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Easter and betrayal

Easter and betrayal

By Aesop

04/29/19

Betrayal envelops the Easter story. The New Testament narrates how Judas Iscariot and St. Peter betrayed Christ before the crucifixion. It also describes how St. Thomas asked Jesus to show his nail marks after the resurrection. Jesus foretold some of his disciples will forsake him. Times were hard during the Last Supper. Enemies targeted Jesus. He was ripe for betrayal. Betrayal emerges when times are difficult. It is, like the common cold, a function of the environment.

One philosopher described betrayal as the dissolution of thick relationships. There are thick and thin relationships within a society. Thin relationships are formed by convenience. They take place when two parties are convinced their bond brings mutual benefit. It lasts so long as that mutual relation exists. Both parties know their relationship is ephemeral. They are not shocked when it ends. It is normal and expected. This is the kind of relationship that a doctor and a patient, a teacher and a student, a buyer, and a seller maintain. It comes, it goes!

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A thick relationship is different. It is formed by belonging rather than convenience. Parties that form thick relationships expect it to last for a lifetime. Sometimes they find themselves in a thick relationship. They belong to each other because they share a common identity like family, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. Sometimes they deliberately create thick relationships by entering a contract. They are joined together through matrimony, associations, institutions, constitutions, etc. And, finally, people may upgrade thin relationships into thick relationships. They stick together and permit time to strengthen their bond. This is how friendships, good neighborliness, work partnerships are formed. Per the Anglican church vow, thick relationships persist “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”.

Betrayal has multiple dimensions. Adultery is the betrayal of one’s marriage partner. Treason is the betrayal of one’s country. Apostasy is the betrayal of one’s Deity. We are shocked by these forms of betrayals because they absolve the thick relationships ingrained in our core.  Betrayal induces its victims to question everyone and everything. It threatens trust which is the basis for cooperation. Betrayal upends the natural order of things. That is why Dante designated a special place in hell for traitors in the Divine Comedy. Lucifer is first among the doomed because he betrayed God.

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But the Bible doesn’t see all traitors equally. Judas Iscariot is doomed to go to hell. Thomas gets a brief scolding. Peter becomes the cornerstone (first bishop/patriarch) of the Church. All three were Jesus’ disciples. All of them regretted their betrayals. However, the rationale for Judas’ action was ignoble. St. Peter betrayed because he was afraid. St. Thomas doubted for lack of faith. But Judas betrayed for 30 silver coins. In other words, he considered his relationship with Jesus as thin. He saw it as a fleeting encounter ripe for exploitation. Just like Lucifer, Judas employed betrayal to upgrade his lifestyle. But this was not the case with St. Thomas and St. Peter. They recognized betrayal threatened their thick relation with Jesus, rectified it instantly through confession, and committed the rest of their lives to Jesus.

So, what lessons can one derive from all of this? First, all men/women, including saints, make mistakes. Second, betrayals absolve thick relationships. Third, people can rectify damaged relationships by acknowledging their mistakes. Fourth, there are some who employ betrayal to improve their predicament. These people never survive the scorn of history.

The current turbulence in Ethiopia has enchanted certain individuals to betray their compatriots. They undermine and deny that thick relationship in return for 30 silver coins. Watching these folks head to that special place in hell/history reserved for traitors is not fun-hence, the rationale for this essay.

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