When Holy Week Service Forget the Important Voices

by James Howard Hill Jr.

One of the greatest erasures in human history is the erasure of women from the Holy Week narrative.

Though I would love to say that I have always been conscious of both the erasure of women from Holy Week as well as my own male privilege, this is simply not the case. Truth be told, by nature of being raised in the so-called Bible-Belt, the venom of misogyny and misogynous coursed through my veins with a fervent vengeance.

I grew up convinced that, by ‘virtue’ of being born a boy, I was ontologically superior to any woman who crossed my path. I attended churches that only ‘allowed’ women to speak at podiums situated on the ground, far removed from the pulpit, yet intentionally cast under the shadow of the all-male ministerial roster. It was made clear to the entire congregation before these sisters rose up to speak that they would be “speaking only to the women.” I learned at a young age that, although the overwhelmingly vast majority of my Sunday-school teachers and youth group volunteers were women, it was against the divine order of the cosmos to allow a woman to teach me on Sundays (though Wednesday evenings in a portable outside the church was apparently A-OK with the Almighty!). I am ashamed to say that, as a young minister, I argued with the zeal of heaven that it was “not a woman’s role” to pastor men. I even considered myself cutting edge for ‘being ok’ with a woman teaching me in seminary, even though I was staunchly against a woman ever ordering service. This all changed, however, when I met a group of righteous womanist scholars who ruined my world and saved my life simultaneously.

From the moment I met two Sisters at a conference gathering young people of faith discerning a call to ministry, I was immediately spellbound by their wisdom and awe-struck by their fierce intellect and commanding presence. Though my southern upbringing tried vehemently to reject what my senses were revealing to me, I could not deny the God-ordained brilliance that stood before me. I had no doubt that these sisters studying at Union Seminary were changing the world and I would be committing the grossest of sins if I allowed the ignorance of my youth to preclude me from the blessing of their comradeship. I do not believe these sisters, or any other womanist professor or colleague who has since blessed @Demarcus Lawrence Womens Jersey me with their comradeship, will ever know how salvific their relationship was/is for me. Because of their friendship, I can no longer join the chorus of clergy who ignorantly declare that “All of the disciples left Jesus alone” during Holy Week. My sisters have taught me that this could only be true if we are speaking of the 12 male disciples and consider female bodies unworthy of being considered in the number. In a much broader sense, I have learned that many of Jesus’ disciples did, in fact, stay with him from arrest to crucifixion- they just were not male.

Moreover, by witnessing their unflinching resolve in the presence of coercive evil, I now see that the erasure of women from spaces of holy dissent is not only consigned to history but is also present in today’s struggle for justice and personhood. Whether we are talking about police brutality in Ferguson or Staten Island, or women rallying against the inhumane and unethical treatment of undocumented families locked in family detention centers, I am struck by an unholy tension.

Though the Sisters are often on the front lines of what we call “The Struggle,” ironically, they never make it to the front page of the paper.  We @Demarcus Lawrence Youth Jersey fumble at remembering their names on signs and in our prayers.  We can no longer choose to turn our collective heads and cough at such a historical disservice. Instead, we must see this as being directly related to the embedded patriarchy found within our various religious traditions and resolve to viscerally militate against them.

As a result, I realized that the best way I could #ReclaimHolyWeek and honor Jesus is by honoring my Sisters who have always militated against history’s crucifixions. May I never forget that it was Sisters who marched beside Jesus up the Via Dolorosa while the Brothers were playing it safe behind locked doors. For contemporary evidence, all you have to do is check the Seven Last Words flyer at your local church.  It is so interesting how, today, male preachers are so intent to rule over Holy Week festivities, knowing good and well that many of us lack the radical courage to be found anywhere near a body uttering seven last words under the shadow of empire! Though it’s the women who are actually there to hear the words, somehow it’s the men who get all the microphones.

There are several words I could use to describe this travesty of injustice. None of them are holy.

About the WriterJames Howard Hill, Jr. is currently a student at Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University). James’s research interests include how the doctrine of the person and work of Christ is used by imperial/globalizing forces to support the suppression of subaltern voices. Also, he is interested in studying how the American Prison Industrial Complex serves as an anti-Christian model of occlusion constructed for the purposes of @Demarcus Lawrence Kids Jersey destroying  human life (particularly Black and Brown lives) under the gilded auspices of “law and order.” James is married to Jessica Hill and currently resides in Dallas, Texas. You can follow his tweets at @j_hilljr

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