This coming Sunday, Palm Sunday, we re-tell (and in some cases re-enact) Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We hand out palms and shout Hosannas, as we hear and sing the story of Jesus, who is the hope for all Israel, as he enters the capital city. Once inside, Jesus will sit on the throne and become king, the puppet government will be vanquished – and Roman rule will be over. Or so they expect.
The people were excited and expectant – but the Roman authorities were ready. As they were every Passover. Would-be Messiahs were a denarius a dozen in those days; and after they paraded into the city each one would be pulled into a back alley, roughed up a bit and sent out one of the more obscure city gates, with the admonishment that they not try it again. And these dial-up prophets complied, for they had achieved their 15 minutes of fame – and then quickly realized that their quest for something more than attention was a fool’s errand.
Jesus was different. He did not bask in the attention. He was on a mission, and he could easily predict its violent outcome. Jesus went to the temple, turned over the tables of the money changers and then proceeded to teach there every day. His action and teaching posed a significant threat, which caused the Roman spies and corrupt justice system to ramp things up to DefCon 3 – which, by the end of the week, resulted in Jesus being nailed to a cross. A brutal way to make him go away.
This Saturday, six buses filled with Lutherans and Episcopalians from New Jersey will enter the capital city of Washington DC, along with hundreds of thousands of others, to participate in a “March for Our Lives,” a witness against gun violence. The scourge of gun violence is capturing the culture’s attention – and there is a groundswell of support to increase gun safety by implementing more comprehensive background checks, raising the age on purchasing guns and limiting the sale of ever more lethal assault weapons. And that is just a start. High school students from Parkland, Florida will be leading the procession into the city – and their growing eloquence and outrage about the risks of kids being shot in school is being joined by the growing eloquence and outrage of kids who are at risk of being shot outside of school (and whose voices for too long have gone unheard).
The cultural insistence on gun reform is intensifying – but the political resistance is, yet again, digging in. Funded and aggressively lobbied (if not threatened) by the NRA, too many politicians will echo the decades-old delusion that more guns create more safety, and the constant and annoying whine that the Second Amendment is under siege.
Washington will not mobilize to DefCon on March 24th. It won’t need to. Most of the politicians will be out of town, and many of them expect that the crowd which shows up on Saturday will shout their slogans, release their anger, figure they have accomplished their task – and then go home.
But many of us will keep coming. If not to Washington, then to gun manufacturers and gun shops, to local officials and legislatures – to our houses of worship and to our street corners, to op-eds and coffee klatches – with both gun rights advocates and gun reform supporters. To rise up and challenge the gun culture which, for the last several decades, has been sacrosanct if not sacred.
I am going to Washington this Saturday in part to follow the passion of young people, but more than that – and deeper than that, I am going to follow Jesus – who, with his unwavering commitment to nonviolence, regularly stepped into the crucibles of power that condoned, if not fostered, violence. The powers of his day stopped him. But his witness endures – and I believe we are meant to draw on his example and follow him – nonviolently, into this evolving cultural chasm. And not give up – and not be stopped.