i am not an academic or great scholar. i studied communication theory in grad school at a christian university, but no one will accuse me of being an authority on exegising jesus, translating greek and hebrew into something mere mortals can understand, or drawing elaborate parallels between the divine and humanity. i’m not here for that.
but it’s holy week and we are going through the motions of mourning and celebrating the life of jesus in a faith that has grown increasingly hostile to the very people jesus embraced during his time on earth. i’m not here for that either.
christianity has been problematic for me for some time for a number of reasons. i find its insistence on placing me in a confining box so my existence is more palpable both stifling and deadly. christianity, in the way it is both taught and practiced in america is hostile to women. it is hostile to people of color. it is hostile to singles. it is hostile to those who have questions. it is hostile to those who seek truth and authenticity. it is hostile to those who choose to worship a god who said “go into the highways and byways and compel all that you meet to come that my house might be filled.” it is hostile to the truth of the jesus upon which it was built.
as i reflect on holy week in the context of an exhausting season of hyper-racialized tensions, i am confronted with the truth of the very unholy matrimony of race and religion in our country. i’m sure by now you are well aware of the indiana and arkansas religious freedom laws making headlines. at their core, these laws are designed to give businesses the right to decide who they want to provide services to based on their religious convictions, i.e. legalized discrimination.
a rational person would look at this and say, wait, didn’t we march and fight to end this kind of terrorism against “others” during the civil rights era? how are we going backward instead of moving forward? and then i hear the cries of the conservative white christian armies calling for a return to america of yesteryear, and i have to accept we are beyond the grasp of rationality here.
let’s dissect this fairytale kingdom that my conservative brothers and sisters long for so desperately. picture it, america circa 1950, where jim crow was king, black folks knew their place as barely passable for human, and you’d be met with the very fire and brimstone of heaven if you dared to challenge the status quo. this america hated the very sight of me and everyone who looked like me. this america made it legal to dehumanize me and criminalize me and discard me. this america told me i was stupid and ugly and worthless. this america refused to see the imprint of the divine in my dna. this america terrorized my people and those who dared to speak up and stand with my people. this is the america you want to return? naw, i’m good.
those who practice the religion of racism bow willingly and faithfully to the demon of white supremacy. they evangelize the masses with their gospel of hatred, fear, and death under the guise of returning to good, christian values, all the while selling a revisionized history stripped of all traces of its true ugliness. the jesus at the center of this abusive marriage is a blond-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned idol crafted in the image of their true god – a white man.
during the last week of his life, jesus triumphantly paraded into the city, bringing the kingdom of god to the people in desperate need of being reconciled back to the creator. but he didn’t meet the standards of those in power. the savior of the world, with his dark skin, course hair, and affinity for the poor, weak, discarded, and forgotten had no place at their table. and so, like the strange fruit found dangling from the poplars across the anti-bellum south, they hung him from a tree. how is that for a parallel?
as i take time to reflect on the power in the pain of the cross, the beauty in the destruction of death, and the victory in the reconciliation of resurrection, i am overcome with a host of emotions. but at the core of them is a sense of alarm. the resurgence of racism in our country is ringing loud and clear. like a dog whistle, it’s ringing in a frequency some are either unable or unwilling to hear, but it’s ringing none the less. and the face of this movement will once again be the hijacked gospel jesus who went to the cross for the sake of love.
there is nothing sacred about this marriage, and we can’t afford to be silent. we are at the place in the ceremony where the minister asks if there are any in the room who object to this union. let us all speak now and refuse to hold our peace.