When I was about ten years old, my mother (who happened to be the Sunday school teacher at my church) bought me my first Bible and a shiny silver crucifix. The maroon Bible still sits on my bookshelf, having survived nearly two decades of my life, but I only have a memory of the beautiful silver necklace that I wore throughout my childhood.
It was through this piece of jewelry that I first learned about the passion of the Christ—that is, the painful sequence of events centered on the crucifixion of Jesus.
In my evangelical upbringing, reflection on this story was a part of my spiritual life. I read about it, listened to it from the pulpit, and years later, even watched Mel Gibson take a crack at telling the story. It’s a story about the Stations of the Cross, which express the public pain and humiliation Jesus experienced in the hours before being crucified and laid to rest.
For most of my childhood, my spiritual thoughts often focused on that shiny silver cross with thinking about the Passion. How could such a polished and perfect figure represent such a violent and emotional story?
It’s a good question, and one that’s being asked by Mary Button this Lenten season, in "Stations Of The Cross: The Struggle For LGBT Equality."
In partnership with Mary, Believe Out Loud unveiled the artistic project on March 13 in New York City. The reveal came hours after white smoke emerged from the Sistine Chapel signaling the conclave’s selection of a new Pope.
As we welcome the new Pope, and prepare to head into Holy Week, there perhaps couldn’t be a better time to reflect on the struggle for LGBT equality. The fourteen stations in this artistic series combine the story of Christ’s suffering with images depicting the struggle for LGBT equality through the 20th and 21st century.
With candles lit and the Gregorian chant playing lightly in the background, guests walked the fourteen stations in a sacred space.
The series begins with Jesus being condemned to death (a visual paired with a 1913 image depicting the creation of the word “faggot”) and continued until Jesus being laid in the tomb (a visual paired with the recent high profile LGBT youth and teen suicides). The project set the tone for a reflection on some of the darkest moments in the LGBT rights movement.
“I believe that we can only begin to understand the meaning of the crucifixion when we take away our polished and shiny crosses and look for the cross in our own time, in our own landscape,” Mary says in her artist statement.
“When we look for the crucified body of Christ in the stories of people on the margins of our societies, then we are able to live the Gospel and not simply read it.”
Whether you have a tangible childhood memory of that shiny cross, or still hold on to that image today, I hope you will be inspired by the project to look deep inside and out for some of those people at the margins who embody the cross of our time.
From the gay and transgender youth who struggle at home or school against bullying; to the LGBT people who walk the streets of our country everyday only to be harassed by hate crime; to the hostility many of our religious communities continue to project on our LGBT neighbors.
This Lenten season, challenge your congregation, your family and your community to go to the margins and sit with their LGBT neighbors.
As the conscience of our country and world continues to hear these stories and walk these miles in often dark and violent shoes, we will draw closer to the rainbow of equality at the end of a not too distant tunnel.
Download the full stations project by clicking here. If you will be in Washington D.C. during Holy Week, please join us at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on E. Capitol Street SE & 2nd St. NE to see them in person. The church will be open for visitors on March 25, 5 - 7 p.m.; March 26, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.; and March 27, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.