Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Christ's trial as a gross violation of human rights

Yesterday morning I led a Bible study on Mark 14 53-65, Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin. The global Anglican Peace and Justice Network is meeting in Geneva this week and they were looking at the whole area of victim's rights, reparation, reconciliation and much more besides.
Although only asked a few days earlier I felt quite excited by tackling this text and the good thing was that I was able to read bits of Morna Hooker's excellent commentary on Mark again. It was an interesting journey with the text and for once although I prepared quite carefully I didn't really have a full written paper - the disadvantage of that of course is that I'm not entirely sure what I said in the end! I began by doing some rememebred Bible with them about the trial - partly because it helps as part of the group process but also because much of the account of the trial is about how the witnesses don't agree. In terms of violations of human rights believing the witnesses, finding credible witensses is also part of the process ... so it was good to use our remembered Bibles to begin this process. Then we read the text and aloud said one or two words that struck us ... And we looked at the text like a human rights lawyer of activist in terms of due process, proper defence, demonizing the victim and the perpetrators. We also looked at how Mark's account of the Sanhedrin is hardly accurate - what does this almost demonization of the perpetrators say about how we tell the story of the victim? Did Peter really see all of this or had he fled from the scene only to deny Christ moments later?

I also told some stories from my own family - when you are the granddaughter of someone who has been in a concentration camp then issues of violation of human rights are not abstract ideals. I reflected on how because this is a text often read during Holy Week we are somehow already turned towards Easter, towards finding meaning in suffering and transformation through resurrection.

Yet as I left the Bible study and went back up the street to the ecumenical centre I was left with many questions - at the heart of our faith is this story of the violation of the human rights of God's son; is concentrating on this suffering in some way a celebration of the pornography of violence; can there ever be meaning in suffering; how dare we Christians point to the hope of resurrection, transformed societies, reconciliation; how dare we Christians not point to exactly those hopes ...
Perhaps during Holy Week I'll have time to return thinking about these things.