The news have reported that the current White House administration instructed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from using seven words on their budget documents. With seven days left for Christmas, I decided to take the time to write a piece each day highlighting one of the seven words.
In the Christian tradition there is the sharing of the Seven Words. These are phrases that Jesus shared while being crucified. Many Christian churches share and preach on these Seven Words during their Good Friday liturgies. The Seven Words are the climax of what Christian theology calls “the story of salvation.” The last words that Jesus shares are: “it is finished” (John 19.30) and “into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23.46.) After these words, Jesus expires.
According to the timeline of events, after Jesus expires on the cross he is placed into the tomb and on the third day he is resurrected. This is the hope of the Christian person: no matter how difficult the journey is, no matter how painful the culmination of life is, there is always the hope of resurrection. This is the message of Holy Week.
Why am I writing about Holy Week on the season of Advent leading into Christmas? Because the Seven Banned Words of the CDC are a mirror of those other Seven Words of Holy Week.
The current federal administration has been crucifying the remnants of the facsimile of democracy that the United States had. With each carefully orchestrated move, the current administration tries to diminish the people’s confidence and trust on institutions serve the country. They are intentional in the use of words to describe the institutions that keep some resemblance of democracy. The administration’s furious attack on the free press, their obsession with political rallies a year after elections, their systemic appointment of people completely unprepared and unqualified to lead the agencies they are appointed to oversee, their deliberate construction of lies disguised as truth, the unashamed use of FOX News as state propaganda television, and a myriad other big and small actions that undermine democratic processes are just the tip of the iceberg. The United States democracy is being crucified.
These words represent all that society stands for when they are on their way to progress. French philosopher and founder of Sociology, Auguste Comte, wrote about the stages of human progress. In Comte’s theory, societies move towards progress. There are three stages of society: theological, metaphysical, and positivist. A theological society looks at an unknown occurrence and places all responsibility on unseen beings that control our destinies. Any possibility of progress is thwarted by the society’s fear of angering their mythological beings. A metaphysical society is in the middle stage. Societies in this stage begin to understand that there are certain things that have an explanation. The understanding of actions and their consequences are part and parcel of this society’s natural development. Neither one of these two types of societies is inherently corrupt or ignorant. You cannot know what you do not know. However, these are not ideal societies. The ideal society is one in which members are exposed to a systemic way of understanding truth. To this Comte called a “positivist society.”
Although Auguste Comte’s positivist approach to explaining society is not ideal, it does have merit, especially taking into consideration the banning of words in certain official documents by the current administration. A positivist society understands that humanity is on a journey forward. This journey cannot be contained, no matter how much the powers that be may try to stop it. Resurrection is the conclusion to the crucifixion. Progress is the conclusion to temporary repression.
Democracies are vulnerable entities. They can suffer from the ego of leaders who place power over service. Interestingly, Christmas is the time of vulnerability. In the Christian tradition, Christmas commemorates the birth of a vulnerable child, from a vulnerable family, who was threatened, even as a fetus, with destruction by its enemies – political, economic, societal, cultural, and religious, among others. Christianity proclaims that this child that was born transcended what humanity understood at that moment about the relationship between humanity and its divine sovereign. Some theologians propose that this transcending experience of God made Sophia, the common image of God as Wisdom, take the form of Christ in the person of Jesus, thus making God a transgender reality showing humanity how close the Divinity is to all of humanity. The diversity of opinions that ages of science-based social studies and evidence-based conclusions have shown us, is evidence that societies do tend to move forward towards progress and positivism. It is our responsibility, our duty, and even out entitlement as engaged members of a functional society, to be in solidarity with the vulnerable democracy that we are so desperately trying to save. Resurrection is the conclusion of crucifixion, even during the time of Advent and Christmas.