Memoir: The Irony of Good Friday

daffodils gathering sunlight

My siblings and I were considered heathens during the first ten or so years of my life. Military brats would taunt me in the neighborhood playground. “Her family doesn’t attend church. She’s a heathen and she’s going to burn in hell.” We lived in navy housing where every family was a member of a church or some religious organization, but we opted not to attend church. My father was often away on a military ship, usually in the Mediterranean and my mother was too busy raising three kids. But the year I turned ten, my mother dressed us kids up and took us to the chapel on the military base to attend a Good Friday service.

My mom bought me my first pantyhose and heels which I wore with a sky blue gauze dress. I recall the neighbors praising me, how I was finally growing up into a young lady, etc… I just liked the way the low heels made out of wood and suede clicked on the linoleum floor.

So we dressed up that weekend, proving that we weren’t heathens, just late bloomers and we attended a Good Friday service, which I thought with a moniker like that, would involve a celebration, happy people, and cookies. Maybe we would eat chocolate afterwards.

After all, I thought, Easter Weekend was always full of gifts, colored eggs, baskets full of jellybeans and chocolate bunnies. I knew about God, the one portrayed in Hollywood’s Old Testament movies. I knew about Jesus from the Broadway musical “God Spell” and Jesus Christ Superstar” blaring from my transistor radio. I even knew the words to those songs. I was often haunted by my mother’s lapsed Catholic icons, rosaries, and Jesus hanging from a gold plastic cross tacked to the wall. I shuffled through the pages of my father’s coffee table-size Bible with colored plates of Old Testament heroes, prophets, and Apostles. And yet, Good Friday was news to me.

We entered the crowded chapel which felt slightly damp and warm to my skin and we found seats in the balcony. I don’t recall much from this service except the clanging of bells that coincided with the Stations of the Cross. I was left with this image of incredible suffering and injustice. I don’t recall feeling guilt only that I wish Jesus had a good defense attorney, not that I would have put it in those words at the age of ten. But to this day, the words Good Friday incite the clanging of bells and flesh tortured on a cross with bloody nails.

And it’s not just one holy man who suffered this indignity and injustice. Today, a day before Earth Day (for us more pagan folks), the earth suffers this indignity while oil and coal companies have their way with her. Various creatures around the planet, in the sea, in the air, and on the ground, suffer indignities and injustice. The way we humans choose to eat, grow our food, and exploit the earth in the name of comfort or convenience compares to driving nails into hands and feet, but we refuse to look at it this way.

If we want to see true resurrection on Easter Sunday, then let us wake up from this deep denial, stop dominating the earth and her creatures. I hear the clanging of bells on this Good Friday, dissonant metal crashing into each other, a strident scream from the planet that buckles under our weight.

My message to you is wake up now so we can save what we have left. I think all the holy ancestors of all tribes and nations would appreciate this gesture of reconciliation and just maybe they’ll forgive us.

And though I’m no longer the innocent ten year old trying on my first pair of heels, I still believe in the dawn after the dark night of the soul. And I still would like to crunch into a chocolate bunny, but one that is fair trade organic dark chocolate. You can probably tempt me with free range organic Easter eggs laid by happy hens. As far as blue dresses, blue is still my favorite color, of a happy sky, and the color of hope.