By Kelly Brown Douglas,
For Christians, this week represents Jesus’ March toward the cross. As Christianity’s central symbol, the cross reflects the depth and scope of human violence. In going to the cross, Jesus lets go of all pretensions to whatever social/cultural privilege that was His, and enters into ultimate solidarity with those most victimized by crucifying violence. He bears the cross for the ignored, marginalized and outcast of his day, such as Samaritan women, homeless beggars, the afflicted and prisoners. Essentially, by refusing to come down from the cross, he affirms sacred worth of the crucified class of people and disavows crucifying powers and systems. The cross, therefore, is nothing less than a call to join the crucified Jesus in solidarity with the victims of crucifying violence in our world today in resistance to the very powers that would devalue and destroy their lives.
We must be clear, any ideology or system of thought that demeans or negates the sacred dignity or worth of another human being is violent.
We must be clear, any ideology or system of thought that demeans or negates the sacred dignity or worth of another human being is violent. Moreover, these violent narratives invariably foster violent systems and structures that trap people in a cycle of crucifying violence. One such cycle is poverty, to which children are most vulnerable.
In this regard, the gun violence that spills onto our streets and into our schools is far too often the violence that violence has created.
About 18% of the nation’s children live in households that subsists below the poverty line with children of color being disproportionately impacted. In 2016, nearly one in three American Indian/Alaska Native children and Black children and more than one in four Latinx children compared to one in nine White children were poor. Worst yet, approximately one in six American Indian /Alaska Native children and Black children and one in ten Latinx children compared and one in twenty White children were living in extreme poverty. Poverty is considered “the single greatest threat to children’s well-being.” It impedes learning and contributes to social/behavioral problems and poor mental health. Poverty is a reality of crucifying violence that fosters death not life. In this regard, the gun violence that spills onto our streets and into our schools is far too often the violence that violence has created.
Last Saturday millions of people heeded the call of Marjory Stoneman High students Jaclyn Corin, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, and other students from across the country to March for Our Lives. This March was about than guns. It was a call to stop the violence. Moreover, it was a call to enter into solidarity with those most victimized by the crucifying violence of our time. This was the powerful challenge of eleven years old Naomi Wadler, as she raised her voice to “represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.” She summons us all to let go of whatever “privileges” of race, status or class may be ours to fight for the lives of those who have been silenced and ignored. And this, for Christians, is the challenge of Good Friday.
This is the call of Good Friday. It is the Call to Stop the Violence! To do anything less is a betrayal of our children and of our faith.
Good Friday is to be more than a somber re-enactment of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is to be a reminder of our commitment to take up the cross in our own time. This means using the privilege that is ours, not to stay behind church doors and stain glass windows, but to loudly decry the kind of violent policies, bans, laws and orders that deny people’s humanity and destroy their lives. As a faith community, we must not stand quiet as people are relegated to conditions of living that make them most vulnerable to the violence of guns, police brutality and mass incarnation. We must step up and add our voices and use our institutional power to demand that legislatures enact gun control measures and develop social policies that ensure all of our children’s safety and future. This is the call of Good Friday. It is the Call to Stop the Violence! To do anything less is a betrayal of our children and of our faith.
Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas is the Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary and Canon Theologian Washington National Cathedral. Dr. Douglas also serves on the advisory team of .Base