On Palm Sunday, Drag King Jesus was redefining the definitions of glory and majesty in God’s terms, a faithful reframing of reality unto humiliation and death… In the grim turning of events as he made his way into the streets of Jerusalem, Jesus would have nothing left to do but return to the origin of things: back to beauty, back to compassion, descending into the depths to claim this origin.
On Palm Sunday on the streets of Portland, Oregon, two rectors in scarlet chasubles paraded down a sidewalk with their congregants, a bright red wagon, a stuffed llama, palm leaves, and rainbow streamers. With jubilance they sang “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” to the greyed maritime skies, likely perplexing those they strolled past on their way to the church building. Their throng of color, formality, harmony, and comedy exuded dissonance, but this was the summoning of a divine and subversive power, calling out a cry of relief and possibility.
The service was held just outside of the church doors that day, the Rev. James M. Joiner preaching. In the opening of his sermon, Rev. Joiner compared the perspective of the horse vs. the donkey when approaching a parade, throwing his body into the gait of each animal—his were excellent donkey impersonations. As he went further into the description of the “king” on the back of the donkey, he described a person who was largely interested in turning the powers of the world on their head, subverting dominance, violence, coercion, and greed. The donkey would be the perfect fit because Jesus had absolutely no interest in looking like anything that screamed “Pax Romana.” Later he noted something else about Jesus via social media—Jesus was a Drag King.
I wonder how many voices I miss every single day. How many voices we miss–intentionally or otherwise–because we have been socialized not to attend to them… We do not even know who or what we’re not hearing.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the voices I hear. Or perhaps more accurately I’ve been thinking of the voices I don’t hear and that we collectively don’t hear.
Much of our collective reflections on vocation in higher education focus effectively on the first category of discernment: What kind of person do I want to be? How do I want to contribute to the world? That focus often rightly centers on career and community leadership and the many facets of one’s public life. How might we also develop vocational reflection on questions of personal import that encourages questions about who one is becoming in a world of structural inequalities and daily injustice?
Early in her memoir Becoming, Michelle Obama shares questions that she had asked herself in a journal she kept throughout her twenties. After working hard and dutifully climbing an educational and professional ladder through Princeton and into a leadership role at a highly regarded Chicago law firm, she realized: “I hated being a lawyer. I wasn’t suited to the work. I felt empty doing it, even if I was plenty good at it.”
At the same time, she was newly in love with a man whose personality became a powerful presence in her life:
I was deeply, delightfully in love with a guy whose forceful intellect and ambition could possibly end up swallowing mine. … I wasn’t going to get out of its path – I was too committed to Barack by then, too in love – but I did need to quickly anchor myself on two feet.
Enter the journaled reflections of a twenty-something Michelle Robinson:
One, I feel very confused about where I want my life to go. What kind of person do I want to be? How do I want to contribute to the world? Two, I am getting very serious in my relationship with Barack and I feel that I need to get a better handle on myself.