The View from Bolton Street

Pentecost — Protest — and The Color Red


This Sunday is Pentecost—and to borrow from ‘Mean Girls’ “On Pentecost we wear [Red].”


Now in the Church we wear red for two reasons.  The first is that it is the color associated with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost - the Tongues of flame that alight on the disciples heads as the Church comes alive with the Holy Spirit. But we also wear red to remember Martyrs. We remember the Saints who have given their life for their faith. Who have given their life to save others. And given their life so that others may see the evils of the world, the evils of repressive regimes, and (sometimes) the evils done in the name of God and Jesus. This is also the Jewish festival of Shavuot - the celebration of the gift of the Torah to the Jewish people. Two monotheistic traditions celebrating the coming of God to us, in very different ways, inextricably linked for thousands of years.


On Monday, the U.S. Government moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move is largely on paper, at least for now, and only has small impacts on day to day operations. It is a moment of tremendous excitement for many American and Israeli Jews who long to see West Jerusalem recognized as the capital of Israel and who dream of a safe and secure Israel. Moderate voices, including the former Ambassador to Israel under President Obama have spoken in favor of this move.


On Monday, Palestinian protestors gathered at the Gaza Security Fence to dismantle the fence as a form of protest. Among the things they are protesting was the move of the U.S. Embassy. More than 50 protestors were killed and many many more were injured. These protestors are filled with anger and pain as they see their ancestral homeland slipping further and further away. Many moderate voices, including former Republican Foreign Policy experts, have condemned this move.


Two neighboring cultures, inextricably linked.  One celebrating Independence Day - the other their Nakba, their darkest hour.  Both of them with similar dreams of ‘Next year in Jerusalem’.  Both struggling with their dream deferred.


As we Christians struggle with how to respond to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it behooves us to remember these two views, with very different origins, are deeply held convictions about what it means to call Jerusalem home.


Just as our own Pentecost celebrations do not negate or cancel out the Jewish vision of Shavuot, so also the Jewish vision for Israel and Palestine does not cancel out the Palestinian, and vice versa.  We have a christian responsibility to call out evil, to stand up for those oppressed, particularly Palestinian Christians, and to hold our own government accountable for the evils we have encouraged.  As we cry out for justice, however, and remember the lives lost in Gaza and in Jerusalem, in the streets of Tel Aviv and at IDF checkpoints in the West Bank, we should remember our Christian call to pray for peace.  Peace in Jerusalem. Peace in the Holy Land and peace around the world.


So for Christians, this Pentecost we wear Red. Red for the Holy Spirit. Red for the blood of saint and martyrs who have died through the centuries. And Red for the blood of innocent lives lost around the world - in particular in Israel and Palestine. And we pray that the Holy Spirit fills hearts hardened by division with peace.