Must Jesus Bare His Cross Alone
Updated: Jun 23, 2019
This past Sunday we celebrated the Easter Holiday. For those of us in the Christian Tradition, this day is the day that we commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. As I sat down to prepare my Sunday Sermon, I re-read the Passion Narrative, and I was struck by the active role that Simon plays in Jesus' persecution. You see, this African brother by the name of Simon (Cyrene, Libya) was forced to bare Jesus' cross. This onlooker was in just as much oppression as the one directly impacted.
In the North Birmingham Community of Birmingham, Alabama, there are generations who have had to suffer under the direct impact of legacy pollution for over a century. In the South Fulton Community of Atlanta, Georgia, there is an illegal dump that has been burning for over 6 months. There appears to be, and in the case of North Birmingham proven, corruption that runs rampant throughout this broken, still redlined system, the people and the planet, suffer. However, there are at least 36 mega-churches in Alabama and at least 96 in Atlanta. According to Hartford Institute for Religion Research, a mega-church is defined as, any Protestant Christian congregation with a sustained average weekly attendance of 2000 persons or more in its worship services, counting all adults and children at all its worship locations.
So, why is it that we have people shouting in our pews from your impact, but can't breathe in public from toxic pollution, and we aren't speaking truth to power, by addressing the suffering of God's people? How is it that we can serve a community, and not feel the pain of that community. I believe that it is because of "othering" our congregation, which creates cognitive dissonance. According to Psychology Today, cognitive dissonance occurs when one's ideas, beliefs, or behaviors are contradictory—when a person learns new information that challenges a deeply held belief, for example, or acts in a way that seems to undercut her self-image. In order for us to feel less guilty about supporting a system of supremacy and oppression, we other. We know that it is wrong; we know that it is not the way of Christ; we know that it is not the way that the church was modeled from the beginning; yet, we continue to promote policies and people that pollute the people you serve.
Like Simon, you are there to observe, because, after all, you're not directly impacted. However, what we have failed to come to grips with is that, these direct impacts for "the other" , have indirect impacts on us. Must Jesus bare this cross alone? Should the people in North Birmingham have to fight alone? Should the people in South Fulton have to fight alone? Should they bare this cross alone? It is time for us as faith leaders to join with the communities we serve, to fight for the environmental equity that they deserve. I urge you to listen at your convictions. Environmental Justice is a moral issue and must dealt with morally, there I said it!
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