Good Friday 2024

            At the end of yesterday’s Maundy Thursday service, I watched each person, one by one, under the bright cool lights hanging from the high ceilings, silently follow the pastor to exit the church. Up front, on the stage of the church, Kameron and another woman took the red and white cloths off of the table-altar. They replaced it with black fabric, like an empty still life. And it felt, with the entire church illuminated, like an announcement that the show was over. No more illusion, no more mystery of faith, no more narrative played out in life. The church, in spite of the stained glass windows, became an office-like building for everyday events. In preparation for Good Friday, belief failed (in dramatic terms), and the hope or risk of faith played out poorly. (Whenever a pastor says this, it never breaches the boundaries or discourse of that faith, but only finds a way to legitimate it). As a day on the Holy Calendar, Good Friday becomes a day for contingency--that this faith might not be.
            For many, the narrative or ritual (rite, following Talal Asad, as a text, or sort-of action for interpretation) of a belief system becomes challenged (in a constructive way) when it’s faced with the possibility of failure. That it’s better to mythologize, trading world below for world above, finding new theologies or rationalities, than to admit that the prophetic failed, or to abandon the faith. 
            I think Good Friday, if it’s good for anything, is for imagining a Christianity snuffed from the beginning. It’s for trying to take a walk outside of its discourse. It’s for imagining that the Roman government’s crucifixion of a popular leader was an everday, mundane event (as it was for so many others), normalized and unworthy of a text. And so, historically, the world turned differently. In the present, it’s for imagining what would happen if I grew up in a non-Christian home, with no pressure of sin nor guilt nor holiness nor speaking in tongues, nor a mom & her prayer group announcing my call to singleness, nor that I was better off alone. No arrogance masked by spirituality, no degradation of embodiment, no blindness to the world for the sake of the intangible. I’m reading the past from the present--how could I know how it would be? or that another religious movement might not engulf the history of our society? It’s easy to get caught up in the hypothetical. If Good Friday is good for anything, it is that this man’s death (which puts to death all of our hopes and faith and beliefs about what is and what should be) might, hopefully, be final. No more fanaticism, no more passion, no more possession, no more transcendence, no reconstruction of a belief system. Only the silent testimony of absence, of peace culled by violence. Only the vacant church’s house lights shining down on an empty table with black tablecloth.
            A blackness, or a “warm neutrality” in Mark Doty’s terms concerning still lives, that brings the foreground “to startling life.” For Christianity loses its subject to this neutrality. Again, for Doty, there is “no subject to locate meaning,” nor transcendence, nor a poetry of relation, nor any value by singularity or uniqueness; nothing to make of an event. No anxiety around the aporetic. Only a reduction, a gesture, to offer us...what? If the church transformed to the secular, if this religious show were over, it is only that we might leave the church’s doors, finally, to that which foregrounds this empty building and empty faith: “more world,” says Doty. More life.