Is Telling the Truth Illegal in Florida?
One of the new laws that were passed by our Florida Legislature and signed by our Governor is designed to limit the way we confront painful facts in our history which might make people (particularly straight, white people) feel “uncomfortable.”
The “Stop Woke Act” makes it unlawful to teach that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears responsibility for and must feel guilt … because of actions … committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.”
The “Stop Woke Act” is in line with “Don’t Say ‘Gay'” bill and the new election laws that Judge Mark E. Walker struck down last week. In his 288-page ruling, the Federal Judge connects the dots between the new law and what he called Florida’s “grotesque history of racial discrimination.”
Legal questions about the First Amendment and governmental intrusion into private businesses will be debated in court, but there are deeper issues here for people of biblical faith as we enter Holy Week.
You WERE There!
Those of us who grew up attending Good Friday services are haunted by the emotional power of the African-American song that asks, “Were you there when the crucified my Lord?” The response is the gut-wrenching cry, “O, my Lord, it causes me to tremble!”
We tremble at the cross, not just because images of crucifixion disturb us like pictures coming out of Ukraine, but because the bible makes it clear that we WERE there. It makes me feel both “uncomfortable” and “guilty” because we are still there today.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
We are there with Peter in his denial, with the disciples in their abandonment, with the religious and political leaders in the protection of their power, and with Pilate in his refusal to take responsibility for the injustice in which he was involved. We are there, like the good, faithful people in the crowd who watched it happen or even cheered it on.
We were not there at that moment in history, but we are there because the same evil of injustice, racism, hatred, greed and violence that crucified Jesus continue to be at work in and through us today. Jesus is nailed to the cross, not just by the Roman soldiers around 33 A.D., but by my personal and often petty sins, as well as my unintentionally inherited, easily ignored, corporate and systemic sins.
Standing by the Lynching Tree
I plan to re-read The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone during Holy Week this year. I encourage you to read it with me.
Dr. Cone wrote that during the lynching era, Black Christians “told the story of Jesus’ passion, as if they were at Golgotha suffering with him … just knowing that Jesus went through an experience of suffering in a manner similar to theirs gave them faith that God was with them, even in suffering on lynching trees, just as God was present with Jesus in suffering on the cross … They found in the cross the spiritual power to resist the violence they so often suffered.” (p 73-74, 21-22))
Describing his own experience, he said “The cross helped me to deal with the brutal legacy of the lynching tree, and the lynching tree helped me to understand the tragic meaning of the cross.” (p. xviii) He asks the disturbing question, “Can American Christians see the reality of Jesus’ cross without seeing it as the lynching tree?” (p. 63)
Good News on Good Friday
The good news we experience on Good Friday is that the God whose Son forgave those who nailed him to the cross is the God who forgives us. When we confront and confess our complicity in the the evil that happened long before we were born and continues to happen today, we begin to experience the extravagant love, the immeasurable grace, mind-blowing forgiveness that meets us at the cross.
That’s what Charles Wesley experienced in his powerful hymn, And Can It Be?
And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
’Tis myst’ry all: th’ Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
He left His Father’s throne above—
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’ eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
We ARE still there on Good Friday in both our guilt and God’s forgiveness. Praise God!
Grace and peace,