Defending Jesus' rights

12/11/2007 16:04

I have to confess that I’m a subscriber to Private Eye and regularly enjoy their "Funny Old World" column compiled by Victor Lewis-Smith with bizarre news stories submitted by readers.

The most recent to catch my eye (Eye 1196) came from the Daily Nation (Kenya) on 31st August. Checking online it appeared the day that the main headline was the consecration of two bishops for America! Private Eye quoted the following part of the report though you can apparently read the full report (headline ’Crucifixion suit not urgent’) if you can manage to subscribe (I failed!).

"Jesus was a man who advocated the rule of law", Humphrey Odanga told the Kenyan High Court in Nairobi, "yet he is repeatedly depicted as a criminal, even in the Bible. The crux of our case is that the arrest, torture, and punishment of Jesus was unlawful, and amounted to a violation of his human rights. Furthermore, crucifixion was a wrongful punishment for a trial based on charges of ’blaspheming the Holy Spirit’ for which the correct penalty was public stoning. We do not want to worship a convicted criminal, so we ask the court to declare Jesus Christ’s crucifixion null and void, and his crucifixion illegal. Jesus was innocent".

Odanga was speaking on behalf of Friends of Jesus, a group of wealthy Kenyan businessmen and lawyers who had brought the case. High Court spokesperson Dola Indindis agreed that the appellants "have a right in court, because the issues raised touch on human rights, and the High Court has unlimited powers in that area". But when Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch asked where the respondents were, lawyers for FOJ admitted that papers had not yet been served on Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas or King Herod.

Outside the court, legal opinion was divided. Some lawyers argued that FOJ’s petition was legitimate, but others said that "Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction, because the ’course-of-action’ did not arise within its jurisdiction. They should have filed it in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which has the mandate to hear the case".

A Google search uncovers another press report from the end of October and what looks like the formal legal documents (I have to confess I’ve not read them) stating their case.

What I found intriguing was the rationale stated - "Jesus was a man who advocated the rule of law...We do not want to worship a convicted criminal, so we ask the court to declare Jesus Christ’s crucifixion illegal". Here we see the problem with any ’law and order’ Jesus and the real scandal of the cross. While most Christians will find Odanga’s actions weird (some online are even saying blasphemous) I suspect many might share his outlook and that none of us ever really come to terms with the social and political implications of God making himself known in a crucified Messiah and what it might therefore mean to boast only in the cross of Christ.


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