New York Times columnist David French decided that Easter Sunday would be the perfect time to take aim once again at his favorite target — Christians — in a column titled “Easter Rebukes the Christian Will to Power.” But his target is not all Christians. From his seat of cultural power, French discriminates among Christians, reserving his ire for theologically orthodox, politically conservative Christians, especially those who voted for Trump. It’s likely that French’s favorite target, more than his writing skills, accounts for The New York Times hiring him in January 2020 as one of its quasi-conservative writers.
An Easter Story Rebuke
As justification for his eternal judgment of politically conservative Christians for myriad “sins,” French turns to Jesus’ refusal to assume the worldly power Jews expected their king to assume:
After Jesus’ arrest and show trial, Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of Judea, gave the people a fateful choice. It was customary to release a prisoner during Passover, and Pilate offered up Jesus. The crowd wanted someone else. ‘Release Barabbas to us,’ they cried.
Jesus was not the king the throng expected. He made clear that he was more interested in saving souls than in assuming power. And Barabbas was more than a mere criminal. He was an insurrectionist. The Books of Luke and Mark very clearly state that he participated in a ‘rebellion.’ Those who chose Barabbas didn’t choose a common criminal over Christ. Instead, they chose a man who defied Rome in the way they understood, a mission that Jesus rejected.
In his rebuke of Christians, French makes clear his target:
The spirit of Barabbas tempts Christians even today. You see it when armed Christians idolize their guns, when angry Christians threaten and attempt to intimidate their political opponents, when fearful Christians adopt the tactics and ethos of Trumpism to preserve their power. The spirit of Barabbas most clearly captured the mob on Jan. 6, when praying Americans participated in an insurrection based on a lie.
Was Barabbas a J6 Protestor?
Yes, there’s a real distinction between the kingdom of God and earthly kingdoms. And yes, the Jewish people failed to see that Christ the King was (and is) offering spiritual liberation and eternal life in a heavenly kingdom. But French himself turns the Easter story into a message about political rebellion.
French implies that the Easter story rebuke to Jan. 6 insurrectionists was less about justice than it was about power:
The spirit of Barabbas — the desire to seize or retain power, through violence if necessary — has been at war with the spirit of Christ ever since. Two millenniums of church history demonstrate a terrible truth: There was nothing uniquely evil about that ancient crowd. Instead, it held up a mirror to our own nature, one that is all too eager to wield the sword, to believe that our own power is a prerequisite to justice.
Regarding the fallenness of man and the ubiquity of every form of sin under the sun, I offer no disagreement. But French obfuscates the central message of the freeing of Barabbas from punishment for his crimes.
Or Was Barabbas a Rebel Against God?
Reprinted in part with permission from Author Laurie Higgins. To continue reading this insightful perspective in its entirety, please visit The Stream.org.
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