Reflections on Easter 2021: One Person’s (Limited) Perspective
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Anne Marie Hunter, Director of Safe Havens
I write today in the spirit of true confession. This is, for Christians, the Easter season, the most joy-filled and celebratory time of the year. I am Christian, and yet I am living this Easter season in the midst of despair.
My despair is rooted in broken-heartedness, which, in turn, is rooted in a question: have we/I learned nothing?
I ask this question as hate crimes against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders escalate (1). I ask this as we learn more about the cold brutality that ended George Floyd’s life. I ask this in the face of repeated and ongoing violence and hatred toward people of color. I ask this as more insidious and “subtle” forms of racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression gain strength and insinuate themseves into our lives, our neighborhoods, and our communities. I ask this as violence, suspicion, and stereotyping among faith communities take root and bear their inevitable fruit. I ask this knowing that countless victims of abuse are dying even now in their own homes.
Have we/I learned nothing? The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was traumatizing, violent, and horrible. Jesus was dehumanized, spat upon, reviled, scapegoated, and hated. He died a slow death of asphyxiation. His death was/is a graphic illustration of the intense hatred and violence that we human beings are capable of (2). Shouldn’t we/I have learned not to crucify people?
And yet, the world is replete with violence and crucifixion. The Via Dolorosa continues. Asian Americans are attacked, shoved, spat upon, and hated. George Floyd, Eric Garner, and generations of lynching victims died of asphyxiation. We are only now learning about the lethal use of strangulation against victims of domestic abuse. War-time concentration camps, Matthew Shepherd’s murder, hatred of Jews, Muslims, and the GLBTQ+ community, boarding “schools” for Native Americans and Alaska Natives, all bear witness to continued hatred, de-humanization, scapegoating, and death.
Have we/I learned nothing? Are we/am I still, 2000 years later, choosing crucifixion? What does it mean to live with faith and integrity while white, female, an older adult, heterosexual, middle class, and Christian?
Easter celebrates resurrection, God’s powerful answer to humanity’s violence. There is no ambiguity here. God stands unreservedly for resurrection and not crucifixion, for life and not death, for dignity and not de-humanization, for inclusion and not scapegoating, for renewal and not an endless repetition of the old hatreds and violence.
I believe that, as a child of God, as a Christian, as an Easter person, to do God’s work in the world is to choose, again and again, to turn toward life and resurrection and to stop death and crucifixion. What crucifixions (of people of color, of the marginalized, of the environment) is my own life built upon?
Choosing to stop crucifixion is not easy. Julian of Norwich says, “We need to stand up against evil, even if to do so causes discomfort—even pain . . .” (3) Benjamin Banneker puts it this way: “It is the indispensable duty of those . . . who possess the obligations of Christianity, to extend their power and influence to the relief of every part of the human race from whatever burden or oppression they may unjustly labor under.” (4)
In this Easter season, I pray that God will shake my complacency, sharpen my wits, and strengthen my resolve to stop violence and crucifixion again and again and again and again, moment by moment, day by day. This is of course not all I/we should do, but it is a beginning. It is in this urgent, repeated, conscious, committed choice, made by Christians all over the world, that we can begin to find hope and turn toward new life and resurrection.
(1) According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the California State University of San Bernadino, hate crimes against members of the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities went up 149% from 2019 to 2020.
(2) We are of course also capable of kindness and love as well as violence and hatred. Julian of Norwich, a beloved Christian mystic who also lived through a plague, named these internal warring factions this way: “We hold inside us both the glory of the Risen Christ and the misery of the Fallen Adam.” Julian of Norwich, Showings: Revelations of Divine Love, translated by Mirabai Starr, Chapter 52.
(3) Julian of Norwich, Showings: Revelations of Divine Love, translated by Mirabai Starr, Chapter 52.
(4) Letter to Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Banneker, 19 August, 1791.