There’s good news this week. If you’ve been putting off buying a Bible until the right one comes along, you’ll be pleased to know the official God Bless The USA Bible became available this week. It includes the King James version of the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. A fellow Quaker pastor, David Kinsey, said, “Now Christian Nationalists can have in one book all the important documents they’ve never read!” The whole shebang cost only $59.99, or you can go online and read all those things for free. But then you wouldn’t have a Bible with a genuine vinyl cover embossed with an American flag, a clear violation of Section 3 of the United States flag code, but then dignity went out the window a long time ago. If you’ve been wondering when the apocalypse might start, it appears to be drawing near.

The timing of its release was no accident. What better time of the year to sell a Bible than during Holy Week. Though it is ironic that a Bible marrying religion and nationalism would be released the very week we meditate on the crucifixion, a needless tragedy brought to us by, drumroll please, religion and nationalism.

I tell you, friends, when government and religion mate, a devil is born. So today I don’t want to talk about the miracle of resurrection, but rather the avoidance of crucifixion. Crucifixion always precedes resurrection. Once crucifixion is eliminated, there is no need for resurrection. If resurrection is needed, it is clear we have failed and that our failure is too often born of our eagerness to comingle exclusive religion and abusive authority. Whenever religion and government sleep together, a culture of crucifixion is created.

We have been told and taught that Jesus was crucified to atone for our sins, to appease an angry God who would otherwise destroy us. This is sheer and utter nonsense, rooted in Greek mythology, inconsistent with the grace and character of God. God’s anger has never been the problem. A culture of crucifixion was, and is, the problem. We know why Jesus was murdered, don’t we? Jesus was murdered for the exact same reason Abraham Lincoln was murdered, for the exact same reason Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered, for the exact same reason Oscar Romero was murdered, for the exact same reason Indira Gandhi was murdered. All those people spoke unflinching truth to corrupted power and so were silenced by tyranny and rage. Sometimes telling the truth will earn you applause, but far more often it earns one scorn and even death. Had he not died in a Siberian prison, we could ask Alexei Navalny what it cost him to tell the unflinching truth about Vladimir Putin.

After John Wilkes Booth killed Abraham Lincoln and was hiding in the Virginia countryside, he wrote in his journal that Lincoln had been the cause of all of America’s troubles and that “God has made me the instrument of his punishment.” There is nothing so wicked, so fraught with abuse, as when we create cultures of crucifixion, which invariably begin with the marriage of government, violence, and religion.

The crucifixion and resurrection were, and remain, revelations of our character. The crucifixion tells us that Caesar used his power to kill and destroy. We all know people like Caesar. They conscript the popularity of religion and the power of government, using them to knock down others and build themselves up. They don’t care who they hurt, who they malign, who they wound. They care only about their own power, their own prestige, their own position. If you cross them, if you question them, if you challenge them, watch out. They will use their power to destroy you. They are Caesars, in the business of crucifixion. As Quakers, our calling in life is twofold: To not be a Caesar, and to, with every fiber of our moral being, stand against Caesar.

Now if God were like Caesar, God would use divine power to kill and destroy Caesars. Some of the writers of the Bible believed God did just that.

I understand why they prayed that, I understand the very human desire for God to blot out human evil decisively and thoroughly, but I see no evidence that God does that for us. Rather, God calls us to live in the power of redemptive love until the Caesars of the world are transcended and transformed. So evil is rendered powerless not for us, but by us, through the power of redemptive love. This is the great moral and spiritual teaching of Jesus.

Which brings us to the resurrection. Just as the crucifixion told us something about Caesar, the resurrection tells us something about God. If Caesar would use his power to put down, to diminish, to kill and destroy, God would use divine power to heal, to restore, to give life. The crucifixion told us everything we needed to know about Caesar’s character. The resurrection tells us everything we need to know about God’s character.

So we are faced with a choice. Will we be children of Caesar or children of God? Will we use our power for evil or for good, to crucify or resurrect?

It’s the same old story. Caesar is crucifying, God is resurrecting. The children of Caesar, having sought power all their lives, having moved hell and high water to accumulate as much power as they are able, having paid good money for power, are using that power to condemn and crucify. So we must use our power to resurrect.

Mike and Rita Goss came back from Arizona this past week, so Mike and I got together for lunch on Friday. I thought it would be fun to include Bill Smith, who’s also been gone all winter. I called Bill to invite him to join us, but he and Pam, who donate one day a week to Family Promise, were cleaning a cockroach infested apartment for Family Promise, so Bill couldn’t join us. Now if I were any kind of pastor, I would have volunteered Mike and Rita to help them, but I didn’t even think of that. So there are Bill and Pam doing resurrection work, using their power to bless and not curse. And that is Easter. God undoing the work of Caesar and calling us to do the same.