As a Christian Minister, it’s my job to preach that Easter is coming.
That we live in an Easter world.
That we are Easter people.
But on Holy Saturday, two days after the unprecedented expulsion of Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two young Black men from the Tennessee House of Representatives, my sermon for white people is to stay in Holy Saturday as long as it takes.
Holy Saturday is a day we sit in the loneliness and depravity of a world without the promise of Resurrection. It implores us to ask what a world without Love rising against Empire and against state-sanctioned violence would be like. It begs the question – what if death wins? What if this is it?
White people are quick to jump to Easter. The discomfort of the liminal space – the reckoning with blood and death doesn’t sit well with those of us in the comforts of whiteness. Our picked-fenced, well-groomed lawns with perfectly placed plastic eggs for neighborhood children are too ready for consumption.
Our inability to reckon with the blood of Jesus mirrors our inability to see blood all around us today. The blood of Cynthia Peak, Katherine Koonce, Mike Hill, Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, the six victims of gun violence at the school shooting in Nashville on March 28th, for example.
Reps. Pearson and Jones’ ousting from the Tennessee House is the first partisan expulsion in the state’s modern history. Their crime? Demanding sane gun laws to protect innocent civilians.
Holy Saturday demands that we be honest about what this is – the most recent demonstration of our country’s sick proliferation of white supremacy.
What happens when we sit with this sickness?
What happens when we wrestle with the traditions and marriages passed down to us? Those that make us look away from the Brown and Black radical organizers all around us only to worship one on Sunday?
Those that make us believe there is anything Christian about accepting a country where death by gun shot Is the leading cause of death for children and teenagers?
Those that teach us – in our pews – homes – and social circles to know what we are doing – keeping the “imperialist capitalist white supremacist patriarchy” as the late bell hooks taught us – in power—and to do it on purpose and twice on Sunday.
Those that teach us to protect the white woman at all costs – as demonstrated by the saving of Gloria Johnson thereby reminding the world that “she is still ours,” as Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney tweeted.
Will the pain this day demands cause us to feel the long pain of racism?
Will it ever cause us to change?
Will it allow us to connect the dots to see that the state that birthed the KKK is the same state that allows white rage to manifest as voter suppression, gerrymandering, and yesterday’s unprecedented ousting?
Will we see that it’s not just happening in Tennessee but all around us at every local, state, and national level as well as in our schools, homes and churches?
Will we do the long, continual soul and spirit work of dismantling white supremacy whenever and wherever we see it, starting with ourselves?
Will we continue to accept our friends and family members when they tell us it is about decorum and peace?
Or will we have the decency to preach with MLK that we don’t want “obnoxious peace,” peace that has been purchased at the price of capitulating to the forces of darkness? That peace as the absence of tension is the type of peace that stinks in the nostrils of the almighty God.”
Will the liminal space of Holy Saturday cause us to start being honest and take the time to learn our violent history? Or will we continue to ban it in some twisted name of education?
In the words of Rep. Jones, “By breaking decorum, we broke the glass of your false power for the world to see. We broke the glass of this chamber that someone called sacred. One of the members on the other side of the aisle was in tears and said I’ve never seen such a breach of this sacred chamber. And i thought to myself that representative has obviously never read history. Because it is in this chamber if you walk around this capital, you’ll see bullet holes when representatives got into conflict. You’ll see duels take place on this house floor debating whether people like me should be treated like equal citizens under law.”
Will we heed the words of Rep Pearson, “You are seeking to expel District 86’s representation in this house in a country that was built on a protest. In a country that was built on a protest! You who celebrate July 4, 1776–pop fireworks and eat hot dogs. You say to protest is wrong because you spoke out of turn, because you spoke up for people who are marginalized, you spoke up for children who won’t ever be able to speak again, you spoke up for parents who don’t want to live in fear, you spoke up for Larry Thorne who was murdered by gun violence, you spoke up for people that we don’t want to care about in a country built on people who speak out of turn, who spoke out of turn, who fought out of turn to build a nation. I come from a long line of people who have resisted.”
Will we claim the absolute hypocrisy of their expulsion on Maundy Thursday – the day that Jesus left us with a commandment to love above all else and at all costs?
Those who voted to remove these brave representatives have abandoned Jesus’ commandment. They do not love. They’ve forgotten that justice is what love looks like in public, as Brother Cornel West teaches.
May we sit in the sins of white supremacy and what she continues to allow to rise: rampant gun culture, the blood of innocent children and civilians, rising fascism and transphobia, gross inequality, and brazen erosion of democracy, among others for as long as it takes.
But may it not take too long.
Children are dying.
People are dying.
We are all dying slow deaths to white supremacy and a country that has never been a place where all can flourish.
The ills of white supremacy, our obsession with guns, and white Christian Nationalism must be faced in this liminal space before we go to church on Sunday to worship a Brown radical organizer unjustly killed by the state.
Otherwise, we must stay home. Our worship will be in vain.
The young people of Tennessee and Representatives Jones and Pearson are showing us what Love Rising looks like. The promises of Resurrection. They are powerful inspirational witnesses for us this Holy Week.
Love, justice, and liberation are our collective promise and call.
They are waiting for us. I hope we say yes. But more importantly, I hope we white people do the work of Holy Saturday.