Mar  2016 22
Living Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday in America

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the United States in light of the season of Lent. Lent is about to give way to Easter. So, how might Easter illuminate the life of the U.S.?

Some time back, I wrote that much of church life in the U.S. could be described as “living between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.”

The energies of the 16th century Protestant Reformation, as expressed in the outer forms of church and many of the inner values, wane. For the ecumenical, world-embracing mainline congregations, these are tough times.

So many congregations have died, so many more on hospice care. A few with endowments that will prolong death. But the Age of the Spirit is also apparently upon the world, if assessed and named by the explosive expansion of Pentecostalism.

And, as Diana Butler Bass and many others have written, there are ecumenical, mainline congregations that are vital and growing and most definitely have a future. What the forms of church will be in this New Age, most of us decline to predict, other than that they will be different from what came before. We, in the church, live between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Maybe it is the same time in U.S. culture. Old forms passing away, and the new forms are not fully in our vision. As a Christian, I look at life in general, not only my particular life, through the themes of death and resurrection. How shall we, the people of the United States who call ourselves Christian, contribute to a nation moving from Good Friday on to Easter Sunday?

Here is how I see the present time in the U.S., living between Good Friday (something we believed in has died or is dying) and Easter Sunday (new life):

  • The current election season is evidence of that the old order is dying. The order defined by white male supremacy is passing; it is not passed, it still has plenty of sting and power to do damage, but it is dying. The demographics of pluralism will triumph. The U.S. will become a country with no racial or ethnic majority. God has created all people in the divine image. We in the U.S. are going to evidence whether we believe in this God or whether we believe in an idol of my tribe.
  • There are states, such as Oklahoma, that are some years away from full inclusion, in culture and law, of LGBTQ persons, and OK and some other states might hold out for a long time, but the direction of the country is clear. Human beings are created with a diversity of sexualities, and we now have an opportunity to work out laws, mores, ethics, and morals that address this diversity.
  • It is impossible to build walls to keep one nation out and to keep our nation safe, or to “fight ‘them’ over there so that ‘we’ don’t need to fight ‘them’ here.” Safety is not something we can achieve for ourselves alone. The destiny of the U.S. is forever tied with the destiny of the other peoples of the world. What would it mean for America “to be great again” in Christian terms? Jesus’ teaching his disciples after James and John asked for privileged positions comes to mind (Mark 10:41-45).
  • The anger of displacement for white people (maybe especially white men), the anger of broken promises for so many persons of color, the anger that the economic system is rigged to benefit a few (an anger which both Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders have tapped), the anger because the justice system and the health care systems are evidences that not all lives matter equally—there is so much good, constructive work for which these angers could be used! Whether we, as a nation, live in a seriously prolonged Good Friday or move toward Easter Sunday may well be dependent on how leaders and movements can tap these angers for good and creative causes rather than for destructive ends.
  • Discrimination based on religion may be biblical, at least if one leans on particular texts. But such discrimination is about as un-American as any prejudice can be. Not all Christians embrace this American value, which means that more is needed from those of us who do.

During Holy Week, I always look forward to Easter, but I know we can’t get to Easter except through the pains, dashed hopes, and dark hours that Good Friday represents.


Easter cross photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/kimber-photography/

Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips President
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