Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Calling Them Like You See Them, Part 2

I've always felt some sympathy for Pontius Pilate. When Caiaphas sent Jesus before him, he found himself in a situation I've been in many times. An angry complainant wants you to take criminal action against someone, and you don't think it's a wise idea. You resist the urgings of the complainant, and the complainant becomes more strident.

The things Jesus' accusers said to Pilate are still being said today. "If he were not a wrongdoer, we would not have brought him before you" sounds very much like "If he wasn't guilty, I wouldn't have arrested him."

When the accuser begins to think that he is not going to be able to cajole you into acting, he begins to threaten. "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar." It is not clear in translation, but they were threatening to report him to Tiberius Caesar, who may well have executed Pilate for failing to crucify a would-be king. I have heard similar threats: "If you don't file charges, I'm going to the Governor!" I used to carry the telephone number for the governor's office in my billfold so that I could provide it to the complainant when the conversation deteriorated to that point. Of course, there was no danger of the governor killing me, or even firing me.

It takes a certain amount of moxie to say "No." It takes considerable courage to say "No" when the answer may cost your life, or even your job. Few of us have that kind of courage. Judge James E. Horton, who was voted out of office because he dismissed the case against the last Scottsboro Boy, had that kind of courage.