A Culture of Pilates

A Culture of Pilates April 19, 2024

Andrew Fowler has a thoughtful post-Holy Week meditation at RealClearReligion on Pontius Pilate.  He says, in the words of its title, we presently live in A Culture of Pontius Pilates.

When Jesus was before his Roman judge, he said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).  Whereupon Pilate responded, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

Fowler says that we aren’t sure what Pilate meant or what his tone was, whether he was being sarcastic or skeptical.  But Pilate does seem to recognize truth at some level.

Later, after hearing the Jews’ charge that Jesus claims to be the Son of God, Scripture says, “when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid” (John 19:8).  He must have had the terrifying thought that Jesus is who He said He is.  So he must have had some inkling that Jesus may indeed Himself be “the truth” (John 14:6).  And then when Pilate spoke to the crowd, he said something that he knew to be true:  “I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38).

But despite that “true” verdict and his perception that Jesus may be connected to a larger “truth,” Pilate ignores what he knows to be true.  Despite his authority and power, he was afraid of the mob.  St. Mark tells us that Pilate turned over Jesus to be crucified because he was “wishing to satisfy the crowd” (Mark 15:15).

Says Fowler, “Rationally, Pilate was possibly in political and physical harm, so by placating the mob, he clung to power, preserved his own life and saved his reputation — all of which he, and we, are afraid to lose.”  We are like Pilate in denying what we know to be true because we fear what others will think of us.   Fowler concludes:

The decline of religiosity in America and the plague of moral relativism — better known as “your truth” — indicates we are deeply in a culture of Pontius Pilates. For one can delude oneself that money, fame and possessions are worth more than eternity; or falsely believe that life away from religiosity loosens restrictive bonds in order to explore life to the fullest. . . .

Nowhere is this moral relativism more evident than in the ongoing debates on gender, abortion, surrogacy, euthanasia, and so on. But instead of facing the “mob,” we often cower — or affirm things that are not so, saying it helps the other person’s mental state, but, in truth, it helps us escape harm (or cancellation).

Not only Pilate but our whole culture of Pilates are in sore need of Jesus, “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:3), who further said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8: 31-32).


Illustration:  Ecce Homo by Antonio Ciseri (1871) via Wikipedia, public domain.




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