Thomas Lux’s poem The People of the Other Village is stuck in my mind as I read Facebook posts and news stories about the aftermath of the shooting in Charleston. The people of one village tries to win points at the expense of the people of the other village. The people of the other village tries to lose as few points as possible. At times, it feels like there is a gleeful hatred and I’m tired of it.
Yes, we need to talk about gun control. We need to talk about racism. We need to do more than just talk. We need to get to underlying issues. Why have the people of one village been enslaved and oppressed by the people of another village for hundreds of years?
To me, it comes down to the confession of sin. We have not loved our neighbors, our neighbors from the other village, as ourselves. We have not been overwhelmed by God’s love for us and the recognition that God loves the people from the other village as deeply as God loves us.
My thoughts go to the end of Romeo and Juliet
See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish'd.
All are punish’d.
So, what do we do? The politicians are positioning themselves. Yet I cannot help but remember the cartoon of the politician on the stump asking, “Who wants change?” and everyone raising their hands. But, when the question is presented as “Who wants to change?”, no one raises their hands.
It feels like, at this moment, everyone wants something to change, but very few want to be the people that actually change.
Several weeks ago, I set out on a spiritual journey. I’m not sure where it is going or how it will change me. However, I am at the point where I am ready to be changed. I’m running into people along the way, that are on their own journeys, that are ready to be changed. Are you one?
It’s Father’s Day. It’s the Summer’s Solstice. It is the Fourth Sunday of Pentecost. It is the weekend after a very long week. It is just days after the shooting in Charleston. It is about five weeks after I set off on a new spiritual journey, where I’m still trying to get my bearings.
There is so much to write, and so little time.
I received Father’s day messages via Facebook from my two older daughters. My eldest has sent me a draft of a research proposal in World War II Era Japanese Gender Studies. I need to read it over a few more times and send a reply. My middle daughter has been posting pictures of the Tiny House, Big Art project she is working on in Massachusetts. I really need to write much more about that, something along the line of a twenty first century nexus of Internet Communications, Thoreau, Amish Barnraisings, life as art, and probably a few other themes. My youngest daughter is with me. Last night, we went out to an extended family dinner, and she ate much of the seafood appetizers. This afternoon, we went to the beach and stopped at a clam shack afterwards, where, again, she put a good dent in the seafood.
It made me think of a few years ago when the older girls went to Clearwater on Father’s day, after asking if I could come with them, or, if not, if we could celebrate Father’s Day on a different day. Research, Art, Seafood: Seeing my daughters do what they love, is the best Father’s Day present I could receive.
Yet all of this is against the context of what happened in Charleston. The church I go to is a very diverse church, from age, to economic status, to skin tone. It is part of what drew me to the church, a much broader view of what the Body of Christ really looks like.
The priest said, we need to talk about race. She talked about it in the context of our Baptismal vows. I am thinking about it in terms of the confession of sins, and Romeo and Juliet, but the Romeo and Juliet reference probably needs to wait until another blog post.
“By what we have left undone”. We have not done all that we can or should to end racism. “We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves”
I’m not sure what else I can or should be doing to end racism and I am searching for other ways to help all of us love ‘the other’, whether that otherness comes from skin tone, political ideology, sexual orientation, or any other things we use to divide us.
I’m not sure how this relates to the spiritual quest that I have set out on, around five weeks ago, but both are tied to better understanding the depth of love God has for each of us and calls on us to have for one another.
There is so much more I want to say, so much more we need to do, so much more to understand. But now, it is time for evening prayers, and rest.
As I, a bedraggled looking old white man
ran my errands
in a predominantly black part of town.
I saw two people,
an older black man in a nice suit
and a plainly dressed black woman
standing next to
the tract rack that read
“What the Bible Really Says”.
I thought of my friend,
a black minister
putting on her shirt and collar,
the belt of truth
and the breastplate of righteousness
and pausing to think
of the martyrs
past and present.
“What the Bible Really Says”
I thought about how God loves me
more than I can understand
How God loves this couple
more than I can understand.
I thought of the commandment
Love your neighbor as yourself,
no matter what their skin color
no matter how different they are from you.
So I looked around
to make sure there wasn’t a pickup truck
with a Confederate flag
and I walked over to them,
shook their hands,
thanked them for bearing witness,
and told them what they already knew.
God loves them, loves all of us,
more than we can understand.
Another late evening. At least tomorrow, I can rest some. I have much to write, and a few blog posts and poems in various phases of construction, but none far enough to be added to the blog, so this will be my very brief post for tonight.
It is late in the evening, and I am bone tired. This has been my third evening out late. Last night, while I was at Church for prayer and a vestry meeting, nine of my brothers and sisters were killed in a church in South Carolina. When I learned about the shooting, I wept and prayed.
It was a busy day for me at work today, as the health center I worked at held its tenth annual Weitzman Symposium. During brief breaks, I found moments to glance and the news and offer up more prayers.
In the evening, I went to the commencement of the 2015 class of Health Leadership Fellows from the CT Health Foundation. This is a program aimed at address racial and ethnic health disparities. Some of my closest friends from the fellowship were not there and I wondered if they were at prayer vigils.
Now, I’m finally home, and trying to wrap my head around what has happened. I read stories about people trying to avoid talking about racism in the shooting by a white supremacist of nine brothers and sisters at a church. They prefer to call it an attack on Christianity. They are half right. The White Supremacist movement is an attack on Christianity.