The Cheerleaders

thecheerleadersMarch 26, 2018

I’m thinking about cheerleaders today. On this Palm Sunday I’m thinking about the cheerleaders that lined the dusty streets as Jesus came through the gates into Jerusalem. The crowd, always ready for something to take their mind off the day-to-day. Willing, for the moment, to back this raggedy, back-woods, itinerant rabbi.

They waved their branches. “Hosanna!” they cried. “Save us!”

But when this Savior didn’t give them the military muscle they craved, their cheers turned to jeers. The crowd became a mob. The violence they needed was now turned toward the innocent, donkey-riding peacemaker.

No more “Hosanna!” By Friday they were screaming, “Crucify him!” They were mocking and spitting and taunting. And they had blood in their eyes.

I thought of some other cheerleaders today. These were the white, working-class mothers (pictured above) that John Steinbeck wrote about in his book “Travels with Charley.” These so-called “cheerleaders” lined the streets outside William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in November of 1960, as first grader Ruby Bridges was escorted into that recently desegregated school by U. S. Marshals. Norman Rockwell immortalized the moment in his painting “The Problem We All Live With.” (Click to view it here)

Ruby was the first African American to attend an all-white school there. She was six years old. And those “very fine people,” those southern, white ladies screamed vitriol and filthy obscenities that Steinbeck called “bestial and filthy and degenerate” at that beautiful child. Steinbeck wrote “In a long and unprotected life I have seen and heard the vomitings of demoniac humans before. Why then did these screams fill me with a shocked and sickened sorrow?”

I’m thinking about the cheerleaders now.

On Saturday, March 24th, 2018, when the wave of March For Our Lives crested across the United States, the cheerleaders washed up on the shore, like so much trash. Mocking and jeering and taunting. They are saying vile things to and about children who were terrorized and escaped a massacre. Like Steinbeck we are filled “with a shocked and sickened sorrow.”

But we shouldn’t be surprised, because this has been going on for a very long time. Screaming hate at innocents. People filled with violence. Can you imagine that the Lord of Life wanted to be part of this mess that we are?

He did! And on Easter Sunday, once again, we will be able to stake a claim on the new life Jesus offers to all! Not just in the by-and-by; but right now. Changed hearts! Swords (AR15s) beaten into plowshares! Love winning over hate! War hawks turned into doves! Life out of death!

Arise, my Love!

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