I wish I could tell you the last time I went to church on Easter Sunday. Maybe 5 years ago, but don’t quote me. My childhood is full with memories of Easter. Reciting Easter speeches, finding the perfect outfit (I believe Easter was the first time I wore heels) and of course getting the hair did. Does anyone else remember microwave ponytails? A weave ponytail that you put in the microwave to give it curls. Real Black shit. Easter is one of the Sundays that everyone goes to church (add Christmas and Mother’s Day to that list), particularly the “heathens”. I have descended so far past heathenism that I barely remembered today was Easter. I spent the day writing and grading. Holidays formally rich with religious and family memories have lost pretty much all significance in my life. I slept till 6pm on Christmas, did not get/give one gift and it has been 6 years since I spent Christmas with my family.
Don’t worry this is not a lament on why I don’t do Holidays. Been there done that. Since my FaceBook newsfeed was hellbent on reminding me today was Easter, I might as well speak on it.
The thing I love about Easter is the choir sings one of my favorite songs, No Greater Love “That’s not how the story ends, three days later he rose again- That’s love!!!” That shit goes hard!
Today one of my friends, Ahmad Greene posted this status:
“He got up,” isn’t where the story ends, though that’s where y’all typically close the book. What does resurrection from crucifixion mean when those that have “risen with Christ” crucify others? For example, as Candace pointed out today, it was the women (Mary Magdelene, Joana, Mary the mother of James) who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection first, but it was the male apostles who ignored their witness and went to inspect the tomb for themselves (Luke 24: 10-11). Indeed, it was sexism that crucified the women to a metaphorical cross, and arguably, it is that same hatred and vitriol that crucifies many among us to both physical and spiritual crosses. Jesus got up, but Jesus also had love. And you honestly can’t shout, dance, and roll in the floor today because “He got up,” if you’re not living the LOVE he preached every day he walked the earth. (Well…you can and that’s what y’all typically do *sips tea*). Stop crucifying others in Jesus’ name. It ain’t Godly and it ain’t love. This, in fact, is a word for those who call themselves “Christian.” Little do you know, you side with Pilate and the Roman government more than Jesus.
This status struck me for several reasons, most directly the continuing crucifixions that “Christians” often perpetuate. The show Preachers of Detroit, has recently highlighted the blatant and often unapologetic sexism that is rampant in Black religious spaces. My concerns are primarily for the Black community, but I will acknowledge sexism is a problem in a variety of institutions and races. As Greene’s status indicated women are often ignored and dismissed within religious spaces. Jesus resurrection, had to be certified by male apostles. The conversations about women’s role in ministry that Preachers of Detroit incited made me face my own battles with the internalized sexism I inherited from my religious upbringing. Subsequent conversations with my father reminded me how the talents and strengths of Black women are often dismissed in the patriarchal structure of the Black church. I have watched my father elevate unloyal, lazy and ignorant men to positions of authority- yet his theology won’t allow him to see women as viable religious leaders. I wonder how much his ministry would benefit if it could be free from the shackles of sexism. In the same vein, how many of our queer brothers and sisters in ministry are ignored or not seen as viable leaders due to the hetero-normative and homophobic structures often embedded in the Black church. What are we overlooking and missing as we wait for the “male apostles” to confirm the resurrection, to confirm things the women have already told us?
During a week in which a noose was found hanging from Duke University campus. Easter becomes a time to remember the countless Black bodies crucified through state sanctioned violence. As Pastor Starsky Wilson reminded me during my journey to Ferguson- the Crucifixion of Jesus was nothing more than act of state-sanctioned violence. A murder carried out by the government (the police) and praised by the people. As James Cone eloquently wrote in The Cross and the Lynching Tree, the “crucifixion was a fist century lynching”.
“The cross and the lynching tree interpret each other. Both were public spectacles, usually reserved for hardened criminals, rebellious slaves, and rebels against the Roman state and falsely accused militant blacks who were often called “black beasts” and “monsters in human form” for their audacity to challenge white supremacy in America. Any genuine theology and any genuine preaching must be measured against the test of the scandal of the cross and the lynching tree.
“Jesus did not die a gentle death like Socrates, with his cup of hemlock…. Rather, he died like a [lynched black victim] or a common [black] criminal in torment, on the tree of shame” (Hengel). The crowd’s shout, “Crucify him! (Mark 15:14), anticipated the white mob’s shout, “Lynch him!” Jesus’ agonizing final cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) was similar to the Georgia lynching victim Sam Hose’s awful scream, as he drew his last breath, “Oh my God! Oh, Jesus.”
So on this Easter Sunday it is hard for me to think about Jesus, the son of God- who was without sin but died for our sins. Without thinking about Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Relisha Rudd, John Crawford, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and the many many more Black bodies killed in this country that were guilty of being Black in an anti-Black world. In my theology those hours that Jesus hung from the cross as public spectacle are not that different from the hours Michael Brown laid in the streets of Ferguson.
As I was discussing religion with a culturally Christian, non-practicing friend she stated
“I believe in the power of that story (Easter). I believe in the power of resurrection. And our creator offering a life for which we could see the world anew.”
So while I am no longer interested in dressing up and attending anyone’s Easter service. While I have realized my salvation will not come from Jesus- I do believe there is something valuable about reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hope that it provides in today’s world. There are lessons to be learned by radical politics of Jesus love.
My prayer this Easter Sunday is that the Black bodies, our country continues to crucify, deaths are not in vain. That we remember the power in the story, the promise of liberation and redemption. Remember the impact of state-sanctioned violence. Remember the audacity of Jesus who challenged the status-quo as we dare to challenge white supremacy. That we reflect on the bodies we continue to crucify in the name of religion…of the voices and ministry that we ignore simply because they are not cis-gender men.We are living in a world where the governor of Indiana has signed into law “A Religious Freedom Act” that is entrenched with religious infused bigotry.Christians are looking more and more like Pilate and the Roman government than Jesus. As we challenge racism, homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, etc. remember and declare that we decide how the story ends.