Williamson & RFK Jr. vs. Biden & Harris = Democracy vs. An Unelected Bureaucracy 

Readings for 4th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2:14A, 36-41; PSALM 23: 1-6; 1 PETER 2: 20B-25; JOHN 10: 1-10

This 4th Sunday after Easter is sometimes called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” That’s because in today’s final reading (Jn. 10:1-10), Yeshua identifies himself in those terms, and the responsorial from the Book of Psalms (23:1-6) is the very familiar selection that begins with the words, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”

What often goes unrecognized in such readings are their highly politicized meanings. In Jewish tradition, they describe the qualities scripturally idealized in Israel’s leadership. All of them, “The Book” says should be “good shepherds” at the service of their flocks.

The readings are particularly relevant this week when our incumbent president has declared his intention to run for a second term. His declaration has raised questions about the nature of American democracy.

In addition, he is described by many as running “unopposed,” despite strong challenges from two fellow party members, Marianne Williamson, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (RFK).

In fact, Williamson’s domestic agenda offers a clear alternative to Biden’s. The same is true of Kennedy’s foreign policy directions.

Taken together Williamson and Kennedy suggest an interesting president-vice president duo.

With that in mind, let’s break convention by evaluating Biden and his opposition in the light of today’s liturgical readings.

Biden’s Candidacy & Democracy  

Yes, just last week, octogenarian Joe Biden declared that he wants to be U.S. president for another four years.

Given concerns about his declining mental capacities (and even his biological continence), that’s quite breathtaking.

Nevertheless, it’s okay with the New York Times (NYT). Their morning-after editorial reminded readers that

“Strange as it may sound, the American government can function without a healthy president. The U.S. marched toward victory in World War II while Franklin Roosevelt was ailing in 1944 and 1945. Four decades later, the government managed its relationship with a teetering Soviet Union while Ronald Reagan’s mental capacities slipped. In each case, White House aides, Cabinet secretaries and military leaders performed well despite the lack of a fully engaged leader.”

In other words, it’s all happened before. So, don’t worry. It’s somehow the American way. There are historical precedents for governance under incompetent figurehead presidents who willy-nilly have surrendered power to unelected bureaucrats.

And there should be no debate about it.

I mean, it’s also fine with NYT editors that Biden’s simple declaration was enough for the National Democratic Committee (NDC) to decree no need for presidential debates on the Democratic side.

And this despite those two other declared candidates for Democratic leadership, viz., Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  

Currently, Williamson is polling in double figures. And if a primary between her and Biden were held today with voters under 50, she would win by a landslide. RFK’s numbers are similarly on the rise. He’s polling at 14% — well above several of Trump’s rivals considered to be legitimate candidates and worthy of debating him.

Nonetheless, no voice for Williamson and Kennedy. No debate. That’s democracy American style.

And by the way, all of this takes no account of the fact that even a clear majority of staunch Democrats though somehow approving of Biden’s first-term performance, wish that the old man would forgo running for a second term.

He’s just too old.

Biden vs. Williamson

All of this raises questions about “American” democracy. Is it really a democracy? I mean apparently, we’ll vote for some old white guy who may well be losing his mind. However, in the end, we’re just choosing neocons like Jake Sullivan, Victoria Nuland, and Antony Blinken and anonymous “White House aides, Cabinet secretaries and military leaders”?

What a shame – literally!

In terms of today’s readings, we already know the neocon agenda. It has nothing to do with care for people. They ignore us completely. Their agenda is spelled out clearly by NATO and in the declaration of The Project for the New American Century composed by Victoria Nuland‘s husband, the arms merchant, Robert Kagan. Domestically their program comprises tax breaks for the rich, privatization of public services, and market deregulation. That’s Neoconism. It’s unjust. But old Joe’s promise is that his version will be less painful than the Republicans’ outright fascism.  

Internationally, Biden’s neocon program is:

  • Amerika Uber Alles – i.e., the superiority of 4.1% of the world’s population over the other 95.9.
  • No tolerance of economic or military rivals.
  • Forever wars.
  • Bombing, sanctions, and regime change for the West’s former colonies who dare chart their own paths.
  • In general, keeping the Russians out, Americans in, and the Germans down.
  • Unconditional support for Ukraine

That’s It.

Now compare that with Williamson’s domestic policy. Most prominently, it calls for:

  • Medicare for all.
  • Transformation of our nation’s primary and secondary schools into “palaces of learning.”
  • Universally free college education.
  • Government sponsorship of a serious national conversation about race and reparations.
  • Empowerment of labor unions.
  • Infrastructure spending consonant with a Green New Deal.
  • Redirection of military spending into social programs such as housing and mental health services.
  • Demilitarization of the nation’s police forces.
  • Establishment of a cabinet level Secretariat of Peace.

And then there’s RFK Jr.’s foreign policy that is stronger than Williamson’s which I’ve criticized elsewhere. RFK’s approach calls for:

  • Facing the fact that Ukraine is losing its war with Russia (suffering casualties seven or eight times as great as their opponent).
  • Prioritizing diplomatic solutions to the war.
  • Establishing strict controls over the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC).
  • Defanging the CIA as responsible for most of the world’s international problems.

Today’s Readings

Keeping such differences in mind for purposes of comparison, consider today’s readings as they centralize the primacy of Jesus’ “Way” over the policies advocated by the Democratic neocons and the Republican fascists.

Today’s selections present the ideals that should move people of conscience regardless of their attitudes towards transcendent faith. Please note that the ideal is not the lesser of two evils.  

ACTS 2: 14A, 36-41Jewish Peter continues last week’s first Christian sermon: Peter says, “The crucified Jesus whom you mistakenly executed achieved the full Christ-consciousness the world has been waiting for.” When the crowd heard this, they asked, “What then must we do?” Peter answered: “In the Spirit of the Christ, reject the world’s values and join us in the reformation of life dictated by our own holy faith.” Thousands of good Jews said “yes” that very day.

PSALM 23: 1-6His listeners’ “yes” was premised on a traditional Jewish understanding of God: The Divine One is an accompanying kind Good Shepherd – the traditional symbol of a king. The divine order leaves no one in want, but provides food and drink, housing, rest, comfort, refreshment, courage, protection for everyone without distinction. 

1 PETER 2: 20B-25In a later letter Peter elaborated: If the world hates and hurts you for trusting such a God, know that you must be doing something right. You’re actually following in the footsteps of Jesus. Remember how they insulted him and that he remained nonviolent even when it cost him his life. Such awareness will keep you whole and on the right path blazed for us by our beloved Good Shepherd.

John 10: 1-10An even much later reflection on Jesus as Good Shepherd: Jesus often used strange imagery to confuse his enemies. For instance, he referred to himself as a shepherd and to foreign occupiers (“strangers”) as sheep rustlers. In today’s reading, he calls himself the “gate” of the sheepfold, but also the “gatekeeper.” In the spirit of Psalm 23 (above), he speaks of his friends as his “sheep” and the purpose of his shepherding as protection and fullness of life for them.


On this Good Shepherd Sunday, it’s time for Americans to say, “enough is enough.” We must open our eyes to the fact that Joe Biden is a mere out-of-touch figurehead. He’s a sheep rustler — not our friend.

Arguably, his foreign policy is worse than Trump’s. He’s surrounded by unimaginative warmongers whose only concern appears to be the welfare of Wall Street and its Military Industrial Complex (MIC).

Choosing to support the Democrats and its confused “leader” and his unimaginative, undemocratic agenda is suicidal.

It’s time to support genuine alternatives. Marianne Williamson and RFK Jr. provide them. At the very least, we’ve got to push to get the three candidates up on the stage for a series of real debates. That’s doable.

That in itself would represent a decisive step towards democratic process currently denied us by our system hijacked by the DNC.

Are We Meeting the Risen Christ in Russia and China?

Here’s a video I made fully 9 months ago — at the end of July — about the Ukraine War. It elaborates the argument that I centralize in the homily below.

Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2, 14, 22-33; PSALM 16:1-11; 1 PETER 1: 17-21; LUKE 24: 13-25

Our celebration of the resurrection myth, and of Life’s unlimited powers and possibilities continues for a third week. It invites thoughtful people to scan the list of contemporary events to identify where resurrection might be happening – where death is being defeated by Life’s overwhelming force.

With that in mind, today’s readings for this Third Sunday of the Resurrection suggest that we embrace resurrection as an unexpected new world order arising unperceived before our very eyes.

Could it be that it is surfacing at the hands of Russia, China., and other BRICS Plus nations?  

That emerging order can remind attentive truth seekers that movement towards the entirely new and seemingly “impossible” arrangement that Yeshua referred to as the Kingdom of God is not only possible, but necessary. It’s required to draw our species back from the brink of annihilation habitually fostered by a necrophilic United States with its cult of bombing, sanctions, and threats of total annihilation.

Though it might be hard to endure, please let me show you what I mean.

U.S. As Enemy of Humankind

To begin with, resurrection calls us to face death. And in the context, I’m suggesting, we must face the fact that the entity most responsible for plunging the world towards omnicide is our own country.

The Sandinista hymn of the 1980s expressed that clearly when it denounced Yankee imperialism as the “enemy of humankind.”

With that shocking phrase, the Sandinistas were only echoing what in 1967 Martin Luther King had said about the U.S. when he identified it (not the Russians or the Chinese) as the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence.”

Even closer to our own time is Vijay Prashad’s description of NATO (of course headed by the United States) as the “machine that destroys humanity.”

Careful thought makes it difficult to deny the truth of such denunciations:

  • “We” are the most belligerent country in the world maintaining about 750 military bases across the planet – about 3 times as many as all other countries combined.
  • “Our” war budget is similarly unprecedented, outlandish, and grossly inflated to more than $2 billion per day.
  • “We” are the ones responsible for wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine, and who know where else?
  • Besides all of that and on an unprecedented scale, “we” have intervened militarily and wantonly changed regimes across the planet for more than a century, especially where the regimes in question have tried to improve the lives of ordinary people rather than the bottom lines of American corporations.
  • “Our” country is the only one that has ever actually used nuclear weapons and has repeatedly and unilaterally opted out of arms control agreements.
  • With just 4.6% of the world’s population, the United States aspires to control countries like Russia, China, India, and the whole continent of Africa whose populations (not counting the rest of the Global South) total more than half the world’s inhabitants.
  • “America” is historically the world’s greatest polluter and is even responsible in large measure for environmental degradation in the Global South (including China), where U.S. corporations have largely relocated for the last forty years.
  • In summary, the U.S. has worked hard to ensure that it possesses the same control of the world that Hitler coveted for capitalist Germany.

Accordingly, it is easy to see how victims of such policies might well see the U.S. as the greatest purveyor of violence, as the enemy of humankind, and as heading a belligerent organization well characterized as the machine that destroys humanity.

Today’s Readings

Such stark realizations no doubt weigh heavy on the minds of once-proud “Americans” – if they even let them in. We might be like the two disciples in today’s Gospel reading. Like Americans with the historical consciousness just rehearsed, the two were sad and discouraged. For them, all seemed lost. They could think and talk of nothing else but their disappointment about Yeshua’s crucifixion and their frustrated hopes and convictions that he was the messiah their people had hoped would liberate them from Rome’s oppression.

But then amid their sad commiserations, the risen Yeshua somehow joins them. Improbably, the two men don’t recognize him. So, they recount the tale of their dashed hopes for the stranger’s benefit.

But then by breaking bread with them, Yeshua gets his friends to see the truth of what I said earlier – that death must precede resurrection. The old must die, he says, before the ultimately new can arise. Death and resurrection manifested in bread sharing are part of Life’s process – part of the divine “prophetic script.”

For us, and according to that blueprint, death of “America’s” preeminence must precede the New Life our world absolutely requires.

Hope from Russia & China

Still, prophetic script or not, if you’re like me, you remain discouraged by the awful realization of what our country has become. But where’s the resurrection hope to be found?

Strange to say, I see it in two great movements taking place before our eyes – one that’s violent with Russia as its protagonist, the other that’s non-violent and headed by China.

“What?” you might object. How can Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have anything to do with resurrection? The same might be asked about China and its authoritarianism we’ve heard so much about.

Though we might not be able to see the Ukraine War as “resurrectional” (Let me coin that word!) – as changing the world for the better, our brothers and sisters in the Global South can. That’s especially true if they adopt liberation theology’s understanding of “violence.”

You see, according to Global South church leaders like archbishops Dom Helder Camara and El Salvador’s St. Oscar Romero, all violence is not the same. Much of it isn’t even recognized as such. And a great deal of what we do denounce as violence is justified self-defense. For instance, most don’t even recognize international sanctions as violent. But they are. They kill hundreds of thousands.

Neither do mainstream commentators see regime change policies and coups as violence. But they are, especially when regimes that would prevent starvation are replaced by business-friendly governments concerned only with corporate profits.

According to this kind of analysis, Russia’s action in Ukraine is justified self-defense. It’s defense against a U.S.-led NATO’s attempts (since 1990) to reduce Russia to the vassal-like status of the west’s traditional colonies.  

It’s no stretch to say that Russia’s resounding “NO” to NATO represents what most Global South countries would choose to shout at NATO if they had Russia’s military might. Arguably, that’s why so many from what we used to call the Third World refuse to condemn Putin or Moscow.

As for China’s non-violent movement towards the “other world” required by our times. . .. It’s enough to point out that China hasn’t bombed anyone in more than 40 years. Instead of dropping bombs on the poor, in effect its Belt and Road Initiative drops schools, roads, ports, high speed railroads, and other infrastructure on them. Like the risen Christ, it “breaks bread” as a sign of God’s presence. It has eliminated extreme poverty for almost one billion of the world’s starving. No wonder Latin America, Africa, and South Asia embrace Beijing and reject DC.  


Let me hasten to conclude that I’d be among the first to admit that any war, self-defensive or not, can only be justified as a last resort. And it should justifiably shock anyone to find an alleged follower of the risen Christ lending anything like approval to armed conflict.

But then, it’s also true that most would-be Christians (me included) are emphatically not pacifists. Are you? They (we) fight wars against fellow Christians all the time – as exemplified in Ukraine itself.

However, in attempting to justify violence, one must ask several crucial questions as explained in today’s Sunday reflection. We must ask what kind of violence are we talking about?

  1. Is it largely unperceived structural violence like that embodied in NATO, the machine that destroys humanity?
  2. Is it the violence of self-defense as seems the case in Russia’s refusal (on behalf of the world habitually bullied by the U.S.) to submit to humiliating and suicidal surrender to the 4% attempting to impose its will on everyone else?
  3. Is it the reactionary violence of that 4% to the second level of violence (expressed e.g., by the U.S. arming and advising Ukrainian proxies) to punish Russia’s “NO”?
  4. Or is it the violence of state terrorism represented by all those wars and policies of regime change implemented on weaker (mostly non-white) nations over decades upon decades by the United States?

Of these, only the second level of violence can (reluctantly) be justified in any way.

Ironically, however, the other three are routinely accepted (even by people of faith). Meanwhile, the second level is usually vilified as somehow violating imperialism’s sacrosanct “rules-based order.”

The suggestion here has been that recognizing and accepting the distinctions just explained have something basic to do with resurrection. So does “breaking bread” with the hungry as a sign of resurrection and God’s presence. It’s all about the experience of death to old necrophilic practices and beliefs while recognizing newness of life and new world orders as unlikely manifestations of the risen Christ.   

Communism with Christian Characteristics: China’s Good Example  

Readings for the Second Sunday of Easter: Acts 2: 42-47; Psalm 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24; First Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31

Today’s rich reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles shows how China’s socialist policies – relentlessly vilified by our political leaders, educators, mass media, and churches – are far more in accord with the spirit of Yeshua and the early church than the corresponding policies of the United States.

That shocking fact is born out by the results of measures that China has for decades identified with its drive towards “Common Prosperity.” Even since the time of Mao Zedong, the campaign’s goal has been to narrow the wealth gap between the country’s rich and poor.

And in a very short time, China has advanced towards its goal far beyond what Americans have been led to understand. That is while hunger, tent cities, ineffective schools, deteriorating infrastructure, and large population swaths without health care proliferate among us, things are quickly moving in the opposite direction under the aegis of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Think, for instance, of the CCP’s verified announcement (vastly underreported in the United States) that it has virtually eliminated extreme poverty for over 800 million of its people.  No wonder that according to surveys sponsored by U.S. pollsters, the Chinese government boasts approval ratings of nearly 90% of its people.

One might think that such unprecedented accomplishments and support would be widely celebrated across the planet. You’d think that it would be taken as a sign that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is superior to neoliberalism’s laissez-faire system.

However, China’s success is not even widely acknowledged or celebrated among Christians who (judging by the reading from Acts just referenced) would embrace such accomplishment as a sign of progress towards the North Star Yeshua proclaimed as the “Kingdom of God.” You’d think they’d embrace it because the early Christians practiced what might be called “communism with Christian characteristics.”

Let me show you what I mean. Take that reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Today’s Reading

Think about what we read there – a description of life among Jesus’ first followers after the experience they called his “resurrection”:

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.”

Luke the evangelist repeats that refrain later in the same source when he writes:
“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to any as had need.” (Acts 4:32-36).

There you have it. The early Christians:

* Lived communally
* Rejected private property
* Including land and houses
* Instead held everything in common
* Pooling all their resources
* And distributing them “from each according to ability to each according to need.”
* As a result, they eliminated poverty from their midst.

Did you catch the operative words: they divided their property “among all according to each one’s needs?” As Mexican biblical scholar Jose Miranda points out in his Communism in the Bible, those are the words of the Bible not of Marx or Engels. In other words, the formula “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” comes straight from the Acts of the Apostles. They have nothing to do with atheism. On the contrary, they have everything to do with faith.

They have everything to do with following Jesus who himself might be called a communist. He’s the one who said, “Every one of you who does not renounce all he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:3).

Jesus, not Marx, is the one who set concern for those in need as the final criterion for judging the authenticity of one’s life. He said, “I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink, was a stranger and you took me in, was stripped naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me, imprisoned and you came to see me” (MT 25: 35-36). Everything, Jesus insists, depends on recognizing his presence in the poor and oppressed and responding accordingly.

Common Objections

Of course, it’s often pointed out that the Christian experiment in communism was short-lived. Jesus’ followers soon backed off from their early idealism. That observation is supposed to invalidate their communistic lifestyle as impossibly utopian and therefore no longer applicable as Christians’ guiding North Star. In fact, this objection is taken as justifying the persecution of the communism the text idealizes and recommends!

But the same argument, of course, would apply to the Ten Commandments in general or to the Sermon on the Mount – or to the U.S. Constitution for that matter. In our day (and in the course of their histories) all those statements of ideals have only sporadically been lived out in practice. Should we then throw them all out? Should we persecute those espousing the Sermon on the Mount ideals or observance, for instance, of the Fourth Amendment? Few in the Christian community or in the U.S. political world would make that argument.

Others anxious to distance themselves from the communistic ideals of early Christianity would point out that the communal life adopted by Jesus’ first followers was voluntary not imposed from above. In doing so, they point to another passage in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. That’s the one involving Ananias and Saphira – a couple whose life is exacted for claiming to have sold their property while keeping some of it back for themselves.

Referring to their property, Peter says to Ananias, “Was it not still yours if you kept it, and once you sold it was it not yours to dispose of?” (Acts 5:4) But (again as Miranda points out) what was optional was not selling their property – Christianity’s indispensable condition. What was optional was the choice to become a disciple of Christ. Choosing the latter option required practicing communism!

As for economic systems imposed from above. . .. Can you name one that isn’t?

How many of us have really chosen to live under capitalism? The answer is that none of us have. That’s because to make an informed choice, one must know the alternative. However, our families, schools, churches and civic organizations, our films and novels and news programs mostly conspire to vilify alternatives and keep them hidden.

Besides that, our government and military have made sure that experiments in alternatives (like the one implemented in China) are consistently portrayed as failures – lest their “bad example” undermine capitalist claims to be the only viable system.

Even worse, our church leaders (who should know better) jump on the anti-communist band wagon and present Jesus as a champion of a system he would despise. Church people speak and act as if Luke’s passage from Acts had read:

“Now the whole group of those who believed lived in fierce competition with one another and made sure that the rights of private property were respected. They expelled from their midst any who practiced communalism. Consequently, God’s ‘invisible hand’ brought great prosperity to some. Many however found themselves in need. The Christians responded with ‘tough love’ demanding that the lazy either work or starve. Many of the unfit, especially the children, the elderly and those who cared for them did in fact starve. Others however raised themselves by their own bootstraps and became stronger as a result. In this way, the industrious increased their land holdings and banked the profits. The rich got richer and the poor, poorer. Of course, all of this was seen as God’s will and a positive response to the teaching of Jesus.”

When are we going to stop this bastardization of Christianity?


The emphatic answer should be RIGHT NOW – beginning today on this Second Sunday of Easter!

To do so, we must before all else face it: Jesus’ followers practiced “communism with Christian characteristics!” Yes, they did!

Then as followers of Yeshua the Christ, we should:

* Read Jose Miranda’s manifesto, Communism in the Bible.
* If we can’t bring ourselves to sell what we have, give it to the poor, and live communally, at least conspire with like-minded people to share tools, automobiles, gardens – and perhaps even jobs and homes in an effort to reduce poverty and our planetary footprints.
* “Out” the “devout Catholic,” Joe Biden and other “Christians” in our government whose budgets attempt to balance federal accounts by increasing the ranks of the poor whose poverty the communism of the early Christian community (and of contemporary China) successfully eliminated.
* Pressure our government to get off China’s back and allow it to experiment in prophetic ways of living that can save our planet.
* I’m sure you can add to this list.

Please do so in your comments.

The Hidden Politics of Holy Week in Spain

So here we are back in Spain after a couple of months (February and March) back in the States.

You might remember that Peggy and I had come here last September to be with the family of our daughter and son-in-law. They had decided to spend the entire school year here in Granada so that their five children (aged 14 to 4) might learn Spanish while broadening their cultural horizons in Europe.

Peggy and I arrived back here yesterday afternoon on a thankfully uneventful seven-hour Delta Airlines flight from New York’s JFK airport. We landed in a rather frigid Madrid and then took a six-hour bus trip from Spain’s capital city to Granada.

There we’re living in the Albaycin neighborhood alongside a mosque within sight of the famous Alhambra, the Moorish walled city built in the 13th century. It’s such a privilege to be here absorbing the rich Spanish culture highlighted in our neighborhood five times a day by Islamic calls to prayer from a minaret right next to our rented apartment.

Our return coincides with Holy Week and the Spanish custom of elaborate processions ostensibly recalling the events of that first Holy Week when the Prophet from Nazareth celebrated his Last Supper with his disciples, was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, was tortured, and crucified by the Romans, and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.

The events however are highly political in both the historical and contemporary senses that might largely escape the casual tourist. In that hidden sense, they are marches against Spain’s original and actual enemies and those of its ideological mentor, the Catholic Church.

Let me show you what I mean.

Holy Week Processions

The processions are spectacular. In Granada they wend their way down the Gran Via Colon, past the city’s monstrous cathedral, and passing before the giant statue depicting the “Reyes Catholicos” (Catholic kings) Ferdinand and Isabella (1474-1504) giving permission to Christopher Columbus to embark on his world-changing voyage.  

The processions feature huge golden floats burdened with dozens of enormous flaming candles and centralizing much larger-than-life statues of a regal, purple-clad Virgin-in-mourning, or of crucified and tortured Savior. Clerical types (including women) walk behind the statues dressed in cassocks and surplices and carrying candles, crucifixes, and thuribles that fill the air with fragrant incense.

Each float is borne aloft by perhaps 30 unseen men whose humble identity is concealed by brocaded veils beneath which they perform their shared demonstration of macho strength and endurance. From time to time along the parade route, the anonymous bearers stop, fall to their knees. Then suddenly they arise as a single body to the delight and applause of the adoring crowds.

Others in the procession include participants whose costumes inevitably remind Americans of the Ku Klux Klan. However, their pointed hats, veiled faces, and white or red robes are really signs of penitence by sinners admitting their guilt, but mercifully shielding their identities.

Other processors include black-clad gypsy women carrying long, lit candles in their right hands just below their waists.

All of this is accompanied by band after band of drummers, trumpeters, trombonists, and tuba players. They march to deafening rhythmic beats. Here and there, they stop to play mournful dirges in honor of the suffering Jesus.

Hidden Meanings

All of this is quite beautiful and quaint – that is until you analyze what’s really happening in terms of Spain’s history that includes:

·       The emergence of the nation-state under Ferdinand and Isabella.

·        Their project’s unprecedented political goal, viz., the erasure of diverse Andalusian cultures [including Jews, Visigoth Christians, Muslims, Gitanos, pagan naturalists, (think “witches”], and emerging Protestants of various “heretical” descriptions].

·       To that end, the institution of the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834)

·       Its infamous persecution of Jews, Muslims, Protestants, gypsies, witches, and “heretics” of all sorts  

·       The folding of all those identities into a single nationalty called “Spaniard,” which had never till then existed.

·       Our contemporary loss of Christian faith and its replacement with the worship of capitalism and its God called “Market.”

In the light of those realities, think about the processional elements earlier described. With their 15th-century historical context in mind:

·       The statue of the regally clad virgin Mary becomes an image celebrating Queen Isabella whose royal robes have nothing to do with the decidedly non-royal mother of the poor construction worker from Nazareth.

·       Those wearing those pointed hats reminiscent of the Klan become persecuted “heretics” wearing “dunce caps” (so named by those ridiculing the 13th century Scottish mystic, John Duns Scotus).

·       The statues depicting the batterers and humiliators of the suffering Jesus become the Jews expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella and whom Christian tradition blamed as “God killers” instead of Jesus’ real assassin, the Roman Empire.

·       As well, Jesus’ torturers include the dunce heretics par excellence, viz., the hated Moors.

·       The black clad women carrying long lighted candles just below their waists become the witches persecuted by the Inquisition. The candles are phallic symbols of their true purpose in life – viz., giving sexual pleasure to men.

·       The processions’ martial war drums become warnings to the enemies of the Reyes Catholicos (again, Jews, Muslims, heretics, witches, gypsies) to be afraid – very afraid. The crown’s Catholic inquisitors will kill you.

·       The unseen statue bearers become the oppressed artisans and workers who have always borne the burden of supporting royalties and church hierarchies of all types.

·       The secular crowds jamming the Gran Via Colon are believers now transformed into mere “Tourists” who represent for Spain a huge influx of cash in service of the only God that matters, the only we’re left with – Capitalism and Market.


When you think about it, Lent and its Easter conclusion represent the ongoing spiritual struggle that involves us all. The season is bookended by Mardi Gras and Holy Week both of which feature political marches masquerading as parades and processions.

Mardi Gras celebrates the human drive towards happiness and community fulfillment – both of which were embodied in that Nazareth construction worker whose first recorded miracle changed gallons upon gallons of water into the finest of wines. Shrove Tuesday’s parades are joyful, drunken, and highly sexualized. Think of those images of dancers from Brazil. Recall Louis Armstrong and New Orleans jazz.

Happiness, joy, fun.

The second of Lent’s bookends is more somber. It’s what I’ve been describing here – the so-called sublimation of all that’s human and joyful into what’s dark, threatening, serious, churchy, and oppressive. And it’s all performed in the name of religion that contradicts that spirit of water changed to wine at a young couple’s wedding.

Why the change?

The answer’s contained in the politics of it all – then and now. More than anything, Spain’s Holy Week processions are reactionary protests intended to obscure and deny the enriching diversity of human experience. The processions are monuments against variety in national identity, in beliefs, in spiritualities, and cultures. They celebrate the elite. They militate against Jews, Muslims, gypsies, witches, Protestants, workers, artisans, and heretics of all sorts. Their musical background is martial and warlike.  

To the discerning eye, Spain’s Holy Week events are also stark reminders of contemporary culture’s inheritance of Inquisitional intolerance.  Like Ferdinand and Isabella, capitalism and its Market God would flatten out the differences that make us human. No variety called socialism, communism, anarchism, or e.g., China’s “whole process people’s democracy” is permitted. Everyone must conform to the nation-state’s sameness.

When you think about it, that syndrome transforms the crucified and risen Jesus into the patron of oppression.

What a distortion!

Its realization alone might be enough to rescue his message: It’s spring. It’s Easter. Celebrate life, not death. The nation-state is a fraud.