It's Good Friday. Today is the day that Jesus was turned over to The State. The State, that behemoth that has always been, sans compassion, sans conscience, sans consciousness, a veritable greed machine. In the Palestine of Jesus's day, that would have been a Roman Empire. In our time, it's an American one. Neither one of them has had a great track record when it comes to truth.
Today, we can see a powerful Jesus. Though he is given up to the workings of an evil system, he is never conquered by it. He has come to so embody the truth that when he simply presents himself in the garden, false authority falls away. Later, he stands up to Annas' attempts to frame him, while asserting his own authority among the people: "Ask those who heard what I said to them. They know what I said." Even when hit, he has a response that would require his assailant to face truth: "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I've spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" In facing his own Jewish community that has gone far astray, Jesus confronts them with truth.
But in his encounters with the Roman oppressor in the person of Pilate, Jesus points to truth in a different way. Compassionately, he speaks to the Roman procurator words that shed light on a path to truth for him: "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here. . . . You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Then Pilate seeks to learn from Jesus, "What is truth?", and goes out and asserts his detainee's innocence to those who want this captured man dead.
Even throughout the horrific pain and despair of the cross, Jesus remains heart and soul surrendered to the truth of his life. Even in his suffering, he fulfills the duty of an only child to his cherished mother, and releases her into the care of his beloved disciple, John. He stays vulnerably human right up to his last breath, expressing his thirst and drinking what's offered, sour as it is. Then Jesus simply acknowledges when his final moment has come, saying "It is finished.", and dies.
So, that's how truth showed up two thousand years ago in the Roman Empire. How is it showing up in the American Empire today? My answer—far beneath the surface of things, and with great struggle and indomitable spirit. To find truth in America today requires deep diving, fringe-living, and perseverance like we've never persevered before. I find truth in accepting limitations in my life that were unfathomable before, while indomitably confronting the stubborn myopia of my American people's devotion to a failure-bound system. I find truth in praying for the devotees, and therein receiving grace to think and act compassionately towards them. And I find truth in acknowledging my own—albeit unwilling—participation in the most destructive and inhumane mode of socio-economic organization that human beings have heretofore come up with, and doing all that I can to stop participating, one step at a time. [You know what system I'm referring to. I don't have to say the "C" word.]
When I look at the mangled truth hanging on the cross these days, I see the undocumented, the impoverished, the imprisoned, the homeless, the raped, the murdered, the queer, the elderly, the children, the sick, the abandoned, the molested . . . who in truth does NOT hang on the cross of Jesus today? It is in finding myself there that a portal into resurrection opens. Then I have the strength and Godly power to resist and keep resisting The State, as Jesus did and continues to do, whenever the Church stands up and divests of her own complicit - and almost always unconscious - support of The State.
I suspect America is like Pilate in the 21st century. Our best bet is to ask Jesus, "What is truth?" But unlike the Roman procurator, we can still choose to follow the Christly word whispered in our hearts, and NOT the loud demands of a crazed culture gone mad with greed. We can opt for death—and pass through to vibrant life like we've never known before.