The Real No-spin Zone

I was once asked, many years ago, why Catholics spend so much time focusing on the Crucifixion. At first I felt a bit ashamed, as if Catholics didn’t appreciate the joy in the Resurrection to the extent that the outside world understood our gratitude. I did my best to share our belief by relying on a fairly common Catholic response: without the Cross there can be no Resurrection.

Somehow, though, this didn’t seem enough. The question lingered in my heart for many years and made me painfully aware of the way in which I, personally, was guilty of replaying the Crucifixion over and over again in my mind. I have always loved attending Stations of the Cross and when I taught middle school I made it a requirement for my classes. I wanted to share with my students the way in which meditation upon the Crucifixion can bring about a contemplative state of mind and heart in which the Holy Spirit can work and transform us at our very core.

But I wondered if, by focusing so much on the Crucifixion, I was not sufficiently moving past it to embrace the joy of the Resurrection.

Recently, that haunting question made its way back into my life. In the days before Holy Week, I happened to be reading an article about the way in which team Obama is already carefully spinning their words, and ultimately history, so that if the stimulus package fails, the blame will be placed on Bush. Painstaking efforts have been made by team Obama to make all efforts by any politician who opposes the stimulus bill to appear “partisan” and only those in full agreement, as evidenced by their vote, were considered “supportive” of the efforts to revive the economy.

Then, on Palm Sunday, I read a poll in which almost 50% of those asked believed that if the economy did not recover it would be Bush’s fault. Wow, another win for team Obama.

So what does all this have to do with seemingly too much focus on the Crucifixion?

Blame. Finger-pointing. Spin. Lack of personal accountability.

Too often we are encouraged to shirk personal responsibility for our actions. We can find a dozen reasons why something isn’t our fault but is the fault of another. It is almost second nature to point a finger at someone else and say, “He did it,” or “She made me do it.”

In our minds, there seems to be so much to lose. A child worries about losing his or her parents’ love or trust while an adult worries about losing his or her credibility or reputation. A politician worries about losing an election. A president worries about losing his cult-like popularity.

We’re all becoming master spin-doctors learning how a simple turn of a phrase, or emphasis of a word, can keep us in the clear: “No, I didn’t leave the stove on,” someone might say to the fireman inquiring about the blaze.

But focusing on the Crucifixion can cure the blame ailment within all of us. We cannot, in all good conscience, focus on Christ’s death and point an accusing finger at anyone other than ourselves. Nor can we, try as we might, attempt to put a spin on it, to make it less horrific than it is — and what it had to be — because of our own sins. There’s no rewriting how Christ suffered that can make us less culpable. Calvary forces us to recognize and acknowledge — unlike anything else — how we contributed to Christ’s death.

Focusing on the Crucifixion is completely counter-cultural. The Crucifixion forces us to own up to our dirty deeds and our own sinfulness. We can’t possibly participate in the Stations of the Cross and not come away contrite and humble. Jesus suffered for each of us in a very personal way.

When Catholics focus on the Crucifixion, they are focusing on their own lives in a way in which personal responsibility must become real and where blame, finger-pointing, and spin have no place. Then, and only then, can there be the joy found in the Resurrection.

Cheryl Dickow

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Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at www.BezalelBooks.com. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at Cheryl@BezalelBooks.com.

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  • Cooky642

    I see and understand where you’re going with this article, and I appreciate the point more than I have the vocabulary to tell you. However, I wanted to put my own “spin” on the Crucifixion in case it might give someone another direction for meditation. Those of you of a certain age might remember the “Love is….” phenomenon of the ’70s. The cartoon was always of a “boy” and “girl”, in their “birthday suits”, with an accompaning line that perported to explain what love “is” (or, in some cases, “isn’t”). The drawings didn’t bother me, but the admonitions left me frustrated. There was something (important) missing. Some years later, I had a “major conversion experience” in a Catholic Church. When I looked up, there was a Crucifix in my line of sight, and the line popped into my head: “Love is….a Crucifix!” THAT’s what true Love is!

  • wgsullivan

    Love is… the bishops taking on the stripping of Notre Dame’s Catholic identity. Sometimes it’s hard being true loving shepherds.

  • krby34

    My own spin on the crucifixion that partners with Cheryl’s point.

    Cheryl’s point being we focus on it because it binds us to our transgressions that require the wrath of God to be brought forth in punishment as is just reward for our sins and Jesus was the target of that wrath.

    What it also should do is show us how in being like Jesus we should not ever shirk doing the right thing even if it is not our wrong to fix. Jesus made one plea (all be it in three different moments of prayer) at the Garden of Gethsemane for His Father to let the cup pass but not because He was unwilling to go to the cross but because He did not desire it. There are many things in our lives we are called to do that we did not play any part in its need to be done and like Jesus we are not required to desire our participation we should be willing to participate. And without doing all the spin doctoring to lay the blame somewhere else if it fails but take all the credit if it succeeds.

    Take up the cross should carry two messages: 1) Own up to our part in the need for the cross to be a tool of God’s wrath. 2) Do our part to carry out the reparation of sinful acts in the world no matter our culpability.

    Jesus on this Good Friday as you hang upon the cross suffering let all our suffering join unto yours as a glorifying gift to our Father in heaven. That Jesus might make this suffering Holy so that all souls may be led to heaven.

  • goral

    Team “O” will wash their hands of any wrongdoing and will give us their own version of truth.
    Because of the Cross we can withstand all manner of ignominy.

  • jpckcmo

    Every administration inherits from the previous one. It is true that Obama inherited much of the economic crisis from Bush’s policies. I do not agree with everything he is doing, and I agree it is unfair for him to blame everything on the Bush administration. But just as Bush blamed 9/11 on Clinton’s failure to get Osama Bin Laden, and just as he accused anyone who opposed the Iraq war of supporting the terrorists, it is the tendency of those in power to blame their woes on the other guy. What is important now is to look objectively at the policies of this administration and determine which ones to support and which ones to not support. Obama’s honeymoon period will be over soon and he will be judged on his own merits. Even when I don’t agree with him, I hope that he can alleviate the economic suffering that so many people are experiencing.

  • Cheryl Dickow

    jpckcmo,

    It is quite commonly known that the plans being implemented by this administration will burden future generations with unbearable debt. To even imagine that any short term gains that will have such consequences can possibly be worth it is, in my opinion, selfish.

    Additionally, even if my own personal wealth were to quadruple within the next year I would consider it blood money because of the obama pro-abort stand, appointments, and use of federal monies for such atrocities as stem cell research and the reversal of the Mexico City policy.

    I do not want that sort of money in my pocket or on my conscience.

  • jpckcmo

    Even leading economists disagree about the right strategy to solve this crisis. I am not an economist, but I know that if I were out of a job or losing my home, I would be willing to try something different than what has been done up until now. I know it is scary, and I fear for my children, also. My larger point is that to blame Obama, or Bush, or Clinton, or anyone solely for the predicament we are in does no one any good.

    I feel the way you do about abortion as it applies to the war in Iraq, where so many thousands have died for a war that was, in my opinion, unnecessary. That is blood on my hands that I deal with every day. We all have these issues to deal with as administrations change, and I know it is difficult for me to not attack the person, but the policy.

  • Cheryl Dickow

    Abortion and Iraq are not on the same playing field.

  • jpckcmo

    To me, innocent blood is innocent blood, no matter whose is being shed or where it is being shed. The blood on my hands is real to me, just as it would be on yours in the situation you described. Preemptive war is as abhorant to me as abortion. Those are my feelings; they cannot be “wrong,” because they are mine. I do not have the right to impose them on other people, but they can guide my actions, hopefully in productive ways.

  • Cheryl Dickow

    Ah, the old “These are my feelings” argument. While there are a tremendous amount of problems with this argument the two I would offer:

    1. Study Church teaching on abortion versus war. Once you read Church teaching, if you choose to not be under the authority of the Catholic Church and her teaching, that is your business but it is best not to lead other Catholics astray.

    2. Are you saying that the people killed by the regime in place prior to our involvement in Iraq were less valuable than those who died afterwards?

  • jpckcmo

    1. The “These are my feelings” argument is old because it is true. Unlike my actions, which can be dictated by Church teachings, my feelings can only be influenced by those teachings because my feelings are based on my experiences. I have no illusions about leading others astray. I have way too much to learn myself.

    2. I certainly am NOT saying that those killed before the war were less valuable than those who died after. In fact, it is MY government that put Saddam Hussein in power. It is MY government that created Osama Bin Laden. I was what I thought a well-informed adult, and I participated in those things through apathy.

    I have appreciated the respectful way you have conducted this discussion with me. It has given me many things to think about. I hope that I have maintained the same tone; perhaps we will converse again some time.

  • Cheryl Dickow

    jpckcmo,

    With all due respect, when your comments reflect your feelings and become an argument as to why abortion and war are the “same,” you are not honoring Mother Church and Her teachings.

    It is very easy to lead others astray and when you put forth arguments such as you have, you give others a reason to think that abortion and war are equal, which the Church teaches they are not. You may not intentionally give weight to such thinking but you are nonetheless. So while your feelings can’t be dictated by the Church, what you do with them certainly can be and as faithful Catholic ought to be as Scripture calls us all to such authority.

    Like you, I have personal interests in Iraq and so my passions and convictions run deep but still must follow Church teachings.

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