Let me set the scene. I'm eating lunch at home, listening to a podcast about Steven Colbert taking over The Late Show next year. Minding my own business, as one might say. I see a few cops outside the window, redirecting traffic. My first thought is, "Oh God, there's been another shooting." My neighborhood is quite peaceful and lovely overall, but, like so many working-class neighborhoods here in Chicago, we've seen an unfortunate rise in gun violence with these recent warmer temperatures.
But it's not a crime scene. It's another kind of scene altogether. At first I can't tell what it is. A parade? A protest? A mob? I hear angry yelling. I hear some kind of slapping noise. I look out another window and see...Jesus. Or rather a guy dressed up as Jesus. He's carrying a cross down the middle of my street, surrounded by other guys dressed up as Roman Soldiers, whipping at his cross with what look like rolled-up t-shirts. They lead a huge crowd of people, also in costume, to the middle of the intersection outside my window, where Jesus collapses dramatically. He and the cross are splayed out on the pavement, like...well, like a crime victim awaiting a chalk outline.
Of course, Jesus can't die here. He has to trek it up to mount calvary. Or down to a local church basement. And he does eventually, but not before an interlude of liturgy and song, via megaphone.
I'm not sure if this is an annual tradition in our neighborhood (we haven't lived here that long), but I had no idea this was going to happen today. The whole thing is very dramatic, very large, and...just a little invasive. I've never had a positive reaction to hearing Bible verses blasted from megaphones. I'm more amused than annoyed, though I suppose neither reaction is what these Christ-followers (literally) were hoping to evoke from me, a bystander. A fellow Christ-follower even (though much less literally).
I've always been aggravated with street preaching and other public demonstrations of the Christian faith. "They're doing way more harm than good to the name of Christ," I would say. But, if I'm truthful, I'm just as aggravated about the harm they do to the name of Christians. Ok, to my name. I don't want to be associated with them when calling myself a Christian.
Yet, strangely, this surprise passion play outside my living room window has made me wonder about the reason for Christian holidays. And for Easter in particular. I wonder if it's not supposed to be a little disruptive to everyday life, an opportunity to focus on the central events and ideas behind our faith, in collective recognition. And to recognize our collectivity.
So here's what I'll say about this public display of affliction, with Jesus bloodied and gasping a few feet from my car: It's ill-advised to recreate a violent scene in my neighborhood, one that made one of my neighbor's kids cry in terror at the sight. But I'm grateful for the disruption and the reminder that we don't all have to agree to be a part of God's family.
Hopefully they'll just do some Christmas caroling next time.