Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.

Good Friday’s Failure to Shock Us


A naive luxury of Christianity is that Good Friday has been repeated for centuries. The paradox of repetition is that either it creates a complete desensitization or it creates an obsession. The familiarity of Good Friday is such that it surpasses meaninglessness, becoming a blindspot, as seen among many American Protestants, who focus only on Easter. On the other hand, the annual return creates a fetishized idol in itself, such that tourists are banned from getting crucified in the Philippines. However, even this paradox of extremes still misses the mark. Theo-politically, Good Friday is about killing Jesus for sedition, for the assignment of being the King of the Jews. More radically, Good Friday is about killing an innocent man and about killing a quixotic god.

And because we have the luxury of repetition that desensitizes or fetishizes, we shift the focus of Good Friday upon ourselves. We make it about us, such that it does not affect us or alternately, we determine how it affects us. And this means that Good Friday has lost its ability to shock, which is, ironically, our own great tragedy and betrayal in Holy Week. We have lost the ability to be shocked that the police state of the Roman Empire and the institutional cultural powers of the community, the Pharisees, would take the time and effort to kill a man and put his dying and death in plain view as a warning to all. On Good Friday, we have set down our shock for easier answers. We have chosen silence, instead of the jarring violence in front of us, such that we cannot say the words

What the fuck? They fucking killed him. Look!

Good Friday is the day we should shout this about Jesus. But the rest of the year, we neglect to shout this about each person who has suffered injustice, often right before our own eyes. The problem is that we expect injustice and that injustice does not shock us anymore. We are not saddened as we should be about police and economic brutality, the prison system and ecological collapse, and socio-political oppression. We either ignore it, or we make injustice about ourselves, how we have been affected. But Good Friday is not about us. It is never about us. It is always about who suffers, is tortured, and killed. And when injustice is habitualized, ritualized, and regularized, it becomes injustice all the more.

Good Friday is our day of sorrow and outrage and disillusionment. Good Friday must never become comfortable. Good Friday must never be ours. If it becomes ours, we poison the day with our selfish hearts. Jesus is dead. God is dead. Injustice rules the day. Let us not forget that. Today is the Day of Crucifixion of everything we have ever loved and hold dear to us. Today, is the day everything is ripped from our grasp, because it can be. Today is not our own. This is the Good Friday, the day too terrible to dare to understand. All we can do is look on in horror and attempt to recover the body however we can.

Kreuzabnahme (Descent from the Cross), by Max Beckmann, 1917. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Kreuzabnahme (Descent from the Cross), by Max Beckmann, 1917. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


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By Burke
Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.


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