The Thing About Monuments

I spent my childhood in the shadow of a large monument to the Confederacy. We often walked through the woods from our neighborhood to Stone Mountain Park. We spent many a night in the summer at the Laser Show, watching laser images projected over Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee. My first job was as a train conductor, riding around the base of the mountain. I even fell off the train while trying to impress a girl (which is a totally different story for a different time).

Following the Charleston church shooting in 2015 and the events in Charlottesville this past weekend, politicians, religious leaders and community leaders called for the monument to be taken off the side of the mountain. Predictability, this sparked strong passion from those who believe differently about the carving and other such monuments to the confederacy. “It’s heritage, not hate; We can’t just erase our history.”

Stone Mtn

A little research will tell you that the carving on Stone Mountain has very little to do with heritage and a lot to do with hate. The Klan held regular rallies not far from the entrance to Stone Mountain. The Venable brothers, who owned the mountain at the time the carving was conceived, were leaders of these Klan rallies and their family continued organizing these until they were stopped in the early 1960s. Although the carving was not completed until the early 1970s, it’s beginning was rooted in the desire to purpurate and advance racial oppression.

I confess that as a child I never stopped to think about what one of my best friends as a child, who is African-American, thought every time he looked at the mountain and saw these three figures who believed he was less than human because of the color of his skin. I’ve thought a lot about this in recent years. I know that I was treated differently than him because of my skin color. In many ways, I’m still treated differently today because of the color of my skin. The lingering effect of the racism and hate spawned by the Confederacy is a root cause of this treatment.

The three people represented on the side of the mountain and in countless other statues across the land sought to tear our union asunder so that they could continue to oppress people based on their skin color. The pain they caused is still manifest in people’s lives, in our communities, and in our institutions. Their cause has been taken up by new groups who have the same heinous beliefs and disregard for God’s children.

Here is the thing about monuments to the Confederacy. They aren’t erected to remember heritage. They aren’t even erected to so that we might remember history. They are erected to remind the oppressed who always has been in charge. They are erected to remind the powerless who has traditionally held power. They are built to remind the oppressed that their oppressors are still lurking just around the corner.

We should remember our history. It doesn’t mean we have to honor it.

 

Harry Potter

We just unpacked our collection of Harry Potter books. They are considered valuables in our household, with our nine-year-old making her way through Chamber of Secrets as we speak.HP Post

It’s hard to believe that the first Harry Potter book was published twenty years ago today. J.K. Rowling blessed us with this magical world that teaches us much about our lives and our world. Plenty of people will write wonderful things about the insights Harry and friends have given,  but one overarching theme keeps coming to my mind. It also happens to be the overarching theme of the Bible- Love wins. Love always wins. Love conquers all, even death.

This is a word that we so desperately need to hear. J.K. Rowling created a world much likes our today, where some used the coercive power of fear to control and wield power. Voldemort used fear to the extent that most were afraid to even speak his name. Harry though, had no fear is saying his name. Dumbledore has none either. At the end of The Sorcerer’s Stone, Dumbledore offers these wise words, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

The theme of fear and death verses life and love is the central theme throughout the story. Harry spends his life learning what it means to truly embrace others. He spends his life doing what Jesus calls his followers to do, losing his so-called life so that he may find true life. Harry shows us what it looks like when one seeks justice above all else, no matter the cost. He shows us what it means to care for others, no matter the cost. He shows us what it means to seek life, no matter the cost. We learn through his actions what it means to live for others, and the true gifts we find in living for others.

In the end, it is indeed life and love that has the final word. Even when it would have been far easier to choose fear and death, love still wins. Dumbledore offers Harry (and us) this piece of wisdom; “do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.”

Thank you J.K. Rowling for reminding us of the Gospel truth- love wins.  

New

 

Danny, we will start in the deuce court.tennis-courts-1024x768

I’ve made three major changes in my life in the few months.

First,  I begun a new ministry with the Pension Fund of the Christian Church.

Second, our family relocated to Carmel, Indiana

Last, but not least, I started tennis lessons- at the intermediate level.

We’ve been knee deep in new lately.

I’ve had to learn lots of new words in the last month. A new job brings a new daily language. I use words and acronyms daily that I have never used.

We’ve lived in Carmel but there is still lots of new. Lots of new roundabouts to be exact. It is very important here to not only know what a roundabout is but also how to use one.

Tennis- I have played on and off, but never at this serious of a level. I’m convinced our instructor is prepping us for the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

It occurred to me on the tennis court that faith forces us to learn a new way of speaking. Faith calls us to new understandings. One of the great promises of the Bible is that God is always moving us forward. God moves us forward in our understanding who God is and what God would have us do. Encounters with the holy call us to see and to understand the world differently. Some embrace this while others fight it. New comes easier for some than it does for others. You can hold onto the past but the consequences of doing so are great. New life is found in what we are becoming, not what we have been.

I decided that I am going to figure out which side of the court is the deuce court and which side is the ad. My guess is my game will improve with new understanding of where to begin.

Grace and peace

A Reflection on Gun Violence in Virginia

I need to write something, perhaps for my own sake. I need to DO something, yet I don’t know what to do. I am reminded of the verse in the book of Romans that states, “the whole creation is groaning together.”  There are few things more American than baseball in the summer. Add in members of Congress practicing for a game against the other party and it becomes very American.

Unfortunately, stories of tragic gun violence are also becoming so American as well. This time it happened with the Capitol police standing guard. Even they couldn’t stop someone whose heart had been filled with hate and intended to do harm to another. Well-meaning, well-trained, and well-armed folks could not stop someone who had the seeds of hate sown into his heart. Hate, fear and the like are powerful weapons.

I find it hard to fathom that the answer to the epidemic of gun violence in our country is more guns. I can’t dismiss the role that our current administration plays in our culture today. Social media has given the President the means to dismiss, marginalize, and insult those who do not agree with him. An office that should be used to unite us around what truly makes America great is instead being used for something far less.

Where do we begin? Do we give in to fear and arm ourselves further? Do we need more “good guys with guns?” I believe the answer to these questions is “no” but I know many who would disagree. I do know is that we need to stop sowing the seeds of hate, fear, and violence in our collective hearts. That’s what we need to do today. Yes, I am frustrated with those who seem to hold their understanding of the 2nd Amendment above all else. Yes, I am frustrated with those who turn a blind eye to those suffering with mental illness. Yes, I am frustrated with the way this administration conducts itself. I know I can’t find solutions to these frustrations today. I do know that my faith calls me to do something today.

I know what I can do is watch how I interact with others.

I can use my voice to sow the seeds of love.

I can advocate against hate, fear, and violence every chance I get.

I can work to build a more just and equitable society

I will engage with those whom disagree with me so that we might find common ground

National Day of Prayer- My Prayer List

What are you praying for today? It is, of course, the National Day of Prayer. This day wasSunrise signed into being by Harry S. Truman, originally as a Spring counterpart to Thanksgiving. The idea was that Americans, from all faith backgrounds, would take a day to give thanks and to offer prayers for the United States and her leaders.

Today I’m struck by how this interfaith and ecumenical celebration has been dominated by more fundamentalist Christian messages. To be fair, those of that ilk of Christianity are great promoters and unashamed about talking about their faith, something others streams of Christianity and other religions don’t do quite as well. It’s not a bad thing that a nation as diverse as the United States comes together to pray to their own understanding of the holy. So what might you pray for today for our nation. Here is my prayer list on this National Day of Prayer

That our nation might be welcoming to the stranger, the immigrant, and the refugee

That we might pay more attention to those who are marginalized in our midst. I pray that we see the gifts and graces they have to offer and that we might see our collective responsibility to care for those on the margins. 

That we truly follow God’s command to care for creation. Many our actions and policies reflect God’s call to care for creation.  

That people of differing faiths come find common ground so that we can work together to bring God’s shalom to this nation and the world. 

That people of faith be allies to and advocates for those in the LGBTQ community. 

Remembering that Jesus healed those on the margins, let us not forget those on the margins when talking about healthcare. 

That we may be honest about and willing to have difficult conversations about the systemic racism that exists in many of our institutions.

That we may show respect for and listen to those with whom we disagree. 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

The Power of Love

It’s Valentine’s Day, which originally began in the church, of all places, as a feast for the huey-lewissaint Valentinus. The story goes that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for those who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to followers of Christ who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. As the story goes, he was put to death around February 14.

We mostly celebrate today with flowers
chocolates, and cards. It’s become a big day for the Hallmark company. We would be remiss not to remember what we celebrate on this day and the responsibility given to us.

Valentinus had the courage to defy orders from the Roman Emperor in the name of love. Anyone who has known love knows that there is risk involved. We become vulnerable when we love another and when we allow another to love us.

The Apostle Paul tried to capture love’s essence is his letter to the church at Corinth when he wrote that love  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This is a real, flesh and bone kind of love that cannot be captured by a Hallmark card or experienced during a Lifetime movie. This is the kind of love that originates from the way God first loved us. Jesus understood this as agape love. Agape love is the universal, unconditional love that God has for all of creation. As a child of God, we are called to embody this unconditional love towards others. This is a love that can take all that is broken in this world and make it into something that is whole and good. That is the power of love.

What is the best way to celebrate one who so boldly risked and eventually gave up his life for the power of love?  Perhaps it is to live each day empowered to love boldly and fearlessly.

Grace and peace,

Danny

Build Lives, Not Walls

It is early in the morning, the sun rising over the neighborhoods of Tecate, Mexico. mex-for-blogTecate sits about 25 miles due east of Tijuana, and straddles the border between Mexico and the United States.From certain places in town you can see both sides of the border. I’m s driving a van full of kids, eager and nervous for their first day of building a home for a family. As we pulled into the dirt street, a man in silk pajamas suddenly appeared in front of the van. This is unusual to say the least. He is waving his arms, motioning us forward. What is he doing? Then it dawned on me. He is showing us where to park. He is offering a gracious gift of hospitality. For the next three days he did the same thing. A parking attendant in silk pajamas.

Build Lives, Not Walls

We arrived at the site where we would be building a home and begin looking for the tools. AMOR Ministries provides certain tools that are delivered to the work site ahead of time. We couldn’t find them anywhere. Someone suggested that perhaps they were at another house in the neighborhood. A few of us begin walking down the street yelling “martillos.” We thought this was the Spanish word for tools, but it turns out it means hammers. This begins to become apparent when people emerged from their homes holding hammers, offering them to us for our use. The use of hammers for a group and a neighbor in need. They are offering a gracious gift of hospitality. I think about how many of my neighbors in my neighborhood would be so willing to offer such a gift to me if I walked up and down my street yelling “hammers.”

Build Lives, Not Walls

It is the end of the day and the sun is beginning to go down. It gets cold in the desert climate of Tecate, Mexico around sunset in the spring. A man is sitting outside his clapboard home around a fire. The fire is his kitchen for the evening. His makeshift refrigerator is a bucket filled with ice. On the menu for the evening is fish, fish moving from the bucket to the old grill over the fire. I’m fascinated by his resourcefulness. He waves me over and I draw nearer to take a closer look. We exchange a glance and with a quick wave, he invites me for dinner. I’m a complete stranger to him and he is a complete stranger to me. Except that we aren’t really strangers.We are neighbors.A human made border doesn’t change that fact.  We are  children of God who have been given the gift to break bread together. My neighbor offering a gracious gift of hospitality. 

Build Lives, Not Walls

I’m grateful these new friends took an interest in building my life. I’m thankful that building walls was not on their agenda.Grace abounds.

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.–Exodus 22:21

He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:18

” and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31