Holy Tuesday 2022-2023 - Whom Seekest Thou: Restorative Easter Reflections

Tuesday, April 12, 2022


Sometimes the Tuesday of Holy Week is considered the day of confrontations. For after a hoopla of palm fronds and an evening of overturning tables, the religious leaders of the city could not take another day of Jesus. I imagine too, that this upset was fueled by the panicked, condescending, holier-than-thou words of city members who rushed to their leaders' doors to issue their complaints. “I heard Jesus curse as he overthrew one of the tables,” “I saw Jesus practicing magic with his friend Lazarus,” “Jesus spends all his time with harlots and sinners; I don’t think he’s fit to be a priest,” and “Jesus is always speaking out against the system, I think he is sowing seeds of contention.” And even with these complaints it seems the religious leaders were most upset at Jesus for establishing himself as a spiritual authority. Said differently, they were upset at Jesus for speaking truth, enacting change, and igniting a community. 

So, like many religious leaders of our time, they organized an ambush—a disciplinary counsel, one might say—with the intent to place him under arrest. For in their minds, Jesus was already guilty and they had already made the decision to put him to death; but, they needed evidence to implicate him as a false prophet. Thus, he was confronted with questions of authority, money, marriage, and choosing the greatest commandment. And in a very Jesus-esque way, he responded with courage, honesty, wit, and love ultimately halting such a vindictive ambush.

So while I really do wish some of our leaders would learn from this encounter (and I recognize how I am also often far more like the religious leaders than Jesus in these situations), I’m not going to hold my breath. Instead, I ask myself “what can I learn from Jesus about coming face-to-face with what confronts me?” I think back to my early self, the one who found shelter in quiet, contention-less spaces, always bending over backwards to keep the peace and bowing out of confrontations. I think of times I’ve become defensive or denied the hurt I’ve caused others while simultaneously expecting to be comforted. Within the system of white supremacy, such characteristics are not novel or unique to me. In fact, Drs. Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones remind us how fear of open conflict and defensiveness are two characteristics of white supremacy culture.

First, people in power are scared of conflict and try to either run from it or simply ignore it. When conflict arises, we find ourselves blaming the person for bringing up this uncomfortable topic rather than listening to or engaging with the issues at hand. Here we also see an emphasis on being polite and the continued requirements that people “calm down” and change their tone when sharing ideas. 

Second, were an open conflict to arise, we are highly likely to meet it with defensiveness. And whether our defensiveness shows up as criticism or objection, we white people spend lots of energy trying to explain or push back against charges of racism instead of examining how racism might actually be happening. 

So on this Tuesday of Holy Week, I invite us to come face-to-face with what confronts us. Sometimes that might look like challenging these aspects of white supremacy culture by practicing conflict and emotional resilience, reflecting on past conflicts and seeing how we could have handled things differently, or identifying our own defensiveness and then asking ourselves, “What am I defending against and why?”

Other times facing what confronts us might look like confronting power structures and institutions by calling out racism, homophobia, and transphobia in the church even if we are afraid. Finally, and perhaps most frequently, facing what confronts us might look like not charging Black, Brown and Indigeneous folks with questioning accusations meant to trap, harm, and convict them.

However you choose to come face to face with confrontation today, I hope we remember that confrontation has the radical possibility of turning us toward each other in an attempt to build more honest, loving relationships.

Today, please consider joining us in donating to Black Phoenix Organizing Collective. From their website, “Black Phoenix Organizing Collective is building a bigger, better, Blacker future in Phoenix, Arizona. We practice cultural organizing among intergenerational Black folks that centers queer and trans people, formerly incarcerated, disabled people, and Muslim immigrants/refugees. BPOC is building Black power through political education, leadership development, and creating independent, self-reliant, and generative alternatives to systems of oppression. We prioritize the needs of Black people through two programs: Disability Justice and Reproductive Justice. We believe that supporting mental healthcare, holding and creating space for vulnerability is a piece of how we free ourselves as abolitionists. We are moving to breaking down harmful systems and building new ones. We also learned over the last year that we also have to commit ourselves to transformative justice practices even when it’s painful, or uncomfortable in all spaces.” Visit their website at blackphxoc.org to donate”
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