Orange is the New Purple

Some years ago Sylvia and I were invited to speak at an Anglican synod on the theme of “The Church at the Margins.” The bishop wanted this to be the focus of the gathering of the clergy and laity of his diocese.

The church at the margins.
Makes sense for a community that follows a guy who was always on the road,
always on the run.

Makes sense for a community that worships a guy who was always on the margins himself, and ultimately marginalized through execution.

When I met the good bishop some time after the invitation had been extended,
we were in an academic procession for a Wycliffe College graduation.
He in his purple bishop vestments, me in my academic robes.

“It’s hard to be at the margins,
when you dress like the empire,” I quipped.

Wearing the symbols of authority, prestige and power,
we sure didn’t look too marginal,
me displaying academic honour,
the bishop wearing the colour of empire.

Last week twenty one men were marched out to the shores of Libya.

They were called “people of the cross.”

They wore orange jump suits.
They were beheaded.

Purple or orange?

The soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus, mocking his pretension to kingship.
And then they took him to his execution.

These days, prisoners, and folks on death row wear orange.

When Jesus called his followers to pick up their crosses and follow him,
he was calling them to die.
He was calling them to wear orange, not purple.

Let’s think about that as we continue our Lenten journey.

Purple is the liturgical colour for Lent.
I suggest that we change it to orange.

And let us remember these twenty one men, these Coptic Christian brothers,
who picked up their crosses and died.

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

2 Responses to “Orange is the New Purple”

  1. Grant LeMarquand

    If you google ‘Tony Rezk’ (the name of the Coptic artist who wrote it) you can see a wonderful icon of the 21 (20 Egyptian and 1 Ghanian) martyrs of Libya. They are still kneeling on the beach, hands still bound, dressed in orange robes – but now draped in blood red sashes, being welcomed by Jesus who is, no doubt, getting ready to free them from their bonds.

  2. Andrew Stephens-Rennie

    +Grant – It is a breaktaking icon that more ought to see.

    Here’s the link for those who wish to see it.


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