Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Beloved-ness, Revisited

In 1965 my dad, a Baptist pastor in Anderson SC, joined with several of his white colleagues and invited the ministers serving the largely black congregations to join in hosting the annual community Thanksgiving service.  This event was held at the largest public auditorium in town, a multipurpose gymnasium everyone knew as "the Rec Hall."  

My knowledge of the details is sketchy but I think what happened next was a majority of the Board of Deacons at our church, Boulevard Baptist did not agree with this decision and moved to hold a separate event.  My dad declined to participate.  

In January of 1966 at the annual business meeting of the church my dad tendered his resignation and by June of that year we were out of the parsonage and the only neighborhood I had known and within a year out of Anderson.  

I was only 12 years old at the time and not fully aware of all the reasons for our move.  None of my siblings liked it.  I'm pretty sure only my older siblings had a complete enough picture to understand how courageous my dad had been and how much of a sacrifice my mother had to make in her support of him.

I will do more research on those events, including searching for what I've been told was an editorial in the local paper calling my dad "a communist."

That was 50 years ago. I'm so glad that I have come to know more about those days and my dad than I knew when we drove out of Anderson for the last time.  

That history is joined by the significant contributions of the Episcopal priest in the little town in Virginia to where we moved.  Father Montague opened his EYC to Tappahannock and helped as much as anyone to diffuse the tensions encumbant to the federally enforced ending of segregation in a southern school system.

IDYG -- Inter-Denominational Youth Group -- was formed and together black and white and Native American teens worked and played and performed and eventually led our school, the only high school in the county, into a fairly happy and harmonious version of community.

Based on how we've continued to love each other I'm confident in calling those friendships a beloved community.

So here we are in 2016 and our governments have done most of their part in dismantling the structures that divided us by the color of our skin.  Seems almost trivial to ask but remember the water fountains in public buildings?

I still believe in what my dad did.  I believe in what Father Montague did.  What can we do that our children one day will believe in and recall with pride.  

I saw a quote in my web browsing recently.  It went something like this "the only bankers who go down in history got caught."  

Will it be enough to "keep the economy going?"  To put down ISIL, Boko Haram, Al-Queda, etc.  (If you need a list go here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_terrorism). It might.

But how can we stand on those as accomplishments of our age while the evolution of racism and prejudice continues to make it so that, for instance black clergy still wait on invitations to join in community wide worship?  Read carefully here, their waiting implicates many more than just them.

I'm thinking we should get caught, caught doing the right thing, the good thing, the things of a beloved community.    

Finally, forgive me for writing in a way that may feel like an indictment of people who've really done no wrong, who are themselves just trying to get by.  But please let me ask again because it shines a light on our situation so clearly.  

Will fighting the fights or causes given us by our creditors and our news corps and partisan affiliations and ALEC guided politicians be the things that get us caught and make the histories our children must remember?

This is not a simple matter. I don't think it was simple 50 years ago.  We have a lot on our plates and the "new racism" has to share space with so much.  

So maybe I can say this, I will do my part as an American citizen and Christian-trying-to-be-faithful in this world of complication, entanglement and opinion but I believe I honor my dad and Father Montague -- and dare I say, Jesus? -- more when I say I'd rather get caught trying to build the new beloved community.

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