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“WHERE WILL YOU BE…?”
Greetings Brothers and Sisters in the Struggle,
Even though we are done with Easter Sunday services and all of the other social and cultural trappings of Easter, I am nonetheless unable to release the pull of the song, “Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord).” Its haunting melody and rich emotion that is deeply moving was born from enslaved African-Americans who saw their cross of slavery as one with the cross of Jesus. The song calls attention to the fact that there were eyewitnesses to the significant events of Jesus’ crucifixion and that they refused to neither leave, nor betray or deny him. In contrast, today we are also witnessing modern day crucifixions in this “mean season” of discrimination reinstatement laws. As eyewitnesses, we are however faced with a different question (one posed by Lesbian poet and activist Pat Parker),“Where Will You Be When They Come?”
A “mean season “is born as “Boots are being polished; Trumpeters clean their horns; Chains and locks forged. The crusade has begun. Once again flags of Christ are unfurled in the dawn and cries of soul saviors sing apocalyptic on air waves” (Pat Parker). Across the country many state discrimination reinstatement laws are either currently on the books or awaiting legislative approval. These laws are all about fear. One writer characterizes this fear as “smoldering in the reproduction issues of the past 25 years; stoked by having a black man in the oval office; fanned into roaring flame by the rushing winds of LGBT equality; and flaring up every time the media fuels the realization that America criminalizes race”. It is a fear of the world becoming something new but uncertain.
In a “mean season” movements solidify when, “Citizens, good citizens all parade into voting booths and in self-righteous sanctity X away our right to life. I do not believe as some that the vote is an end; I fear even more It is just a beginning”(Pat Parker). Many people – i.e. White, culturally conservative, Christian, middle-America, working-class people – reach out for ways to put the fire out wherever their world is changing. Or at the least, to keep their world from spinning out of control, they create new laws that roll back the clock and make it the world they knew and grew up in and are comfortable with. These efforts are purposeful and are often led by demagogues that incite ugly passions, fuel resentments and divisions, and create fear of those who are not like “us”.
“Mean seasons” don’t die easily. There will always be fresh targets. So “Your silence will not protect you“ (Audre Lorde). “Going with the flow,” being silent and complacent is problematic. In its place, integrity and speaking up for what is right and just really do matter. Rectification does not come only from whether or not we can figure out how to manipulate the political process to get what we want. Success is found in the value of building solidarity and creating meaningful life-giving alliances that squash that deep desire for control that is, in fact life-sapping. In other words, an Easter faith that is vital, jubilant and confident that God alone causes new life to spring up both within ourselves and in the world.
Finally, as we contemplate the fact that the 2016 presidential election …will likely prove to be the most important election of our lifetimes, we conclude with Ms. Parker’s words. “… I must make assessment. Look to you and ask: Where will you be when they come? And they will come. They will come for the perverts… They will come to the cities and to the land, to your front rooms and in *your* closets. They will come for the perverts and where will you be?” Hopefully, in that moment, WE WILL BE WHERE THE ENEMY IS and know that we are called to love. That’s when we know the one for whom our fears and yearnings are for and what we want to cling to must be set aside in order to give ourselves so that our neighbors might live. It is then that we transform “mean seasons” into Easter seasons.
Yours in struggle….Reverend Gale Jones, Executive Pastor