Sometimes I sit down with the conscious idea of writing a blog post. That was not the intent this morning when I sat down to begin working through some thoughts of what Palm Sunday means in general and what it means to me specifically. So, I apologize if this doesn’t seem as coherent as it might have been had I planned it out. This is one of those times that I just started typing a few thoughts for my own benefit, and my fingers just kept going.
As I reflect on what that first actual Palm Sunday must have felt like all those years ago in Jerusalem and knowing how the events of the following week would unfold, I try to place myself in the context of one of those in the crowd, welcoming him into the city placing my cloak or a branch upon the ground to prepare a path for him. As I think on this, trying to conjure up within me the emotions that must have been felt, imagining a crowd filled with an overwhelming sense of joy, celebration, and certain victory that must have been felt in anticipation of this King, this Savior, I cannot help but draw parallels to our modern political context.
I find myself back in the early evening hours of November 8, 2016, as I gathered with a group of progressive friends at Union Café in the Short North in Columbus, OH. I share the location as part of the context because it emphasizes the progressive bubble that I had placed myself in that evening. As we ordered food and drinks, the atmosphere was celebratory. We didn’t know exactly what the outcome of the vote would be in each state, but we did feel confident that we were about to witness history as the first woman was about to be elected as President of the United States of America.
As with most things, events in 2017 unfold much faster than they did in ancient Jerusalem. As we sat together at that table, we experienced all of the layers of Holy Week within just a few hours rather than days. We very quickly moved from welcoming a savior to seeing the unfolding of a long building crucifixion, and, before I went to bed that night, the darkness and hopelessness of Black Friday had descended with no apparent hope of a resurrection.
This was my second time experiencing this feeling of hopelessness as I had felt it 8 years prior when John McCain failed to win in the general election over then Senator Barack Obama. Again, insulated with a political bubble of conservative friends and campaign volunteers in the campaign headquarters of the Republican Party in Muskingum County in Zanesville, Ohio. Of course, at that time, my political beliefs were very different. I was still in a state of denying the truth of my identity as a gay man, and the denial of my own marginalization blinded me to how others were even more marginalized than I was. On that night, the night of Tuesday, November 4, 2008, I felt that fully eclipsing darkness and absence of hope for the first time. In the interest of full honesty, I believe that it was these feelings of hopelessness that had been the culmination of weeks and months of phone banking and advocating for “my candidate” in 2008 that kept me from fully engaging in the campaign of Secretary Clinton in 2016. On some level, I know that I fearing that, if I invested so much of myself only to lose again, I could not bear it.
So, when I realized that I had, yet again, found myself in the same place for a second time, I began to wrestle with two questions. The first was, “What did I learn from the last time I was in that place that can help me now?” And the second was, “What have I learned from both of these experiences that can carry me forward into the future?” The first obvious lesson to me was that not engaging in the process had not protected me from getting hurt. The second lesson is one that many of us have wrestled with in the months since the election. It is the recognition that we need to find ways to connect with others who are outside our insular bubbles. These few months have also made me become even more aware of my privilege in culture and society. Despite being gay, I get to inhabit the world every day as a white able-bodied cisgender man. When Donald Trump became President of the United States, I began to once again, as I had felt for decades in my small hometown, to feel the ever-present pressure that stems from the one aspect of me that makes me other, that makes me marginalized. When I became aware of this within me, I had to check myself and remind that inner me that I am far more secure than so many others in the U.S. and the world. I don’t wake each morning with the fear of deportation or of military attacks or bombings outside my home. I struggle at times in terms of my finances, as many do, but I have never gone hungry, without shelter, or without medical care.
The final, and most important lesson in terms of relevance to Palm Sunday that I take from these events is that resurrections do happen, even if they take time. It would take over a year for me to move from seeing Barack Obama as a figure to be feared to being a figure to be revered. I doubt that I will ever make that inner journey in terms of my beliefs with Donald Trump, but I also believe that this experience has shown me that resurrection seldom happens in the ways that we expect. I am seeing signs of resurrection even within my own state of Ohio right now as people of all political beliefs are becoming more politically engaged and aware. I am also seeing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ persons pass in small towns and cities within Ohio with far less debate and controversy. I have journeyed a great deal in the eight years that passed between my Black Friday moments. I pray that I will never have to endure another, but I know that it is likely that I will. So, as the followers of Christ saw the need to maintain hope in the world through sharing their stories of a Risen Savior, I ,too, put my hands back to the plough and commit to doing my part to bringing about a resurrection world.