NOTE: This post was written by one of our guest bloggers, Nathaniel Grimes. For more from Nathaniel, be sure to check out his page.
The event of Jesus’ crucifixion was a decisive “sharpening of contradictions.” The instruments of order for society, the institutions of religion and state, conspired together to kill God. The gospels do not picture this as an anomaly, as if Jesus was singled out by God for death, against the natural order of things. All that was necessary for the murder of God was for everyone to just do what they do.
“The Old Testament admonishment, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, was alive and well in Caddo Parish.” This is how Marty Stroud describes the environment in which Glenn Ford was wrongfully convicted of a crime 30 years ago.
“I believed that justice was done. I had done my job. I was one of the prosecutors and I was proud of what I had done.”
Society itself rejected Jesus. Religious and state leaders formed a “mimetic coalition,” united by a single idea: Jesus had to die. For the execution to have its salutary effect, the decision could not come down to one man. The death of Jesus was not a personal vendetta, or a judicial oversight. The crowd demanded it.
Steps were taken to ensure this young black man did not have a jury of his peers. “Experts” and false witnesses were called, and it only took the jury hours to recommend a sentence of death. Everyone was guilty, no one was responsible.
The gospel is where innocent victims are vindicated. But not because of new evidence or legal technicalities. After all, Jesus was not technically innocent of the charges brought against him. But his death exposed the myth of redemptive violence, which Walter Wink refers to as “the dominant religion in our society today.” This is “the victory of order over chaos by means of violence. It is the ideology of conquest, the original religion of the status quo.” If we can kill the scapegoat, peace will be restored.
“No one should be given the ability to impose a sentence of death in any criminal proceeding. We are simply incapable of devising a system that can fairly and impartially impose a sentence of death because we are all fallible human beings.”
Glenn Ford was sentenced to death, and sent to hell. When the truth set him free, it spoke beyond his particular situation. Like the resurrection of Jesus, it proclaimed “the innocence not of Jesus alone but of all victims of all Passion-like murders since the foundation of the world.” This is in stark contrast to the religion which “shares in the lie that the victim deserved what he or she got.”
Watch the video of this prosecutor describing his role in the travesty. His is the face of the centurion, realizing what he has done by his zeal for the state and for order. As James Cone has put it, “every time a white mob lynched a black person, they lynched Jesus.”
“I end with the hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford. But, I am also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it.”
*Prayer for the Week*
From Zechariah 12:10
Let us look upon the one we have pierced, and mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
Art by Antonio Ciserei’s, Ecco Homo!
Photo of Glenn Ford c. 1984.