A Holiday I’ve Missed-But Won’t Ever Again

Juneteenth

Today is Juneteenth.

I’m 2 weeks shy of being 62 years old, and I’ve never heard of Juneteenth.  Have you?

What does my ignorance of this day say about me? About our culture? 

July 4, 1776, celebrates the day white Americans became free.  Enslaved black Americans were not free on that day.  Abolitionist and formerly slaved American, Frederick Douglas pointed out the exclusionary and elitist nature of the Declaration of Independence in these words, in a speech delivered at 4th of July celebration on July 5, 1852:

 “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?  I answer – a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.  To him, your celebration is a sham;  your boasted liberty, an unholy license,  your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless…your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.  There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”

Wow.  Here were a bunch of white people gathered for hot dogs and ice-cream – or the 1852 version of 4th of July foods – ready to bask in the glory of their country’s birthday! Everyone is having a good time.  So proud.

Then Frederick Douglass’s gave this speech.  Talk about “raining on someone’s parade.” 

Notice his use of the word, “Your.” 

“Your celebration…”

“Your national greatness…”

“Your shout of liberty and equality…”

“Your prayers, hymns, sermons, religious parade…”

Douglass, in the custom of all prophets, revealed the truth.  He placed before people who had chosen not to see, whose culture had created a blindness, a stark image of the way it really was.  His audience knew only their side of the Greatest Experiment of Freedom, known as the United States of America.  He showed them another side.  He showed them that they did not really believe that “all were created equal.”  The land of the free was their’s, not his.  People like him were not free.

It was almost 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that on January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, eliminating slavery (at least legally – certainly not practically).

It was a full two years later that the word of freedom got around to the enslaved.  

Was the delay due simply to the fact that they didn’t have Apple News?

Or was the reason for the delay a bit more nefarious?  Did the slave owners keep the news hidden?  “Let’s not tell them they are free.”

It’s a question worth asking.

On June 19, 1865, slaves in bondage in the South got the news when Union Army Major General Gordon Granger and his soldiers landed in Galveston, TX to spread the word that slavery had officially ended in America.  

Do the math.  Face the facts.

White America is celebrating 242 years of freedom this year.

Black America is celebrating 153 years of freedom:

64 years of freedom from legalized segregation,

54 years of legalized freedom from legalized discrimination.

I write “legalized” because segregation and discrimination have not been eradicated from our hearts or communities.

Open our eyes.  Open our ears. 

See and hear what’s happening around us – outside of our bubble.

Feel something as you read the story of Langston Glaude.

Ask, “Am I as blind to what is going on around me as were the people addressed by Frederick Douglass?

Are we, as a nation, treating others “with liberty and justice for all?”

Celebrate July 4.  But also celebrate today, June 19, “Juneteenth.”

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Thanks Mr. Sessions and Ms. Huckabee Sanders for the Bible Quote

Jeff Sessions

“The Bible says…”  We’ve heard that phrase in Sunday School, youth groups, and sermons.

Now we’re hearing it in the White House Press Room from the Press Secretary, and in a speech from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  

The issue to which the Bible was being applied was immigration,  specifically, the practice of separating children from their parents who have entered the United States illegally.  

Here are Mr. Session’s words, “Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution.”  And then he brought Paul into it, “I would cite to you the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.  Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.” 

The Bible made another appearance in the press room when Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the Attorney General’s use of the Bible.   She said, “I’m not aware of the attorney general’s comments or what he would be referencing.  I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law…That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”  

The purpose of this post is not to address the present immigration policy. I have an opinion.  You probably do as well. I want to think about how the Bible was used to justify the present policy.

 

Ours is not the first government to use Romans 13:1 to justify an action and to compel obedience to a law.  

*Loyalists to King George III and his government used Romans 13 to oppose the American Revolution.

*During the years leading up to the Civil War, defenders of slavery used Romans 13 against the Northern abolitionists.

*And then there’s Hitler.  Yep.  Hitler was a professing Christian, influenced greatly by Martin Luther’s anti-semitism.  He hated Jews but he loved Romans 13:1.  

Read carefully this quote from a Nazi book, “Life and Doctrine: Christian Teaching with Study Questions,” used by the Nazi regime:  

“What are those called in Romans 13:1 who God has set over us?  Have you considered that your parents, your school teachers (your principal), policemen, police chief, judges, the priest, the bishop, the county commission, the state government, are the authorities who are installed by God, and that you owe them obedience?…Over all, we owe the Fuhrer and the government obedience.  If you set yourself up against the authorities and against the state, you are standing against God’s structure and are subject to punishment.”  

 Hitler’s government used Romans 13:1 to squelch Christian resistance to his horrific policies.

Here’s the deal.  People on each side of the above issues could appeal to the same Bible as support for their particular positions.  And they have.  

Anyone wanting to enter a Bible debate with Sessions and Sanders could cite these verses:

Exodus 23:9 – “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”

Matthew 25:44-46 – “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.  They they will go away to eternal punishment but the righteous (just) to eternal life.”

Proverbs 14:31 – “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

Isaiah 1:17 – “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

James 2:13 – “…judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Mark 10:14 – “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.  He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”  

One group has its verses.  The other group has its verses.  Same Bible.  Different views.  

What does this do to the understanding that the “Bible is Our Guide”?   

What kind of guide leads you in two different directions? 

Maybe the Bible itself has the answer!

I appreciate Mr. Sessions trying to base his decisions on an understanding of a higher truth.  But, if Mr. Sessions would have quoted Paul a little further, he would have said, 

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The law, ‘Don’t commit adultery, don’t covet, don’t steal, whatever other commands there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law’” (Romans 13:8-10).  

Paul just quoted the only Bible they had – the Old Testament – and then says, “It’s really about love.”  Is Paul saying, “Instead of getting hung up on different laws, just love.”   It’s not the only time Paul sings “Love is the theme.” 

“Make love your aim” (1 Corinthians 14:1).

“Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14).

“The goal of this command is love…” (1 Timothy 1:5).

And from a book my mom gave me to read in high school, Situational Ethics by Joseph Fletcher, 

“Only one thing is intrinsically good; namely love and nothing else at all.”

“Love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed.”  

Should love be our ethic?

The right thing is the loving thing.  The loving thing is the right thing.  

What if all of asked before making a decision, setting a policy, saying a word, taking an action – “What is the loving thing?” 

I know I’d be a better person, husband, dad, pastor, and driver.

“Never Underestimate Me!”

Stand+Up+Women

 

When I walked into the school lunch room to find my Lunch Buddy, I was met by one of his classmates – a girl – 4th grade.  She gave me a hug, stepped back, and with her hands on her hips, said, 

“Phillip, I broke up with my boyfriend!”

“Oh?”  I replied.  “How do you feel about that?”

“I had to do it,” she explained.

“And why is that?” I inquired.

“He disrespected me.  He told me I couldn’t run as fast as him. So we raced and I beat him.”

“Good for you!!” I congratulated her.

“Thanks!” She said, before adding this clincher:

“I told him, ‘Never underestimate me!’  Then I broke up with him.”

We’ve seen over the last several months hundreds of women stand up and shout out, “He disrespected me!  Never underestimate me.”

Maya Angelou wrote, “Each time a woman stands up for herself without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”  

My 4th grade friend stood up for all the girls at her school.  Standing up and speaking out sent a message to all the boys in the school to get rid of the stereotypes, to treat the girls as equals.  She gave me hope that her generation will be better than previous generations.  

That mutual respect will replace disrespect.

That there will be “justice for all.”

Kyle Stephens was the first gymnast to confront Larry Nassar at his sentencing.  He was a family friend.  He began sexually assaulting her when she was in kindergarten. I can’t bring myself to describe what he did to her and in front of her.   Her parents did not believe her when she told them what was happening.  She said she replayed the abuse “so I didn’t forget that I was not a liar.”  She was forced to babysit Nassar’s kids to pay for her own counseling.  Years later, in 2016, Kyle’s dad committed suicide after coming to believe his daughter.  

Kyle Stephens’ words reverberate throughout the country: “Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.” 

Little girls and grown women bear within themselves the divine image.  A spirit of strength. 

Let’s join girls like my Lunch Buddy’s classmate and women like Ms Stephens to destroy an old world of disrespect and injustice and build a world of love.  

The Church, #metoo, #timesup and Me

ChurchToo-Photo_web

 

2017 was the year men learned that they can’t mess with women anymore. That’s a good thing.  Does anyone else remember the line from “Network:” “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

That’s what we’ve heard from women assaulted by:

Harvey Weinstein

Larry Nassar

Bill Cosby

Travis Kalanick -Uber CEO

Bill O’Reilly

Roger Ailes

Matt Lauer

Charlie Rose

Louis C.K.

Bill Hybels

Roy Moore

Bill Clinton 

Donald Trump 

Now we can add Paige Patterson to the list.  For those who don’t follow news from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), check it out here and here. 

Dr. Patterson is a giant in the SBC.  He, along with Judge Paul Pressler, orchestrated the fundamentalist take-over of the SBC and has been a strong voice for fundamentalism in his position as a two-time President of the SBC, as President of two SBC seminaries, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Wake Forest, NC, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), in Ft. Worth, Texas, the school from which he has been fired for his misogynistic views and statements.  

Dr. Patterson’s removal came only after women stood up and spoke out.  It started with Megan Lively, a former student at Southeastern Seminary who was told by Patterson not to report an alleged rape to police.   It was then discovered that Dr. Patterson advised an abused wife to return home and pray for her husband.  When she came back with two black eyes, he told her he was “happy” not because of her bruises but because her husband felt guilty after beating her and had accepted Christ. (I know so many pastors who have given similar advice to abused women. “Submit” to your husbands and all that…). The discovery of other incidents led the board of SWBTS to fire Dr. Patterson on May 30, 2018.

My interest in the story of Dr. Patterson stems from my roots in the SBC.  It was the denomination of my birth, childhood, and higher education.  I graduated from SWBTS under the Presidency of Dr. Russel Dilday, who was, ironically, fired by the very fundamentalist ideology represented by Dr. Patterson.  Dr. Dilday was fired for not being conservative enough. I first met Dr. Patterson when he was preaching a revival in the First Baptist Church of Batesville, Arkansas and the youth choir from First Baptist Church in Little Rock, of which I was a member, was singing.  Dr. Patterson was a good preacher.  I liked his sermon.  It kept my attention.  Very persuasive.  He could not, however, persuade the board to retain him.  

The #MeToo movement has reached the church.  

The word misogyny was coined by the Greeks because they needed to describe what was happening to women and girls in their culture.  We’re finally coming to grips with with what is happening to women and girls in our culture.  The realization did not occur because the men have stepped up, but because the women have come out – standing up, speaking out “We’re not going to take it anymore!”  

Here are a few things I’m pondering: 

Misogyny is not a problem in just one group.  We find it with conservatives and liberals.  We find it in Hollywood and in the church.  We find it with people who don’t read the Bible and with people who make studying the Bible their life’s work.  

As a Bible student and spiritual seeker, a Christ-follower,  I have to put it out there for us to consider:  

Is misogyny a direct, logical outgrowth of the patriarchy and sexism inherent in certain Biblical writings?  

Here’s what I’m talking about: 

The very first story.  Adam and Eve.  Adam is presented as the apex of creation.  Eve? An afterthought. Eve is pictured as morally weak, responsible for sin coming into the world.  Adam was even reprimanded by God for “listening to his wife.”   Then there’s the whole “he shall rule over you” statement to Eve.  Right out of the gate, the order is established:  Man is the ruler.  Woman is the subject.  

 Does this story reflect the heart of God or does it reflect the religious understanding of an ancient people?

Move on to the Ten Commandments which is, to many, the foundation of their ethical and moral lives.  Check out the “Covet” command.  Don’t covet the possessions of your neighbor – things like his house, his wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.  A wife is one more piece of property – listed between a man’s house and his servants.  

According to the law, recorded as given by God, if a woman is not a virgin at the time of marriage, she shall be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:20-21). The guy? No big deal.  It’s a double standard.  He doesn’t have to be a virgin at the time of marriage.   

Wanna New Testament example of misogyny?  1 Corinthians 11:7-9 tells us, in case we didn’t know, that a man is the image and glory of God, but not woman.   Woman is the glory of man. Sorry, women, I guess without us men, you’d never be able to reflect God.  

A particular reading and understanding of these and other passages can create a misogynistic view and treatment of women. Has it?  I think so.  

The Bible presents an ethic of progression…a trajectory.

The Bible does not always give us the last word on an issue.   Instead, it initiates a trajectory that leads to an ultimate ethic.  It’s true with slavery.  The Bible condones slavery – pure and simple.  Yet, we condemn it.  Why?  We recognize an ethic that goes beyond the Bible.   It is also true with women.  So, will we live out an ethic that men are superior to women or follow the trajectory of the Bible that leads to an ethic of absolute equality?

#timesup = “repent for the kingdom of heaven is here” (Matthew 4:17)

Change the way we think, the way we see.  The old paradigms are gone – “old wineskins are replaced with new ones” (Luke 5:36-39) There is a new way to live.  A new way to see people.  A new way to treat people.  The values of the kingdom – love, justice, kindness, humility, replace the values of control and dominance.  

Thank you women for standing up and speaking up.  We’re listening.