The message of Easter is found not in the highest church but in the lowest gutter.
Christ -- an enemy of the establishment who was executed as a criminal -- is a huge-hearted friend to the leper and drunkard, the outlaw and fool.
That is the good news.
Those crooked and potholed parts of us, still able to be made new.
The background, the setting, for such radical work is found in the most forgotten spaces. The manger in a barn. The tax-collector's home. The prostitute's dusty street.
And the 'hood.
Today, starting at sunrise, many of us will sing and pray and rejoice because a man who was nailed to a tree and then buried dead in a cave was able to throw off his death clothes and come back to life.
If we believe that, we must also believe in the gang cease-fire.
They both come from the same place.
One week ago -- on Palm Sunday -- gang leaders met and declared a cease-fire. It's thin and fragile. Like a bruised reed, as the prophets say.
It was one of the most spiritual events I have ever witnessed.
The colors and brown-bag beers and guns probably somewhere in those clothes and menthol cigarette smoke clouding over the best words spoken in a long time:
"It's time to stand down."
Peace, being sought in the most forlorn of places. God, dwelling among the most disturbed corners.
Even if this falls apart by tomorrow, the fact it happened reveals an innate and inherent yearning for peace, born from within the hearts of some of the most wanted people in our city.
They want peace, and peace comes from God.
I am not trying to soften the evil present within gangs. I'm not trying to turn those who have done violent things into saints or churchgoers. (Although Christianity has a history of that. Think: the New Testament).
But God is more present in the streets, where there is such need, than anywhere else in the city.
We of the Bible Belt ought to see this with striking clarity.
Yet I am so saddened by the lack of faith I hear, see and read about. Perhaps second to the hot violence of the streets is our collective cynicism that such a gang-initiated cease-fire could last.
Nothing good can come from Bethlehem, said those who scoffed at Christ.
I hear the same today: Nothing good can come from the Rollin' 60s. Gangster Disciples. Crips. Bloods.
I am not equating gang members with Christ.
But doubt -- be it from Thomas or Tom-around-the-corner -- is the thief of hope. And hope is as close to Christ as any of us can aspire to be.
Christ once said that when folks get together in his name, he will, one way or another, show up.
At that cease-fire, no one talked about God. But they talked about laying down their weapons. Talked about interrupting the violence.
Such work is the disguise God wears.
Sometimes, we have to work hard to spot him.
Sometimes, he wears white robes.
Sometimes, he wears colors.
Contact David Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.
David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...