision to forgo a horse.
     But maybe people wanted a less humble king, someone sterner and more intimidating, strong enough to defeat the Romans.   Jesus' ideas about how people should live, and how a kingdom should be understood by them, didn't meet the immediate needs of an impatient populace.
     Some people still loved him on Monday and Tuesday, but as the week wore on, his popularity waned.  The crowd that had leaned one way at the beginning of the week, leaned the other by the end. Were they the same individuals?  A crowd becomes an entity in itself, whomever its members.   The people who had celebrated him when he entered Jerusalem were shouting, "Crucify him!" by Friday.   Alas, the fickleness of crowds.  They change their feelings, or one crowd shouts one thing and the other shouts another.  Who can trust a crowd?   Who can trust a political party?  Who can trust a group of federal agents, acting as one? 
     The crowd was becoming unwieldy.  "And some of the Pharisees from the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.  Then he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out" (Luke 19:39-40).
     It's hopeless, then, to tell people in crowds to stop shouting what they shout.  Anyone who has an important message must go forward with that message whether the crowd supports it or decries it.   Jesus knew the crowd was with him one day, but would turn on him the next.   He knew that the Pharisees were against him, and the High Priests hated him, and so did the scribes and the elders.  He knew that the crowds would be on the side of the winner--and he was the winner on Palm Sunday, but the loser by Good Friday.
     "Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.  Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father;  for which of those works do ye stone me?" (John 10:31-32).
     There are times when Jesus defeated mob violence, as when he was asked by the Pharisees what to do with a woman who had committed adultery.  "Let the one among you who has not sinned cast the first stone."  The crowd dispersed.   Jesus had asked people to think of themselves as individuals, not as part of a crowd, and to judge the actions of others by the actions of themselves.
     Government agents belong to a crowd.  They cannot think of themselves as individuals, nor can they think of the accused as individuals.  I, as one of the accused, belong to a crowd in the eyes of the FBI.
      It is intolerably difficult to separate oneself from a crowd of one's peers.   I don't criticize the crowd of agents who stormed my office--the crowd is magnetic and powerful, and sometimes insane.  But I wish that at least one person among that crowd might have stood up and asked, "Is this woman guilty?  Could she be innocent?  What, exactly, are we doing to her, if we proceed in this way? 
     "And what, exactly, are we doing to America, by doing this same thing, to other individuals, over and over again, without a second thought?"

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