Commencing tomorrow morning, my Lenten labor of love will begin. As I have talked about on this blog a few times over the past few weeks, one of my Lenten devotions this year was to draw the Stations of the Cross. To learn more about the Stations of the Cross and its historical origins, there is an excellent article from the Catholic Encyclopedia here.
In this pre-Holy Week commentary, I am now going to lay out my reasons for doing this. In the fall, when I was at Westcott House, I took a class on Jewish-Christian relations. I was basically doing it as an independent study, so I was pretty free to do whatever I wanted on the research project. I ended up doing a research paper on Bach's St. John's Passion in light of Christian Relations. To make a long story short, I really had to confront the fact that Christianity, or at least Christendom, historically has treated the Jewish people absolutely dreadfully. Jews were everything from tortured to segregated to outright expelled from countries.
This began at least with the Gospel according to St. John and became entrenched in Christian thought by such theologians as John Chrysostom and other Patristic fathers. In the Middle Ages, Judas was increasingly vilified as Judaism personified as Christ killers. The Reformation was largely no help, in fact in some ways made Anti-Semitism even worse. For example, I would direct you to Martin Luther's On the Jews and their Lies, which is every bit as bad as it sounds.
This is why it is no real wonder why the stage for the Holocaust was set in World War II. While their were brave Christians (such as the patron saint of this blog Dietrich Bonhoeffer) that did help to fight the Nazis and their systematic persecution and extermination of the Jewish people, they were by and large exceptions to the rule. Vast numbers of Christians either went along with Hitler's argument in Mein Kampf, were apathetic, or believed that even if what was going on was wrong, the Jews were basically getting what was coming to them.
For many years after the Holocaust, Christian theologians really had no idea how to deal with the atrocity. Work has been done and progress has been made. However, Jesus, being a Jew himself, said, 'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Upon these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.' If we believe that, the question remains, "How could we as Christians have allowed this to happen?"
I am not going to answer that question here. That is a topic for another day. However, in wrestling with these issues over the past several months, the idea came to me during my meditation time as Lent began. What if the Stations of the Cross had occurred not in the 1st century Roman Empire, but in Nazi Germany, circa AD 1941?
I do not care for the Stations of the Cross that have the 15th Station because Americans love happy endings and everyone wants to jump to the Resurrection and feel all warm and fuzzy. The Resurrection is important; do not get me wrong. But one can only truly appreciate Easter day if one has walked the way of the cross in his passion and death. Or, as an Easter sermon I heard two years ago by Dr. Ellen Wondra proclaimed, "Hold the Resurrection accountable."
I actually drew the 14th station first, which is what gave me the idea to go on and draw the rest. The images I have drawn are in my usual cartoon style, but there is nothing funny about them. I had debated whether to try a more realist artistic approach. Being a political cartoonist by trade, I am going to stick with what I know. I will warn my readers that some of the images you will see will be disturbing. But I feel that is as it should be, for if you can do the Stations of the Cross and not be disturbed by it, you just do not comprehend its meaning.
I will post three stations a day: morning, noon, and evening starting on Monday, with the final two stations being posted on Good Friday. All entries will contain the portion and prayers for the appropriate station as found in the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services (New York: Church Publishing, Inc., 1995). I am devoting my entire blog to this for the week, so all other miscellaneous blog entries will now cease until Easter. All Stations are pending copyright with the Library of Congress.
Anyone familiar with my artwork will know that this will not be your normal Stations of the Cross. This is the Passion of Jesus, but likely not an image of Jesus that you might be familiar with. I invite you to walk the Stations of the Cross with Jesus.
The Jesus of the 3rd Reich.