David French Picks Easter to Compare J6 Protestors to Barabbas
New York Times columnist David French decided that Easter Sunday would be the perfect time to take aim once again at his favorite target — Christians — in a column titled “Easter Rebukes the Christian Will to Power.” But his target is not all Christians. From his seat of cultural power, French discriminates among Christians, reserving his ire for theologically orthodox, politically conservative Christians, especially those who voted for Trump. It’s likely that French’s favorite target more than his writing skills accounts for The New York Times hiring him in January 2020 as one of its quasi-conservative writers.
An Easter Story Rebuke
As justification for his eternal judgment of politically conservative Christians for myriad “sins,” French turns to Jesus’ refusal to assume the worldly power Jews expected their king to assume:
After Jesus’ arrest and show trial, Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of Judea, gave the people a fateful choice. It was customary to release a prisoner during Passover, and Pilate offered up Jesus. The crowd wanted someone else. ‘Release Barabbas to us,’ they cried. …
Jesus was not the king the throng expected. He made clear that he was more interested in saving souls than in assuming power. And Barabbas was more than a mere criminal. He was an insurrectionist. The Books of Luke and Mark very clearly state that he participated in a ‘rebellion.’ Those who chose Barabbas didn’t choose a common criminal over Christ. Instead, they chose a man who defied Rome in the way they understood, a mission that Jesus rejected.
In his rebuke of Christians, French makes clear his target:
The spirit of Barabbas tempts Christians even today. You see it when armed Christians idolize their guns, when angry Christians threaten and attempt to intimidate their political opponents, when fearful Christians adopt the tactics and ethos of Trumpism to preserve their power. The spirit of Barabbas most clearly captured the mob on Jan. 6, when praying Americans participated in an insurrection based on a lie.
Was Barabbas a J6 Protestor?
Yes, there’s a real distinction between the kingdom of God and earthly kingdoms. And yes, the Jewish people failed to see that Christ the King was (and is) offering spiritual liberation and eternal life in a heavenly kingdom. But French himself turns the Easter story into a message about political rebellion.
French implies that the Easter story rebuke to Jan. 6 insurrectionists was less about justice than it was about power:
The spirit of Barabbas — the desire to seize or retain power, through violence if necessary — has been at war with the spirit of Christ ever since. Two millenniums of church history demonstrate a terrible truth: There was nothing uniquely evil about that ancient crowd. Instead it held up a mirror to our own nature, one that is all too eager to wield the sword, to believe that our own power is a prerequisite to justice.
Regarding the fallenness of man and the ubiquity of every form of sin under the sun, I offer no disagreement. But French obfuscates the central message of the freeing of Barabbas from punishment for his crimes.
Or Was Barabbas a Rebel Against God?
The central message is that Jesus paid the penalty for Barabbas’s rebellion against God. The spirit of the insurrectionist Barabbas against God and his son Jesus Christ lives on today among diverse self-identifying Christians and entire denominations. It is Barabbas’ spirit of rebellion that animates
- The fetal-slaughter movement that legalized and celebrates as liberation the killing of the least among us in their mothers’ wombs.
- The LGBTQ movement that defies God’s design for marriage, childbearing, and childrearing.
- The “trans” movement that mocks God’s creation design and butchers our bodies.
- Godless, anti-God government schools, which teach that evil is good and train up children to go the wrong way.
It is this spirit of rebellion against God that leads to corruption in the service of acquiring, maintaining, or growing political power. Such corruption includes suppressing truth and telling lies. It is this spirit of rebellion against God that animates David French’s employer, the desiccated New York Times.
God Gives the Sword to Caesar
French argues that in our fallen state, humans are “all too eager to wield the sword” and that we view “our own power as a prerequisite to justice.” But it is also humans in submission to Christ and in the process of being sanctified who reluctantly wield the sword, knowing that power is sometimes necessary to effect justice. In other words, concerns about justice are often the prerequisite to the use of power.
This is no more a defense of the violence committed by a few of the protestors on Jan. 6 than it is of the violence — including beatings, burnings, and thefts — committed by many of BLM/Antifa protestors in many cities on many days in 2020. Rather, it is an effort to offer an alternative application of the story of Barabbas than French offers.
French’s interpretation of who and what is being rebuked by the Easter story seems strained, straitened, and oddly political for the story which is centrally spiritual.
We Are Citizens Who Choose the Sovereign
Since French viewed the story of Barabbas through a decidedly worldly and political lens, it’s strange that he neglected to address the wildly different government structure under which Americans live today.
We live in an earthly kingdom far different from the Roman Empire. In this earthly kingdom, we the people are the government, and French offers a false dilemma regarding leadership in this structure: “This Easter it is as servants, not rulers, that Christians should resolve to love this land.”
Christians should resolve to love America as servants, and many should resolve to love the land as servant-leaders, “ruling,” which is to say, governing, in accordance with biblical principles and the Constitution … including that pesky Second Amendment, and laws prohibiting election fraud.
Laurie Higgins is the culture and education writer for Breakthrough Ideas. Prior to that she wrote for the Illinois Family Institute. Her cultural commentaries have also been published in Salvo Magazine and the Salvo blog. Prior to writing full-time, she was a member of the English Department of a high school on Chicago’s North Shore, where she worked in the writing center. Her writing focuses on issues related to life, education, sexuality, and gender.