Column: Praying for Easter joy while something ugly is loose in the land

  • Racist graffiti on Oklahoma Democratic Party headquarters. (AP -- Cody Giles)

For The Washington Post
Published: 4/18/2019 10:10:27 PM
Modified: 4/18/2019 10:10:16 PM

In my faith’s tradition, this is the season when I am to look into myself, searching for things to give up that might distract me on my pilgrimage to Easter. I am presented with selections from Scripture as part of my Lenten meditations — “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” But my journey is sidetracked by a feeling that something ugly is loose in the land — an ugliness that challenges the teachings to love enemies, pray for persecutors and live in unity.

Why did someone in Norman, Okla., spray-paint a sculpture of a young girl to make it look like blood was pouring from the head, scrawl the word “JEWESS” across her forehead, and paint swastikas over her eyes?

Why would anyone write at a nearby elementary school that black boys “rape white girls”? Or paint swastikas and the words “Trump 2020” on the windows and doors of the Cleveland County Democratic Party office, or similarly deface the offices of the Oklahoma Democratic Party and the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma City a week earlier?

Why? According to a police affidavit, Allison Christine Johnson, a 45-year-old college graduate, went on the hate-filled graffiti spree because she wanted to “wake people up.” Johnson “said that her intention was to scare Jewish people” and anyone who wasn’t white.

In the weeks leading up to Palm Sunday, three historically black churches in southern Louisiana were burned. Holden Matthews, 21, the son of a sheriff’s deputy, was charged in connection with those heinous crimes.

These days in America are not “good and pleasant.” Unvarnished hatred seems to have been unleashed in the land. On Palm Sunday we heard: “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” And so we should, given so much evidence of hate.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told a House committee recently that white supremacy and violent extremism are a “persistent, pervasive threat.” The Anti-Defamation League said that 78 percent of extremist murders in the United States last year were by perpetrated by white supremacists.

Here in Holy Week, I am trying to be ever mindful of my own brokenness. But also on my mind is the cruel truth of hate — as well as those ugly words that fan the flames of racial and religious discord.

Sorrow now. Is Easter joy ahead?

Colbert I. King won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2003.

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