The following essay is by the Rev. Bojangles Blanchard, a Kentucky-based LGBTQ activist and Baptist minister. Rev. Blanchard honestly discusses the difficulty of holding faith and hope together during the Lenten season, particularly in light of the continuation of troubling developments in the American political climate. You can find Rev. Blanchard’s full bio below.
When Hope isn’t Found in the Resurrection
As the annual Mardi Gras parades make their way down the streets of small towns throughout South Louisiana, I find myself missing the revelry and joie de vivre while here in Kentucky. As a young man, I spent some of my best times in Cajun Country and the beginning of Mardi Gras season always reminds me that Easter is not far off. Yet, my connection to the land and nature’s seasons have always been lenses through which I see and feel God most profoundly. So as the gators move further out from the swamps and crawfish season arrives, I have begun reflecting on how seasonal my own faith has become.
If I’m honest with myself, it has been a long spiritual winter. The grey skies of health issues and the anxiety they bring have done their best to block the warm sun from my life. The bitter cold winds of unwelcome change and uncertainty at work sting my face as I struggle to simply put one foot in front of the other. I’m sure many can identify with the spiritual winter I’ve described, but, to add to the bleakness, I’ve felt more distant from God.
The sheer amount of violence, hate, and inequality I’ve witnessed in the past several years under the Trump Administration have shaken my understanding of God’s providence to its core. I’m a married, gay Baptist minister who has a two and half year old African American son. The daily doses of outright bigotry and microaggressions we face are relentless and alarming. We have no option to go through life wearing blinders to the fact that tragedy and violence can and do happen to folks like us every day. Where is God’s providence in a world like this? Is there any hope to be found in Easter if it brings no peace?
These are the spiritual questions that bump up against my real need for a God that protects people and, more specifically, my little boy and husband from harm. Will God protect them from the hate and violence that have now been emboldened by a bigoted president? These aren’t the concerns of someone with an elementary understanding of faith. You can’t simply believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior and in turn be protected from the evils of this world. It’s never worked that way and perhaps for that very reason, I’m finding myself more attuned to Jesus’ suffering than Jesus’ resurrection as we approach this Easter season.
There was no holy force field that protected Jesus during his short life, and yet I was raised in a church that believed God’s love equaled God’s protection. I mean, isn’t that how most loving relationships work? Someone loves you and they protect you as best they can from being harmed, like my love for my own family. Yet, I’ve come to realize that God’s love and Jesus’ resurrection are not promises that everything will be okay. They aren’t even promises that good will always overcome evil. I’ve seen plenty of times that it hasn’t.
I find this a bitter pill to swallow as I witness immigrant children being stripped from their parents at the borders and thrown into concentration camps. I find that a bitter pill to swallow as I see my son in the faces of black men brutalized and even murdered by racist law enforcement with impunity. I find that a bitter pill to swallow as the government continues to legislate homophobia and discrimination into public policy. My soul cries out as the Psalmist and Jesus from the cross, “My God….WHERE ARE YOU?”
For some, these questions are uncomfortable ones. Like me, they were likely taught to never be angry with or to question God. To do so was to be unfaithful, but I no longer believe that crap. Jesus asked these very questions and experienced the same seasons of grief, fear and isolation that we all do, and yet Jesus found hope not in being delivered from evil, but in knowing that God was with him no matter what came. That type of faith requires me to pull up my big boy pants and trust that God will not leave me even if the worst should happen… but, still, sometimes that just isn’t enough. It just isn’t.
I certainly don’t have all the answers and I don’t have God or God’s providence figured out in the slightest.
Yet, perhaps in the end it’s as simple as my gator hunting friend in the Atchafalaya put it when he said, “Sometimes all you got is a lil’ pirogue boat and life give you a twelve foot gator to haul in. Mais, all you can do is ya best.”
I’ll take that bit of wisdom for my paddle as I continue my journey of faith into life’s unknown bayous.
Bojangles Blanchard is an ordained Baptist minister who is married to his wonderful husband. They have a two year old son named Josiah. Bojangles has worked as an LGBTQ activist for the past twenty years and he and his husband Dominique were two of the Kentucky Plaintiffs in the landmark SCOTUS 2015 Marriage Equality case. Additionally, Bojangles has fought for LGBTQ inclusion and affirmation within the (CBF) for many years and now serves as co-moderator of the newly established Affirming Network.