“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children… For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23:31
This morning the tears finally came. Friends, the wood is dry. People are getting sick and dying from the pandemic, which is just getting started. In some places, like New York, the hospitals are beginning to get overrun. Healthcare workers are overwhelmed and risking exposure every day, often without enough supplies, respirators, or protective equipment. Schools and businesses are closing, and people are being laid off faster than during the Great Depression. We are beginning to see shortages of food. Racial violence and domestic violence are increasing. Economic insecurity, anxiety, fear, and tensions are on the rise.
Yesterday, a two-trillion-dollar stimulus bill was signed into law. It will take some of the economic pressure off at least some of the people but will provide many times more money to bail out the industries that keep the current economic system going. This system is called a free-market economy, but everyone knows that the government always (so far) can find enough money to wage war or to bail out the banks or to subsidize favorite industries that “pay to play” in order to elect and lobby the very leaders who make the decisions about policies that end up siphoning even more of society’s wealth up to the top. This is an example of the Shock Doctrine at its worst—taking advantage of a crisis to install policies that transfer wealth to the already wealthy. While the bill offers money for medical necessities in for dealing with Covid 19, loans to small businesses, and grants and expanded unemployment insurance to people are suffering, it also offers much more in bailouts for big corporations. The Trump Administration’s Treasury Department will be able to leverage the $500 billion dollars many times over, to the tune of $4.5 trillion or more, far more than the amount given to the people in this hour of extreme need. It has even been called a “corporate coup.” (See article below)
I not only grieve for what our people are facing now. I am also furious that our lawmakers don’t take this opportunity to create a system that is not based on the God of money, a system with the purpose of caring for people and protecting our earth.
This grief and fury must have been what Jesus felt at times, when he challenged the religious and political leaders who supported from and benefited from the unjust Roman system of domination and occupation at the expense of the people. They targeted him as a subversive and put him to death because the popular movement he led pointed to a new way of living, demonstrated an inclusive and egalitarian community based on compassion, and challenged the status quo. Jesus could see that if the Domination System targeted him at that time, when the Spirit of God was so active and apparent among him and his followers, it would continue to do so long after he was gone.
In Luke 23:26-31, we read that as Jesus made his way toward his crucifixion a great multitude of people “bewailed and lamented him.” But he turned and addressed them saying: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
The wood is dry. But I’m encouraged because I see green shoots all around: in the people who reach out to each other in this time of pandemic, in health care workers and others who risk themselves and give their all for the common good, in those who care for the children, deliver food to elders, facilitate online connection, and try to raise people’s spirits, and in those who continue to strive for social, economic, and environmental justice and systemic change.
The seeds of resurrection are already planted. With prayer, dedication to each other, and courage, we rise.
See the March 31, 2020 article by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams, “No More Spending’: After Securing $4.5 Trillion Corporate Bailout, Trump White House and GOP Cast Doubt on New Stimulus: ‘Trillions for big business. Bare minimum for you.’”
Reprinted from Lent and Covid 19 at Sharon’s Progressive Christian Social Action blog.