I was heartened this morning when Pastor Rob Kopp said that he struggles with Palm Sunday. The day has been “domesticated” he said, waving a palm frond for us to see. Words like Hosanna are used. There is a celebratory tone and feel to the day. “Yeah, Jesus is gong to die this week!” This certainly creates some cognitive dissonance. But cognitive dissonance is where discovery occurs. I struggle, not just with Palm Sunday, but with all of it. I struggle with having anything to do with something that so many can so easily weaponize causing such pain and justifying condemnation and violence.
My friend, T McKinley writes in his book Reclaiming My Spirit, and at his blog site, about taking back his spirituality from a religious upbringing rooted in shaming one into faithfulness and compliance. He writes about his revisioning of God as a oneness of spirit. This is quite the opposite of what I see around me so frequently right now. Instead of oneness of spirit and coming together, I find more and more reasons to divide, separate, leading to eventually having to conquer.
An author I admire greatly is Brian McLaren. He writes a lot about his Christianity and in particular turning away from the modern Evangelical tradition to an Emergent Christianity. He was searching for Christian theology that brought people together to make heaven on earth as opposed to using Christianity as a wedge to separate and identify winners and losers–and then used as a hammer to punish and beat down those not in the right group. This is my struggle. How can Jesus’s teachings lead to such opposite enactments of one’s story? How can the same teachings lead some to a loving, forgiving God and others see a shaming, judgmental, punishing God?
And it isn’t just in religion that we find this ideological polarity–though I think religion is often, if not usually, the root–but it is everywhere I look. It is in how we think about issues such as race, crime, poverty, politics, education, and so on. Can we all claim to be working towards progress when going in opposite directions?
Christians (of most stripes) speak of Christ dying on the cross for our sins. Talk about struggles. This is a doozy for me. This kind of statement means nothing to me. Maybe it’s just too abstract and distant to provide me any real value. Today, however, Pastor Kopp said, “Jesus put himself in the place of the most vulnerable.” This I can begin to understand. Jesus faced violence grace, not violence. This is true strength. Pastor Kopp concluded by placing the palm fronds in the center aisle of the sanctuary saying, “May these signs of peace not be a source of litter.” Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. Divisiveness begets more division. We’re spiraling down people and I’m struggling with that. It sure would be nice to see less violence and more grace.
Bruce Springsteen concludes his song Jesus Was an Only Son with the line, “The soul of the universe willed a world and it appeared.” While listening to Pastor Kopp this Palm Sunday morning, I had this song repeating through my head like it was on a tape loop.
Jesus was an only son indeed. Do we have to be? Or can we will a different world than the one we currently see–a world filled with division, hatred, condemnation, and most of all, fear?