Though the construction of a highway changed it some, Thomas Jefferson visited that water fall, just up the road from my house. (It is pictured as it is now.) Not only is the area I'm from beautiful, it is made up of fine folk. My community is made up of people who wear hardhats and carry lunch boxes, lay down tracks and drive trains on them, love the forested mountains, yet use them as a resource to supply the world with lumber and paper. We catch trout, hunt deer, and cheer for Virginia Tech.
Though in many ways my part of VA is not like the
rest of the state, there are clearly linkages--not all of them pretty. In the graveyard where my parents are buried, there are a number of graves marked with the Southern Cross, the sign that the occupant of that grave fought for the Confederacy. Believe it or not, a lady whose father fought in the Confederate army attended the church I pastored. There is a monument to the soldiers of the Confederacy in front of the courthouse in my town. Many of the residents in my town attended segregated schools, and the next town, a former railroad hub, ranked high on the list of numbers of African-Americans who were lynched by angry mobs. One theory is that, since the railroad afforded some of the best employment for the black community, that some bigots saw the need to "keep them in their place." I wish we were past those negative parts of our past, but we aren't.
Just a hundred miles from my town is Charlottesville, the hometown of the author of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson. I'll not review the ugly activities that have taken place there in the last few days. You can read about it here, and on other news sites.
It is clear that when it comes to race relations we still have a ways to go. It is a complex matter, but in a Something to Think About, that I recently sent out, I suggest some ways that we can make a difference. If enough of us follow this advice we might actually push back the barriers of darkness.
The stage is set for a conflict of dueling rights.
"We have a right, even an obligation, to remember our history.""I have a right to go to the park without seeing a man who oppressed my people honored as a hero."
"We have a right to speak freely, especially here in Mr. Jefferson's home town."
"We have a right to oppose you, to point out that some whom you regard as heroes, were our oppressors."
"We will not be silenced.""Neither will we."
"Freedom of speech" that only protects the speech of those with whom the majority agrees is not really freedom. Yet allowing the kind of hateful rhetoric, and offensive public display that is likely to produce a tragedy like the one that took place in Charlottesville Virginia, hardly passes as protecting the public.One of the clear teachings of Scripture is beautifully summarized in the words of our Lord,
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you,
for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12, NASB) Using the Lord's gift of Himself as the chief example, the Apostle Paul reminds us to, "count others more significant than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3, ESV). Each of us needs to stop being so insistent on "my rights," and start being more concerned about loving others. Much of what is wrong in our world will not be cured by more police and better laws. It will be made better by kindness shown to others.
I may have a right, but I probably shouldn't demand it if it causes my sister or brother pain.
I may not be able to stop evil from putting on a show, but I can refuse to be a part of the audience. If enough of us do that, evil plans will suffocate in the vacuum.
The answer doesn't involve somebody.
It must start with ME! To paraphrase Pogo, I have seen the solution, and it is me.
““Let justice roll down like Falling Spring,
And righteousness like the Jackson River.”
(May it reach Charlottesville, Richmond, Washington DC, and the world.)
(Amos 5:24, My Home Version)