The Donkey: a Kid’s Verse

“The Donkey” has been waiting for the right occasion. Dennis Aubrey’s photographs and commentary “The Ineffable” on Via Lucis Photography linking suffering and beauty led me fetch “The Donkey” from the “draft” file today for reasons hard to explain.

What I love about Dennis’s commentaries is that he refuses to engage in simplicities that reduce ambiguity to something manageable.

It led me this morning to The Passion (“suffering”) of Jesus, which begins Palm Sunday with a mistaken public perception: the Redeemer is a King who will vanquish the Roman “King” and who, perhaps, by his “Triumphal” Entry, will triumph over suffering.

The wish to escape suffering is, in some way, the kiss of death. There are Christian theologians today who argue that we should remove the cross as the central Christian faith symbol because it glorifies suffering, shifts the focus away from Jesus’ life, and contributes to the perpetuation of violence. But to do so would be to run and hide from the peculiar mystery of the human condition described by Dennis Aubrey’s piece – the ineffable and the beautiful in the face of suffering. The truth is in the paradox and the contradiction.

Steve’s poem brings all of that to mind. Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem to free it from its military-economic occupiers and from its own violent self. The Passion continues to arrest our deepest soul in the mystery of life in the face of suffering and the abyss of nothingness. As Dom Sebastian Moore observed, “the crucified Jesus is no stranger” – we put him there…and we are he.

A Poem for Palm Sunday: “The Donkey: a Kid’s Verse…”

The coats the folks are throwing down

sure make it hard for me to walk

especially carrying this clown

whose feet are almost to the ground.

“Hosannah King!” is all the talk,

but this guy seems to be as poor

as I am–no one could mistake

him for a Royal–he’s just a fake!

They wave palm branches, and they roar,

but my long ears can hear the real

parade across the city square:

the General, the Priests, the score

of war horses–the whole grand deal.

This pitiful parade will fail

to save a soul, and soon the yell

will change from “Hail!” to…”Kill!”

– Verse by Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 28, 2012

7 thoughts on “The Donkey: a Kid’s Verse

  1. It makes me think of Balaam’s donkey, who told his rider to turn back before he got killed.

    As for taking the cross from the centre of our imagery – really? How can we possibly think that while another child dies for no reason in this world? Paul has something to say on that in Corinthians I recall.


    • Greetings, David. Yes, really. There are theologians in the U.S. who argue from feminist and liberation perspectives that Jesus’ life is the center of the faith, and that the doctrine of atonement should be scrapped because it is built on the sacrificial system. I understand, I think, where some of them are coming from, but consider their positions reactions to fundamentalist perversions of the cross.


      • that I can understand to an extent – and there are similar debates here. But my own thinking is we need to reclaim atonement and sacrifice from the fundamentalists and reexamine what it means – rather than throw it away. Jesus without the cross is just another teacher (and to be brutally honest, although there is a lot of good stuff in what we have of his teaching, we have better stuff to go on from others). Now whether we choose to understand the cross as a religious sacrifice for our sinful nature – well that is a whole other discussion …


      • David, I couldn’t agree more. It’s all there in the cross – not the cross of Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo but the cross that reveals both the darkness and the light of human nature (psychologically, politically, economically, sociologically, anthropologically, and religiously), and the enduring patience of God’s “Yes”. The cross was and is the symbol for “at-one-ment”. Thanks, David, for your comments, as always. I’d love to hear more how you see it.


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