History, Who’s Story, Our Story

Facts are not history. History is the events that occur with relation to the facts. This is why we can speak of different “versions” of history. Facts are highly subjective. What becomes, or is established as, fact is based solely on what can be agreed upon. History then is subject to the facts, which is in turn subject to agreement, which is in turn subject to a whole host of variables, not the least of which is, who is doing the agreeing.

In a jury trial, the facts may lead a jury to conclude that someone committed a crime and thus convict that person. Once convicted that person is said to have a criminal history. The facts of the case became “facts” because, for whatever reason, the jury agreed with the prosecution. If the jury finds the person not guilty it is because they did not agree with what was presented as “fact” by the prosecution, or they agreed with a different set of facts presented by the defense. In either case, so much of history is personal.

In 1960 in Nashville, and across the nation, Jim Crow in one form or another was the status quo. Students from what are now American Baptist College and Fisk University, under the training Rev. James Lawson and Rev. Kelly Miller Smith, lead the struggle to change the status quo. The facts can be agreed upon because they are provable. The history, however, can be entirely different depending on who is telling the story. Conservative, oppressive, supporters of the status quo of the time would tell a story of rabble-rousers, impatient negroes who insisted on change now rather than being patient and allowing change to come in its own time. Some, who would profess a knowledge of, and a relationship with the Christ of Christendom would tell a version of history that portrays a group of theology students who, though perhaps well intended, had lost their way spiritually and become overcome by the “cares of this world”. “It was not the place of religion to get involved in political affairs,” they would say. Progressive, supporters of justice and equality would tell a story of courageous young men and women who joined together and offered their very bodies for the cause of progress and justice.

Today there is almost unanimous agreement in this country that the current healthcare system does not work (fact). Nearly 50 years after these young students, future religious, community, business, and political leaders decided that is was not only their time, but their responsibility to act; people of faith still struggle with the question of whether or not to get involved. Too many of our religious leaders are content to emphasize the vertical relationship between God and man. They want to make sure that we know that “I” am blessed and highly favored; God’s got my back; if my breakthrough hasn’t come yet . . . it is coming! Enlarge my territory, bless me indeed! This malady afflicts not only popular, well-known prosperity preachers. All too many of our local churches, and aspiring young ministers are afflicted by the “not my place, not my fight” theology that attempts to separate the sacred from the secular.

Those of us who profess faith in the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition must ask the question, “Do I believe in the creation story?” If we believe in the creation story, then we have to believe that the secular cannot be separated from the sacred because from the very start, the secular is created by the sacred! If we believe in the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition then we believe that everything (including the government) exists by His power and permission. Thus, not only can the secular not be separated from the sacred, but also it is in fact subject to the sacred. If then we truly believe we are who we say we are; if we really believe we are each the imago dei; if we truly believe that we are corporately the Corpus Christi; then it is not only right for us to act, it is our responsibility to act. This is our place. This is our struggle.
We live in this world, but we don’t act like its people 4or fight our battles with the weapons of this world. Instead, we use God’s power that can destroy fortresses. We destroy arguments 5and every bit of pride that keeps anyone from knowing God. . .” (2 Cor. 10:3-5, CEV)

That is the history of those students in 1960 Nashville. The question of our day is, “what history will we make?” Will we stand by and do nothing, say this is not our concern, not our struggle? On the other hand, will we act; will we get involved and make our voices heard? We make history everyday. The question is what history will we choose to make today? To not decide is to decide.


Make Difference . . . For Life!!

Know Your Role!

I spent last week in Maine organizing in support of healthcare reform. If you have been following this blog you know that healthcare is an issue I am particularly interested in. This week I want to talk a bit about something else. I want to talk about something that happened to two of my friends. I had a great time in Maine and met some wonderful people, all of whom I am not ashamed to call friends, and I hope they feel the same way.

One night at dinner one of my new found friends told us that she had a problem with the church because they had rejected her because she had gotten a divorce. I was reminded of a friend of my parents who was a great teacher in a “Christian” school. She too was rejected and was fired when she got a divorce. What pains me about these instances is the fact that both of these women are really wonderful, caring, individuals, who love the people of God just the way Jesus loves them; and yet someone chose to use “religiosity” to reject and exclude.

Those of us who put on the mantle of “Christian” must be very careful not to use the Bible as a tool to hurt and abuse. Far too often we take on responsibilities that have clearly not been given to us, and for good reason. Jesus says clearly that it is not for us to decide sheep or goat status, wheat or tares. We are not adequate judges. The people of Jesus’ time illustrate for us why we are not fit to judge who is approved or who is not. Time and time again Jesus had to point out that the religious leaders of the day were so focused on the letter of the law that they missed entirely, the spirit of the law. That is why Jesus could say to the woman whom the self-righteous religionists tried to shame and embarrass, “go your way”.

Jesus uses the Sermon on the Mount to highlight the contrast between just superficially keeping the letter of the law, and actually living in the spirit of the law. Jesus is more concerned that we build real lasting loving relationships, especially in our marriages. Legalists (keepers of the letter of the law) somehow think that because you get a divorce you are a bad person; but if you stay married to your spouse and abuse or neglect them physically, verbally, or emotionally that’s ok. You can stay as long as you are not “divorced”.

When we use the scriptures to accuse, and exclude it is anti-Christ. Christ breaks down the whole law and the prophets for us in a nutshell; LOVE! Does our treatment of others, especially those inside the church, reflect love? Jesus says that following the Law can be broken down into to simple commands, 1) Love God with all you’ve got, and 2) Love your neighbor (that’s everybody else) as you do yourself. Everything else rests on these. Love, then, is the law’s fulfillment.

Knowing these two women as I do, I can say that in this they are more “Christian” than the so-called “Christians” who tried to reject and exclude them. I have seen first hand how these women love God and put into action their love for neighbor as self. These are the true Christians regardless of what “the church” might say. One who could have stayed at her desk job, she did not have to leave the comfort of her surroundings to go walk miles knocking on doors, running errands, making signs, all to help others get healthcare that she already has. She didn’t have to but the love of God and for neighbor would not let her NOT do it. The other a well qualified teacher, who could easily have landed a teaching position anywhere, and at better pay, made a conscious choice and sacrifice to teach in a “Christian” school. Her primary interest was not in self but in helping others. These are the marks of true Christianity.

We love God when we keep his commandments, his commandments are summed up in, and rest on love. Let us love not in word only, but in deed and truth.

Make A Difference . . . . . . For Life ! ! ! ! !