Somethin’s Brewin’ in Gainesville

…Gainesville, Georgia
Somethin’s brewin’ in Gainesville, wonder what it could be?
Somethin’s doin’ in Gainesville, come on down and see.

(From The Cotton Patch Gospel)

The wonderful musical, The Cotton Patch Gospel, is a classic example of contextualized theology.  What was brewin’in Gainesville is that the theologian-in-overalls, Clarence Jordan, dared to visualize for us what life may have been like for Jesus had he been born in Gainesville, Georgia.  Filled with disarming satire, we are laughing at ourselves as we see the absurd blending of both the best and worst of this Southern culture colliding with the redemptive work of Jesus.  By the time we reach Holy Week in this musical, we find it totally plausible that Jesus would be scapegoated, tried, convicted and, you guessed it, lynched by the Powers.

Another song has been written that includes an unflattering reference to Gainesville.  A song from the mid-90s, the Indigo Girls wrote the following lyrics that ring with even more prophetic clarity today:

Let’s go roadblock tripping in the middle of the night up in Gainesville town
There’ll be blue lights flashing down the long dirt road when they ask me to step out
They say, “we’re looking for illegal immigrants can we check your car?”
I said, “it’s funny I think we were on the same boat back in 1694”

So what was brewing in Gainesville today?  55 pilgrims and seven miles later, what is the ending of this unfolding drama that we are witnessing?  Will it be a heart-wrenching tragedy or a soul-stirring story of redemption?  I do not know.

What I do know is it’s Holy Week, and with this pilgrimage we are seeking to connect the sufferings of the migrant Christ named Jesus with the sufferings of the migrant who is often named Jesús.  As I reflect on Scripture and the meaning of this season of Passion, I am finding too many parallels between the drama that unfolded in the days leading to the Crucifixion of Christ and the drama unfolding before our eyes as we crucify vulnerable immigrants in the State of Georgia.

Consider these similarities.

Palm Sunday reminds me of the recent demonstration at the Georgia State Capitol where thousands of immigrants and their allies waved banners instead of palm branches and spoke truth to power, hoping against hope and unsure if their results would bear fruit for the hearts that needed to be changed were so distorted by lust of power and the politics of fear.  And, yet, the shouts of Jubilee were lifted higher than the banners of love as a sign of an abiding love and a deep faith.

But as we waved our banners and proclaimed a loving alternative to fear, it seems that the Georgia legislature were playing the role of the Sanhedrin, already plotting their way to condemn Jesús and every other unauthorizable immigrant worker, church-goer, consumer, husband, wife, daughter, son, and child of God.

House Bill 87, the Arizona copy-cat bill of Georgia, was a done deal.  Religious and civil right leaders could not appeal to the moral or spiritual sense of legislators.  Even the Chamber of Commerce tried to split the Republican Party, by persuading to their sense of common “cents”.  But the forces of fear, subsidized by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the other “war on immigrants” profiteers worked their magic behind the scenes and the legislators kowtowed to immoral means for political ends and overwhelmingly passed the legislation that would enact mean the dawn of a Juan Crow era in the South, just as we remembered the 150th anniversary of a Civil War to end the legal subjugation of a group of people who were considered “illegal” to engage most institutions as equal members of society.

Walking to the North Georgia Detention Center

And so today we initiated our 50-mile pilgrimage by journeying through Gainesville, the hometown of Governor Nathan Deal.  This cannot be a simple coincidence that we can just dismiss.  House Bill 87 and the fate of thousands of loving yet marginalized immigrants await the response from Deal.  He has the authority to bless or curse a whole segment of our population.  Deal can veto a bill that he tried to wash his hands clean of or he can sign the bill into law.  Do you see the similarities?  A governor who tried to shirk his responsibility?  A mob asking him to crucify the vulnerable and innocent?

Will Governor Deal be Georgia’s Pontius Pilate?  Let us pray not.

We are people of the Resurrection.  Fatalism only believes in crucifixions but hope reminds us that Jesus really did pay it all and that, in the end, Love Wins.  Today love won as we shined a light of love in a place filled with darkness.  Today love won as we stood in silent vigil, immigrants and citizens, outside of the North Georgia Detention Center, a CCA operated, for-profit immigration detention center.  Today love won when we only received words of affirmation as we traveled down the Atlanta Highway (“lookin’ for a love get-a-way…).  Today love won.

Somethin’s brewin’ in Gainesville, wonder what it could be?
Somethin’s doin’ in Gainesville, come on down and see.

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