The Day We Chose Barabbas
It has been hard to pull away from watching the news this week.
On January 6, we saw hundreds of domestic terrorists fueled by White Supremacy, and radicalized by the President, launch an attack on the United States Capitol in an attempt to overthrow our democracy. I sat in horror listening to the President’s inciting speech and then an hour later watching the frenzied mob scaling the walls, attacking police, killing one officer and injuring many others.
I was outraged at the image of the Confederate flag waving inside a building which symbolizes its defeat. I was in disbelief at the images of our elected officials’ ransacked offices, and American insurgents sitting at the rostrum where the Vice President and Speaker of the House preside as the President of the United States delivers the State of the Union address. Finally, and most deplorable, there were the blasphemous images of the noose, the cross, and the banner bearing the name of Jesus. As I took it all in, the opening passage of the book of Lamentations came to mind:
“How deserted lies the city,
once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
has now become a slave.”
The Power of Choice
After the flood of emotions washed over me, just like many others who grieve, acceptance settled into my heart that this vile scene is the United States of America. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of three evils which plague American society—racism, materialism, and militarism. Time and time again, our so-called Christian nation has preferred to embody these grave sins over and above the teachings of Jesus Christ to love our neighbor. Yes, I started to accept the fact that we chose Barabbas.
Barabbas was the murdering insurrectionist that Pontius Pilate offered alongside Jesus for the mob to decide on. Pilate would allow one man to be released and rejoin society, and the other would be crucified to die an excruciating death. Beyond all logic this Holy Nation chose the one who would murder their sons, rape their daughters, and plunder their land.
The parallels with this scriptural account to ours are too many to list at this time, I will just underscore the one similarity that allowed me to move from disbelief to acceptance at the state of our nation—we are still choosing Barabbas.
When European colonizers arrived on the shores of this land, they chose Barabbas. They chose Barabbas when they violently stole from the Indigenous people who had been on this land for millennia. They chose Barabbas when they brutally enslaved millions of Black people, ripping them from their families, and callously benefited from the wealth they produced. They chose Barabbas during segregation as they refused to bestow the slightest bit of dignity and honor to those created in the image of God. They chose Barabbas when they created racist housing policies, bias business procedures, unfair educational practices, mass incarceration, and countless other injustice systems and structures. They chose Barabbas in 2016, and they are still choosing Barabbas today. I have come to terms with that now. I accept this reality about our country.
But make no mistake. My acceptance of the way things are in theses United States, does in no way deter me from standing up, speaking out, and laboring with all of my strength to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke, to welcome the foreigner, to care for the widow, and to feed those who are hungry.
I fight, not because I think that America will one day live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I fight because God’s Kingdom already does, and His love compels me to do the same!
“And in the days of these kings the God of Heaven will set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the Kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”