April 2, 2023

Resurrecting the Body of Christ








 The Resurrection of our Lord

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” 

LUKE 24:1-5

I recently came across a photograph of a 17th century triptych of the Virgin and Child. It was from Ethiopia and they were blackety, black, black. Everybody was. Mary was black. Baby Jesus was black, all the apostles were black, even the angels were black. And they all had ‘fros! Even Jesus hung there on the cross with his goatee and crown of thorns pressed into his afro.

This picture was the graphic used to promote a 2017 article by Dr. David D. Daniels, the Henry winters Luce Professor of World Christianity at McCormick Theological Seminary. Published by Religion News Service in commemoration of the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation, Daniels’ article informed readers that Luther’s reformation was inspired by the oldest church on the planet—the Ethiopian Church, which preceded the Roman Catholic church.  

As our nation lurches toward the demographic shift projected to arrive within the next 20 years, legislatures across the south and mid-west are attempting to legislate society back to the days when white men’s dominance was assumed and enforced. Books by BIPOC, women and queer authors are being banned, histories told from the experience of the oppressed are being outlawed, and we have witnessed with our own eyes an entire political party’s defense of unequal application of the rule of law. In the background, increased occurrences of unusual climate disasters are ripping towns apart while daily reports capture recurring footage of children running from schools shot up by mass murderers—killers protected under the legal cover of nonsensical gun protections that intentionally leave people exposed.

When I was a young evangelical, my youth group buddies whispered about the coming tribulation and the rapture. In recent days, I’ve heard similar whispers from Christian friends and family. And I must say, I’ve been tempted to look at the panoply of predicaments and think: “Maybe the end is near.”

I’ve come to believe it is.

The end of the world, as we know it, is near.

The end of the domination of white patriarchy is near.

And the gyrations within our society are its last dying gulps.

As the leviathan of white patriarchy writhes before our eyes, it can be tempting in this chaos to think there is nothing beyond what we have known. There is no United States beyond the white male-led US. There is no church beyond White male, cis, straight-led church. There is no Mary beyond white virgin Mary. There is no Jesus beyond blond Swedish Jesus.

If this is one’s view of the world, then the end of white patriarchy means the end—period. Everything becomes meaningless. Life becomes meaningless. Death becomes meaningless. God becomes meaningless. There is no hope.

This is the hopelessness of Good Friday.

There, on the cross, hung the king of the kingdom of God. Bloodied by empire, there hung Jesus. Dazzled by the spectacle of white supremacist Rome, no one recognized the divinity within Jesus’ broken, bloodied brown body.

This is how the Black church feels right now. This is how the Latino church feels right now. This is how the Asian-American church feels right now. This is how the queer church feels right now. This is how the disabled church feels right now. This is now the asylum-seeking and immigrant church feels right now. This is how the womanist and feminist church feels right now. This is how the poor church feels right now.

Broken and bloodied by the hierarchies of human belonging that were conceived, established, entrenched and protected by empire—the body of Christ has been pummeled by white male hegemony posing as if it was the church since Emperor Constantine held a cross with a sword 2000 years ago.

In Florida, empire’s faithful are posing as if they are the body of Christ as they strip books from shelves and silence the stories rising from images of God in non-white, non-male, non-cis, non-straight, non-rich bodies. And Florida is not alone. Across the American South and Midwest and in corners of all 50 states, the majority of the white church in the U.S. today are actively trying to make God’s world in their image.

Imperial faith is all we’ve ever known.

But the mask has slipped and the disillusioned are fleeing formerly hallowed halls; wondering if the end is near.

Remember, before there was imperial faith, there was the Ethiopian triptych.

On Good Friday the sky went dark and the world felt like it was coming to an end.

On Sunday morning dazzling angels said to the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

What if the broken and bloodied body of Christ is indeed rising again? What if the end of white male Christendom is near?

Let all who have breath say, “Hallelujah! The body of Christ is rising. We are rising indeed!”


Meet the Author

From Ferguson to New York, and from Germany to South Africa, Australia and Brazil, Lisa Sharon Harper leads trainings that increase clergy and community leaders’ capacity to organize people of faith toward a just world. A prolific speaker, writer and activist, Ms. Harper is the founder and president of Freedom Road, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap in our nation by designing forums and experiences that bring common understanding, common commitment and common action.
Ms. Harper is the author of several books, including Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican…or Democrat (The New Press, 2008); Left Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Elevate, 2011); Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (Zondervan, 2014); the critically acclaimed, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong can be Made Right (Waterbrook, a division of Penguin Random House, 2016); and Fortune: How Race Broke My Family—And How To Repair It All (Brazos, 2022). Englewood Review of Books recognized The Very Good Gospel as the “2016 Book of the Year” and Fortune as one the “Best Books of 2022”.
A columnist at Sojourners Magazine and an Auburn Theological Seminary Senior Fellow, Ms. Harper has appeared on TVOne, FoxNews Online, NPR, and Al Jazeera America. Her writing has been featured in CNN Belief Blog, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The National Civic Review, Sojourners, The Huffington Post, Relevant Magazine, and Essence Magazine. She writes extensively on shalom and governance, immigration reform, health care reform, poverty, racial and gender justice, climate change, and transformational civic engagement.
Ms. Harper earned her Masters degree in Human Rights from Columbia University in New York City in 2006. In 2023, she facilitated a one-day dialogue to action process with Evangelical Scholars at the Oxford Colloquium on Racialized Christian Nationalism in Oxford, Great Britain. Ms. Harper and Freedom Road are currently partnering with The Carter Center to move 13 key Evangelical Institutions through a 3-year Truth-Telling process. Having served as Sojourners Chief Church Engagement Officer, Ms. Harper fasted for 22 days as a core faster in 2013 with the immigration reform Fast for Families. She trained and catalyzed evangelicals in St. Louis and Baltimore to engage the 2014 push for justice in Ferguson and the 2015 healing process in Baltimore, and she educated faith leaders in South Africa to pull the levers of their new democracy toward racial equity and economic inclusion.
In 2015, The Huffington Post named Ms. Harper one of 50 powerful women religious leaders to celebrate on International Women’s Day. In 2019, The Religion Communicators Council named a two-part series within Ms. Harper’s monthly Freedom Road Podcast “Best Radio or Podcast Series of The Year”. The series focused on The Roots and Fruits of Immigrant Labor Exploitation in the US. And in 2020 Ms. Harper received The Bridge Award from The Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation in recognition of her dedication to bridging divides and building the beloved community.
Board member of Red Letter Christians and Justice Revival, Ms. Harper is also the host of the award-winning Freedom Road Podcast, cohost of The FOUR Podcast and author of her weekly column on Substack, “The Truth Is…”.