There was an interesting article that appeared in this past week’s news. It was 1980 and Jimmy Carter was in the White House, bedeviled by a hostage crisis in Iran that had paralyzed his presidency and hampered his effort to win a second term. Mr. Carter’s best chance for victory was to free the 52 Americans held captive before Election Day. That was something that Ben Barnes said his mentor, former Texas governor, John B. Connally, Jr was determined to prevent.
What happened next Mr. Barnes has largely kept secret for nearly 43 years. Mr. Connally, he said, took him to one Middle Eastern capital after another that summer, meeting with a host of regional leaders to deliver a blunt message to be passed to Iran: Don’t release the hostages before the election. Mr. Reagan will win and give you a better deal.
Upon hearing the news that Jimmy Carter was receiving hospice care, Mr. Barnes felt compelled to come clean after standing silent for 43 years.
There were 52 Americans held hostage. Only 30 or so are still alive and all suffer from some level of PTSD from their experience. Can you imagine these survivors or the families of the original 52 hearing Mr. Barnes admission?
The readings for today are taken from The Book of Daniel and the Gospel of John. What they share in common is a story of people caught in the midst of “power politics” like the Iranian hostages.
The intention of the scribes and Pharisee was to simply use the woman and her circumstances “so that they could have some charge to bring against [Jesus]” (v.6) in order to fulfill their own murderous intent against Jesus (7:1). Their immediate goal is to trap Jesus between the requirements of the Law (cf. Lev 24:1-6 and Dt 13:10; 17:2-7) and his teaching of forgiveness and reconciliation. Will Jesus show himself to be a true son of Moses and do what the Law requires, i.e. agree that stoning the woman is the God-intended course of action? Will he defy the law and offer forgiveness?
Susanna fell prey to evil intentions of two powerful elders with only Daniel willing to speak truth to power. The people who knew of the elder to be wicked, stood silent.
For the times we have intentionally or unintentionally failed in our prophetic duty to stand for truth against the machinations of those who would unjustly wield the power given them – may God have mercy on us.
Image credit: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565, Courtauld Gallery, London | Public Domain. There is a color version done by Pieter Bruegel the Younger in 1600.