I received an e-mail from a professor/mentor of mine with reflections for Holy Week. I’m passing it on to you all. As churches throughout the world are paying special attention to the crucifixion of Jesus during this season, let us remember that unlike The Passion of the Christ, there is a political dimension to the cross that we must remember.


As many of you know, I understand the crucifixion of Jesus within its Roman context of public lynching of runaway slaves, political revolutionaries, and traitors to the state. It was done to keep the colonized people in line. More than 3000 people were crucified in this manner. I also see the church trying to significantly deradicalize and depoliticize this event, both in the text and in the tradition.

Attached are some photos of 20th C. lynchings which I got from Google and which you might want to use for your “Seven Last Words” Service Bulletin cover. Unfortunately there were only pictures of males being lynched, none of women. I know they are horrifying, but so is the event we shall explore this week.

I’m also attaching … Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit.

I think these resources can help us reclaim the scandal and horror of the crucifixion and move beyond the church’s anticeptic, “I’m glad he died for my over eating, smoking, cussing, lying, sexing, drugging …” If they are helpful in this way, there may be more hope for our people. You may also wish to (re)look at JoAnne Marie Terrell’s Power in the Blood?: The Cross in the African American Experience. These resources can also help us in the church become convicted to do more to keep this from happening to more of our people in more sophisticated ways today. I am convinced that it is from and through this reality that we can be resurrected, even today.

If not, carry on as usual.

Dr. Randall C. Bailey
Andrew Mellon Professor of Hebrew Bible
Interdenominational Theological Center

You can download a sample bulletin cover by clicking the following link: Seven Last Words Bulletin.