This Palm Sunday, for some reason, the image I had in my head was of Trayvon Martin and his grieving parents. I wonder what it means to live in a society that upholds the law that the shooting of an unarmed minor is legal? That the death of your son was his own fault for appearing suspicious and threatening to an armed adult who was told by the police, prior to shooting, to cease and desist. Suspicious in this case being the wearing of a “hoodie” and apparently being a young man of color.
We know the story of Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey and is greeted in many ways as a king by the crowds of people who have come to believe in his preaching. What is not often taught with the story is that through the other gate, the Western gate, the military of the Roman empire entered the city of Jerusalem as well. They entered on big horses, in full uniform, a spectacle of terror to all the Jews who were gathering for Passover week. A reminder that the empire had the power to arrest and put to death anyone who did not conform to the laws of Roman occupation.
Jesus’ entering on a donkey was a way to challenge the empire, to create a new image of power that was grounded in the people. The common folks who traveled on a donkey and bore the burden of the Roman’s taxes and laws. A way also to challenge religious powers who colluded with the empire in oppressing the people.
In the weeks since Trayvon’s death I have seen image after image of people putting on a “hoodie” to show that wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up does not equal being dangerous. I have seen protests and rallies across the country of communities calling on the Department of Justice to challenge the “Shoot First” law that makes Trayvon’s death an act of self-defense rather than murder.
I see people entering by the eastern gate, choosing the donkey over powerful horses to be present to those who are oppressed, left out and disappeared in the failed and terrifying logic of “Shoot First”.
This Holy Week I invite you to the eastern gate, to gaze from a perspective that is the opposite of powerful or mainstream, and see where it takes you.