Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Drops of blood

 

I’m always interested in cultural-creative references to the Bible—my PhD focused on such uses in popular music from the 1960s-90s—and this is no exception. An artistic adaption of Nike trainers emblazoned with the reference Luke 10:18, ‘He [that is, Jesus] said to them [his disciples], “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning…”’

The trainers also contain a drop of human blood, and I want to juxtapose that against the Gospel reading for Morning Prayer today, Luke 22:24-53. This passage includes the account of Jesus praying immediately prior to his arrest, wrestling with what he knows is to come and pouring out his heart to the Father. It includes verses 43 & 44, which read, [[Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]]

The double editorial brackets [[ ]] indicate that these are disputed verses. They are present in some of the ‘ancient authorities’ (earliest surviving copies of the text, and commentaries on the texts) but not in others. They have either been added, adorning the text; or censored, an attempted removal from circulation. Drops of human blood are controversial.

The linked article also notes the ‘Christian nationalism’ backlash, of which Nike is an innocent victim. The call to fight, hard, for the very soul of the youth of the nation is as predictable as it is disappointing. The way of Jesus is that blood voluntarily shed, without resistance, (somehow, ultimately) brings about reconciliation. Indeed, at his arrest, one of his disciples attacks with a sword, cutting off the ear of one of the crowd sent to take Jesus into custody; but Jesus categorically rejects this course of action, touches the severed ear and heals the wounded slave.

Nike have every right to seek to protect their reputation, against a powerful political lobby. But the idea that these shoes are a threat to souls, rather than the opening up of a conversation about the kingdom of God breaking in—to the kingdoms of the USA, or free-market economics, or culture wars, or insert your own—is reactionary, defensive, and misses out on grace. Rather than praying, “Father, if you are willing, remove these shoes from us…” we might better pray, “…yet, not my will but yours be done.”

 

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