Where’s the Protest? – Another Look at Palm Sunday

The Gospel for today, Palm Sunday – Luke 19:28-40

“After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden.  PS-1Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.'”

Let’s consider the Gospel reading in light of what’s happening to children of color in urban areas across America.  The following quote is from this NPR article.  It includes a quote from Emily Dowell of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

On the national stage, civil rights activists argue that school closings are disproportionately hurting poor, minority communities. Everywhere Dowdall looked, she says, school closings are displacing poor, black and Latino students.

“It’s not isolated in one or two cities that have lost lots of population. It’s actually very common even in cities that are seen as economic successes, like Washington, D.C., like Chicago,” she says.

Why doesn’t this make us indignant?  If Hollywood produced a movie about this reality, it would have a hero.  The movie would tap our memories of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the countless everyday-people who fought for a different American than this.  It would tap our moral indignation.  The hero would make a difference…

…and we would feel like we got our money’s worth.

My frustration this Palm Sunday is that we are not angry.  Moreover, our consumer culture of attitudes and Facebook activism makes is nearly impossible to make a difference.   Our system of self-governance is immune.  America’s racism is less overt and 10x more passive.  It is structural, submerged in a wash of economics of self-interest, infotainment, culturally-accepted self-centeredness.   America now expresses its racism, classism, and inequality in fullview as necessity because we accept it.  We add the necessary neglect and indifference.

Moral indignation has lost its marriage to hope.

This Palm Sunday, I’d like to offer a different view of this Christian observant to those who are willing to hear it.

Today, Christians worldwide celebrate Palm Sunday. Yet, many of us fail to understand and relive its meaning.

Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem is not triumphant. It is the opening scene to a political confrontation. His riding in on a donkey and public fanfare was an affront to Rome and Jerusalem’s governors. Unlike many of us today, many people enjoined Jesus. The climax of Jesus’ confrontation with the powers-at-be is Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple and Jesus’ interrogation in front of the crowd regarding taxes.  Temple authorities had colluded with Rome for their own security and self-interest. Ceasar’s face on the coin designated Ceasar ruler and savior, a direct affront to both first and second commandments for any and every Jew present. Jesus handles these confrontations masterfully, indicting his interrogators with his own questions and speaking truth to power. This is why he ends up killed.

From University of Wisconsin-Madison archives

Today, let’s celebrate Palm Sunday by being honest about the ways Christians and Christianity have colluded and accommodated empire and the powers-that-be. Let’s take a risk and join the people in the street celebrating that someone is willing to do something about it.

….or at least take the time to express our indignation and blog about it.

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