It's been a while since I engaged in long-winded debate on social media about the validity of LGBTQI+ Christian faith. But over the past few days a veritable tornado of condemnation and self-righteous ranting tore through my Facebook feed, leaving behind a flood of sadness and discouragement. It was hard to feel the celebration of Palm Sunday this morning.
I always find feeling celebratory difficult on this particular Sunday. It's forever tinged with the darkness of what's to come. The experience is important for the Christian walk; it's a reminder of how quickly we turn, how rashly we respond, and how shallow our commitment often is.
As we waved palm branches in church I thought about the people who called me a son of Satan for writing about God's radically inclusive love for LGBTQI+ folx. I imagined them standing along the road down which Jesus came astride that donkey, feverishly proclaiming their wondrous faith and hope as he went by. I imagined them carried through that week, believing him to be something he wasn't: the kind of savior who would perpetrate justice the way they wanted it meted out. The kind who would hate those they hated, and bring about their death and destruction. Victorious king and Lord over the unrighteousness as they defined it.
The days passed during that holy week and clouds of spiritual darkness gathered around them. Jesus didn't vanquish the dirty, sinful Romans from Jerusalem. He didn't punish them as the palm-wavers thought they should be punished. They must have felt misled by scriptures which foretold of David's heir, and the stories of foe destroyed by miraculously tumbling walls and the raining down of meteorites and magma. This Jesus wasn't the king they'd envisioned, and he wasn't the one they wanted.
The storm grew until Friday, when cries of "crucify him!" rang out.
The Bible is filled with stories which show us how little things change. We read the tales not simply to learn about history, but to recognize when it repeats. Many of today's Christians do just what those people with their palm fronds did. They view Jesus as fulfillment of Old Testament accounts of blood and horror, come to continue condemnation of humanity based on which rules from Hebrew and Christian scripture are followed or discarded. They hail him as conquering king who writes lists of behaviors for what makes a person righteous, congratulating themselves that they are among the blessed.
When someone (like me) points out the kind of king Jesus showed himself to be--one who embraces those the religious experts condemned as sinful, or unclean--they become enraged. Surely this can't be the savior! Surely the Christ would reject those dirty others!
And so they shriek with red faces and flying fingers, that God hates queer orientation and identity, that the scriptural rules they demand be followed means the difference between heaven and hell, and that their own disregard of scripture is justifiable. The screaming for crucifixion continues, and the Christ within each LGBTQI+ Christian shrinks back from it just as Jesus must have done the time it first happened.
These people don't know that's what they are doing, of course. They pat themselves and each other on the back at a job well done, not giving a damn about the blood and tears pouring out from the scourging they deliver, gleefully imagining the eventual death and eternal suffering to come, believing it to be deserved.
Just as that first group probably did.
Of course this applies to me as well. I'm just as apt to preach loving inclusion and the presence of the holy in all beings one minute, only to find my thoughts and emotions pulled into the mire of condemnation and judgement. It happens every day. It's my constant battle.
This is a week of darkness. A week when I consider the horrors humanity seems endlessly willing to inflict. It can be enough to pull me into depression. It would be, I'm sure, if it weren't for the Sunday which will bring this coming holy week to a close. Sunday offers such promise; we will all experience a resurrection. Each of us will be faced with the full glorious truth of God and be ravished by our inadequacy in light of it. Each of us will become united with each other and one with the universe in all it's beauty. Those who cried "crucify him" and those who cried "God hates fags" and even me. All of us with molecules singing hosanna.
And finally, meaning it.
It's Palm Sunday, and night is falling. If you have a moment, pray for the people who have been railing at me, and pray for me who railed back. May we all just stop it, and lean in to becoming the love that awaits.