Friday, 3 April 2015

Good Friday Reflection

On Good Friday, it is a tradition at the Barnet Eye to write something a little reflective and hopefully thought provoking and a little left field of what we normally write. Recently, I've been working on a new album with Allen Ashley, Fil Ross and Big Gray Ramsey and I was listening to some of the early mixes this morning. Music caan be a very powerful and evocative medium. The new album comprises of a selection of songs written in 1985, reworked into a more contemporary style and some more recent material. Most of the compositions are co-written, I write the music (mostly), Allen & I co write lyrics (ome exclusively Als, some exclusively mine tho) and Fil and Gray assist with the arrangements etc. Listening to them as a single entity is really quite enlightening. I realise just how much I've changed in some ways, but also, perhaps more surprisingly, I've stayed very much the same.

The lyrics I wrote in 1985 were largely written when I was going trhough a period of massive emotional turmoil. The ones more recently written are written from a more mature perspective and perhaps with a bit more black humour thrown in. It got me thinking about how we as individuals change through our lives. When I wrote the early songs I was unsure of myself, to a cetrain extent lacking in confidence. I was starting out in my career and I was definately very emotionally immature. What I see in the songs was a desire to change and a cry for help and emotional support. In that sense I feel that I am unrecognisable from the person I was then. I am much calmer and stronger. There are also however the songs themed on more political issues and themes of injustice. I find that if anything my views are even more entrenched than they were in 1985.

As I reflected this change, my thoughts turned to Good Friday and the historical context. I find the story of Good Friday to be intriguing. The accounts of what happened are really quite enlightening about the nature of how human society has changed and developed. If we take the events at face value as recollected and consider them from a human and political viewpoint, rather than a religious one, there are many lessons to be learned. If we look at the context of the place and time, we see a strongly religious country, under an oppressiven, ruthless and alien foreign dictatorship. There appears to be three competing power bases. The forces of Roman occupation (represented by Pontius Pilate), the collaborative civilian monarchy represented by King Herod and the religious elite. It seems that these three were in an uneasy alliance of convenience. Clearly none of these parties really had much respect for each other, but were forced to work together.

It appears that there is a very delicate balance and all parties are primarily interested in simply maintaining their own power. When a challenge (in the form of Jesus) emerged, it is clear that the primary consideration of all concerned is how to ensure that any threat to their power and the status quo is maintained. The religious authorities simply want to get rid of Jesus. He is a threat and cleary has little time for them or their ways. To me it appears that Herod initially sees Jesus as someone who may be a potential ally and may bolster his power. When he realises that Jesus isn't interested in playing ball, he realises that the easiest thing is simply to let the religious authorities get on with it. Pilate  is clearly not in the least interested in Jewish religious disputes. When he realises that releasing Jesus, which is his preferred option will cause a riot, he simply washes his hands of the matter.

Have things changed? Well in the West, thankfully religious organisations are largely excluded than political power. For me this is a very good thing. It seems to me that wherever religious authorities are involved in the running of the state, you get very bad government. Sadly in many places, this is not the case. The rise of ISIS is just one example of how bad things can become when political and religious powers are mixed.

What interested me this morning was the consideration that Jesus was 33 when he was executed by the state. That was the age at which my first child was born. I think for many of us, the birth of our first child is perhaps the biggest life changing experience we have. It is the moment when all of a sudden, we have responsibility. As I contemplated this, I considered that fatherhood was not an experience Jesus experienced. If you believe in the divinity of Jesus, it seems that he was excluded from this most human of experience. For me, the experience has changed me and I hope made me a better and less selfish person. I guess if you believe in the divinity of Jesus, you believe he was pretty much perfect, then he didn't really need any improvement. For me though, it is clear that parenthood was a very pivotal part of making me what I am.

Another thing which interests me about the Gospels is the insight it gives us into society at the time. We tend to have an incorrect view of some of the key events. For example, we associate Samaratans with goodness, due to the parable. In fact, they were highly despised foreigners in Palastine at the time. The reason Jesus used the example was presumably to challenge prejudice. It was also noted that he would socialise with Tax Collectors and Prostitutes. This was clearly a no no for the morality of the time. I suppose it is interesting that we no longer see people who work for the Inland revenue as social pariah's but the status of Prostitutes has not improved. Perhaps it is ironic that despite Jesus being pretty clear on the fact he saw them as no worse than anyone else, the churches to this day take a completely different view.

Then there is the message of non violence. This is perhaps the greatest legacy he left. For me it is the most important lessson. Back when I was 23, I didn't get the fact that non violence was perhaps the toughest path of all. Life experience has taught me that.  Perhaps our greatest song from the 1985 era was one called action shock. It is all about a soldier face to face with an enemy, who has the choice of kill or be killed. I would still chose life over death if I possibly could. That path is just too tough to embrace.  I do however think that can only be a last resort.

The one conclusion that I think is inescapable about the fate of Jesus on Good Friday 2,000 years ago is that when it comes down to it, having radical ideas is a very dangerous business. The likes of Martin Luther King have paid the price for this. More recently we had the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

So that really is the point I am trying to make. As individuals we grow and as a society we grow. Martin Luther King shows us that as a society we have really not moved that far. It is the responsibility of each one of us to ensure that society moves on and progresses. Whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, an athiest or any other demonination, surely you recognise that executing a man just for posing a threat to the elite is the sign of a bad society. No one has the right to murder someone else for their beliefs, however offensive we may find them. If we can't solve these issues by civilised debate, we clearly have nothing to offer. Arguements cannot be won simply by brutality. The ultimate lesson from what happened 2,000 years ago was that the state execution was a futile act. All acts of violence, either personal or state sponsored ultimately solve nothing. Only dialog and rational behaviour solve problems and allow us to move on. Perhaps that is the most importaant less I've learned since I originally wrote those songs. I sincerely hope that whatever you believe, you agree with that sentiment. I hope you have a fullfilling holiday period.

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