This blog post was written by Jay Lechausse, a member of Christ Church Cathedral’s congregation
I’m only just now beginning to even begin to make sense of the events which happened in Washington on January 6, 2021, and feel the need to perhaps offer my perspective and own it as my opinion.
It is with my sincerest hope that what I say is for genuine good. First, I want to start with scripture which is appropriate given recent events, James 3:6, 8-9:
“And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell…but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.”
The author of this epistle was very aware of the power of words and of their potential for good or evil. Of all days this truth was plainly, “Manifest, Revealed” on Epiphany. A lot of things were manifest and revealed that day that we would rather not see. I hope my words and perspective end up offering hope.
I need to share my history, heritage, and perspective as an offering. I was born in 1961 in Nashville, Tennessee, at a time and in a place where a person of color and a white person could not be served at the same lunch counter or drink from the same water fountain. That was the law at the time in the state in which I was born. Looking back, I suspect my family came north, even though my mother was from Tennessee, both to flee the violence and unrest of that time and to seek better opportunity.
History, heritage, and ministry are a very messy business. Ancestors on my mother’s side fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Part of the legacy of the other side of my family will “manifest” at the right time.
When we reached Connecticut, I found myself not fitting in either of two worlds in this country. I found myself straddling two realities and cultures. To those here in the “North” I was a “Southerner;” a “Rebel.” To my fellow southern American Citizens I became viewed as a “Northerner;” yes, a “Yankee.”
This was real, and yes, “manifest.” It was real in the ways I was treated in educational systems both here and in the South. The Civil War’s roots, and the history of the 60s are my family history. I did not meet or see a person of color well until we had moved to Connecticut. Persons of color are not the only ones deprived of wonderful opportunities by systemic racism. The first six years of my life is a witness to this fact.
And like recent times, I also had to contend with “alternate realities” shaped by two very real cultures within American culture at the time. I have also found myself contending with and confronting the inherent evil of misspoken words and their consequences in my own life; where I’ve lived and worked. I have had to contend with the very real demons of words and actions regarding homophobia and antisemitism by some, as a Christian of Jewish Heritage, both in my workplace and where I live. I was lucky. I had good people who stood up for me. Some of my ancestors weren’t.
Now we need to go back a little farther to my grandfather on my father’s side. He was a Colonel in the US Air Force and a doctor. He was also a first generation American of Orthodox Russian Jewish background from Moscow. The original family surname was Lipschitz. My grandfather had to change it to Lechausse. No one wanted to go to a Jewish doctor. His two brothers changed their name too.
As I was watching on Wednesday, my Jewish ancestors were gently whispering. They were saying, “Kristallnacht,” and uttering the names of the Czar, Stalin, and Hitler in my ear. As I witnessed the nooses on the Capitol, the zip ties, and the calls to hang Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi, the stories of my ancestors who were burned alive by Nazis in a synagogue in Poland sprang to mind, with the words, “NEVER AGAIN!”
Another reality of recent talk and events also came to be “Manifest” because of my heritage and history—Slaves and Slavery. Some of my ancestors were slaves in Egypt. That makes me a descendant of slaves. Think about that. Because of this, God and Jesus are very clear regarding their perspective and I firmly believe through the call of our common baptismal covenant we are called to uncompromising “Radical Welcome” as Christians.