Posts Tagged With: race

We Were Wrong…

We Were Wrong…

Marion Aldridge

As I matured as a Christian, I reflected, long, often, and sometimes sadly, even painfully, about much of what I believed as a youngster, and into adulthood. Because my doctrines, my ethics, and my habits have sometimes undergone enormous changes, there may be those who are presumptive enough to wonder if I lost my faith.

Quite possibly, I lost your faith. I found my faith. The Bible calls these transformations “repentance.” Here are some of my confessions:

WE WERE WRONG to believe that science and God could be enemies. Truth is truth wherever we find it.

WE WERE WRONG to assume uniformity in thought or action was better than independence or creativity.

WE WERE WRONG to accept what our culture taught us about racial segregation and the supposed inferiority of black people.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that we could somehow obey the Great Commission by paying for and praying for missionaries to go to Africa while ignoring the Great Commandments, disrespecting the African-Americans who lived down the dirt roads from our churches. We were either unaware or didn’t care that they often drank polluted water, had leaky roofs, and had no indoor plumbing.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that a glass of wine on Thanksgiving would send someone to hell but that it was okay for the preacher to be 100 pounds overweight and continue to stuff his face with fried chicken.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that people in other denominations who paid attention to the Christian calendar (Pentecost, Maundy Thursday, and Ash Wednesday, for example) were somehow less spiritual than Baptists who built their church calendar around secular holidays (such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and July 4).

WE WERE WRONG to believe we could be comfortable and Christian at the same time.

WE WERE WRONG to believe the primary thing that Jesus or the Christian faith cared about was Heaven and Hell.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that somehow America was the Kingdom of God.

WE WERE WRONG to believe the assumptions of our secular society, that bigger is better, that might makes right, that getting is better than giving.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that highlighting a few isolated verses could sum up the Bible, as if God could be contained in a bumper sticker.

WE WERE WRONG to trivialize prayer, as if getting all the things we want is the point!

WE WERE WRONG to believe God intended to silence the female half of the human race.

WE WERE WRONG to assume other people could practice the Christian faith on our behalf: pastors, missionaries, youth ministers, and social workers. When was the last time you got to know a welfare mother or a drug addict?

WE WERE WRONG to say there is only one biblical way to focus on the family. The family of Abraham looks different than the family of Jesus, which looks different than the family of King David, which looks different than the family of Mary and Martha, which looks different than the family of Esther and Mordecai.

WE WERE WRONG to think that Roberts Rules of Order, rather than the Bible, is the primary guide for working out disagreements in our churches.

WE WERE WRONG to teach (or imply) that talking, telling, and preaching, was more important than listening. The great sin of the Old Testament, according to Roy Honeycutt, was “They would not listen.”

WE WERE WRONG to let bullies, blamers, gossips, and other spiritually unhealthy people dominate the conversations and the decisions in many of our congregations.

WE WERE WRONG to think that repentance was primarily for non-Christians outside of our churches instead of for those of us inside. The more I know about Jesus, the Bible, the Christian faith, and the Holy Spirit, the more I know I am called to change, to repent.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that any tradition, law, bible, preacher, program, building, doctrine, convention or any other part of creation—even if God made it and blessed it—could possibly be as important as the Creator.

This, by the way, is the short list. I could write a book!

I have always been a loyal kind of guy. For decades, I hung in there, as much as possible, with the ecclesiastical world I inherited. I knew racism was wrong, however, and one by one, I began confronting the errors and inadequacies of my childhood experiences. I am grateful for the church of my childhood, for my family, for the appropriate lessons from my South Carolina culture. But I am also grateful I had permission to continue to grow, to get un-stuck from the habits, behaviors and beliefs of my childhood and adolescence.

(Four years ago, I wrote this column for the newsletter of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina.)

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, Lists/Top Ten, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Not Your Typical Christmas Blog: Choosing our Ethical Battles

One of my friends, still a young man to me, asked a question on Facebook about why every Christian and every church wasn’t actively involved in finding a home for every child who needs to be adopted.

It’s a good thought, and I’ve asked similar questions since I was a teenager. Here’s a problem: What should we do? What should I do?

My doctorate is in Christian Ethics. I wanted (and still want) to cure every ill, fix every problem, right every wrong, join every cause, and march in every parade. All of it can’t be done by one person or even by a single church.

What I recommend is that every person and every church adopt three Big Issues. Mine have shifted over the years. Racism was the Big One of my childhood and adulthood. In my world, it still is. That’s a battle I suspect I will fight until the day I die. I marched to get the Confederate flag off the dome of the South Carolina State House. I go out of my way to befriend African-Americans, to listen to them, and, by extension, others who look different than I do. I write. I preach. I’ve stayed in trouble during my entire ministry for pushing the boundaries with regard to race relations.

When I was younger and the US was building bombs by the truckload and Nuclear Proliferation dominated the Cold War, I got involved in Peacemaking. Jesus said a few things about Peacemaking. I drove to Washington with two other ministers from Batesburg to visit our Senators and Congressman to state our concern. I invested energy to challenge America’s tendency to get into wars at the drop of a hat.

There are fifty issues I could spend ten hours a day trying to resolve:

Adoption,

Aging,

Alcoholism,

Animal rights,

Business ethics,

Campaign finance reform,

Clean water,

Consumer protection,

Criminal justice,

Death penalty,

Drug addiction,

Education,

Environmental issues/conservation,

Family issues—divorce, polygamy, affairs, forced marriage

Freedom of expression,

Gluttony,

Gun control,

Health care,

Homelessness,

Honor crimes/shaming,

Human cloning,

Human trafficking,

Hunger,

Immigration,

Integrity,

Literacy,

Materialism/Greed,

Organized crime,

Payday lending,

Physician-assisted suicide,

Political corruption/buying votes,

Racism,

Religious bigotry/intolerance

Separation of church and state,

Sports—concussions, winning at any cost, gambling,

Terrorism,

Torture,

War and peace,

Women’s issues.

Pick three and follow up with those. Be informed. Do something. You can’t do it all. What’s not acceptable, in my opinion, is shaking your head sadly and doing nothing. Volunteers are always needed. Money is always needed. Local board members are always needed.

As a pastor, I tried to give church members information at forums. I was always aware there are at least two very different opinions on most issues, e.g., gun control, homosexuality, abortion, immigration, and the death penalty.

I guess this is why political parties choose “platforms.” Even Miss America candidates have a “platform.” Pretend you’re a celebrity and adopt a cause. Three causes. You can’t do everything, but you can do something.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Lists/Top Ten, Race | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Courage: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Recently, I heard an earnest young woman assert that the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., did not hesitate to enter into the dangerous and unsafe ministries in which he engaged. Instead, she contended, he never paused in responding, “Here I am, send me.”

Respectfully, I disagree. One of the characteristics I most value when I hear the sermons and read the biographies of Dr. King is his complete humanity. He did hesitate. He did agonize over his decisions. There wasn’t a glib bone in his body. He was bearing the weight of all the racism and hatred in America. He felt it. Even his friends questioned him. He would gather with his closest advisors and they would weigh the options. Ultimately, however, King was the decision-maker.

Years ago, I bought the biography of a Great Baptist Man, but quit reading after three pages. The author’s adoration was such he believed his subject had no flaws. There was nothing I could learn by reading any farther. That saint and I had nothing in common.

Even Jesus agonized over his tough decisions. He spent forty days in the wilderness wrestling with his calling and ministry. Facing imminent death, he prayed, “Take this cup from me.”

Moses resisted his assignment, arguing with God, “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me…?”

Even Isaiah, in the passage the young lady quoted, “Here am I, send me,” didn’t jump to his decision instantly. Instead, he hesitated, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…” He understood the nature of taking on the role of a prophet. It wasn’t safe territory.

Fearlessness can be nothing more than foolishness. Every sane human being desires comfort and safety. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a fool.

Courage is recognizing the challenges and doing the right thing anyway.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was a courageous prophet. I am grateful.

 

Marion D. Aldridge (mariondaldridge@gmail.com)

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Holiday, Race | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Tribute to Two Heroes

In the South, we’d say, “They’re good folks.”

Ken and Sandy Hale invested 31 years in the frozen Yankee northland, ministering to Dartmouth students, professors, athletic staff, and nearby neighbors in Hanover and Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Once upon a time, Ken was a young Minister of Music at a Baptist church in Kentucky and Sandy was a schoolteacher. They felt a call (a good Baptist word going back to Father Abraham) to a far land where natives speak a variation of the English language. They arrived in New Hampshire under the auspices of Southern Baptists, but those not-so-good folks changed their mind and decided they didn’t like the idea of women ministers. They withdrew their financial support from Ken and Sandy.

Ken and Sandy didn’t warm to the notion of being told what they could do or not do. The state motto of New Hampshire, after all, is “Live Free or Die.”

Ken and Sandy developed their own support system and stayed, faithful to their calling.

They have been beloved friends and mentors to hundreds of people who came through the Ivy League campus and/or their small congregation. Sandy was primarily the campus minister and Ken was primarily the preaching pastor.

They built the most racially inclusive church I know of anywhere. New Hampshire doesn’t have an abundance of people of color, but Dartmouth College does, and Trinity Baptist Church has become the spiritual home of many of them. Black Lives Matter!

Now (December 31, 2015, more or less) Ken and Sandy Hale have officially retired.

The consensus of everyone who knows them is that they are kind, compassionate and competent. They are stable, faithful, authentic Christians. In an era when many so-called Christians give Jesus a bad name, Ken and Sandy have been wonderful ambassadors for Christ. They are valued members of their New Hampshire community and will be missed here.

They became my friends when they were asked to represent the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of the Northeast in the same capacity I held in South Carolina. I was paid a salary. They weren’t. In fact, they weren’t always paid a salary for any of their assignments. Period. Yet, they persevered because they believed God put them here to do a job.

A few years ago, Sandy had a brain aneurysm and Ken had cancer. They slowed down but didn’t stop.

Now, they have retired, but leaving is difficult. Sandy was going to be gone before I arrived and Ken and I were to overlap for a few days. Sandy was not gone when I arrived and I had to kick her out of her own house. (Just kidding. She left voluntarily.) I’m sure I will have to shoo Ken away next week. Their first stop will be Kentucky to live for a while with Ken’s mother. Then they are off to Ft. Meyers, Florida, where they have a small condo.

They haven’t sold their New Hampshire house because I’m living in it. Besides, they have a son nearby, and they’re not sure where they will eventually reside.

They are grieving and the church is grieving. Like an idiot, here I am in the middle of this difficult transition with the weird assignment of being a “Bridge to an Interim.” Only two things have concerned me about this assignment: 1) The weather; 2) Following Ken and Sandy. The weather will be hard. Following Ken and Sandy will be impossible.

Good, incomparable souls.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Race, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

My Favorite Book

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The Pastor’s Guidebook: A Manual for Special Occasions

Out of the four books I’ve had published, I think this one is my favorite.  It is the companion to “The Pastor’s Guidebook: A Manual for Worship.”  I learned a lot about the process of publication before this second volume was written.  The 20 chapters are listed below.  You can see it’s useful for laity who need to give a devotional.  For instance, if you are asked to give a short talk for July 4 or any citizenship occasion, this book and this chapter will help.  For any common subject in church life, from missions to stewardship to Mother’s Day, this book will be useful.  It can be ordered at Amazon or you can get an autographed copy from me.  $20 includes shipping.

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve (Watch Night)/New Year’s Day
  • Mother’s Day/Father’s Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving

Holy Days

  • Advent/Christmas
  • Lent/Ash Wednesday
  • Holy Week/Palm Sunday
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Easter
  • Pentecost
  • All Saints’ Eve/All Saints’ Day

Days for Special Emphasis

  • Race Relations Day
  • Mission Emphasis
  • Graduate Recognition Service
  • World Hunger Day
  • Homecoming
  • Day of Prayer for World Peace
  • Stewardship Emphasis
Categories: Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, Race | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Blog: Spiritually Speaking by Rev. John F. Hudson

A pastor friend of mine in Sherborn, Massachusetts, wrote this column for his church newsletter.  It is one of many compassionate posts I have read over the past few weeks.  We have been overwhelmed by news that has been both horrible and wonderful.  Lots of opinions, some more helpful than others.  This is a good one. Marion

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?” –“The Merchant of Venice”, William Shakespeare, 1605

Strange days in our nation.

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow may have best described the intense swirl of conflicting feelings and emotions millions of Americans experienced in the past two weeks.  He writes: “[It]…was a bit surreal. As America was celebrating the victory of marriage equality at the Supreme Court, it was also mourning [nine] black people in South Carolina murdered by a white supremacist.” These are awe-filled and awful days.  One day our nation takes a historic step towards full inclusion.  Another day, in bloodshed and heartbreak, we remember how far we still have to go.

Millions of our fellow Americans empowered with the legal right to marry: to love and to make families. Millions of our fellow Americans still targeted for hatred and bias and violence.  The “other” welcomed in. The “other” cut down.  It makes me weep and laugh, celebrate and grieve, proud to be an American and ashamed to be an American. In July 4th’s shadow, these events remind us that we have come a long way in 239 years, but my goodness: we’ve yet got such a long, long way to go too.

When oh when will we as a people see the full dignity and worth of all the people? All the people? All of our neighbors and friends, every last one? All of the men and women and children with whom share this home, the United States of America?  Some argue that through the rule of law we’ll finally get to the promised land and they point to the Supreme Court’s ruling as proof of this power. Others say we are already there. Look: we have an African-American President.  Look: folks of different sexual orientations are very out and visible in our culture and country.

True and yet….

Laws are not enough. The human heart cannot be changed through a legislative act or court decision. Authentic inclusion cannot be mandated or forced. We can post rainbow flags all we want on Facebook or Twitter but such public posturing risks little or nothing. The only truth which finally redeems is our shared humanity and our ability to embrace this reality. That we all bleed if we are pricked.  We all weep when a loved one dies.  We all aspire to love another special person and be loved in return and live in peace.  Until we recognize this flesh and blood connection to the person we may still label as “the other”, nothing will change.

As Atticus Finch says to his daughter Scout, in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “…if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  Until we who are white have the courage to face how hard life is for so many people of color in our land, things won’t change.  Until we who are straight have the moral imagination to understand what it is like to have your essence as a child of God called “sinful” and “unnatural”, nothing will change.  Until we who are privileged by virtue of the class we are born into or the zip code we call home, until we confront the pain of poverty and being poor, nothing will change.

Finally, we are all human, all children of God, all.

Before we are a color, or a gender, or an orientation, or a class, or a race, or a religion, or a nationality, we are all human.  Get that and the world can change, absolutely.  Miss that and the world will continue on as it is.  Two thousand years ago a wise teacher was asked to name the most important of God’s laws. His answer was simple: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Such ancient wisdom seems so simple.  If I want to be treated with equality and justice, I’ll do the same to others.  If I want to be accepted for who I am, I must accept others for the person God made them to be.  If I don’t want to be judged, labeled, or stereotyped, I need to stop doing that to my neighbor.

Strange days.  Amazing and incredible days filled with joy.  Sad and tragic days filled with loss.  America: we’ve come a long way.  America: we’ve still got miles to go to reach our promised land.

The Reverend John F. Hudson is Senior Pastor of the Pilgrim Church, United Church of Christ, in Sherborn (pilgrimsherborn.org). 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Race | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My thoughts on the Confederate Flag recorded in Overcoming Adolescence, copyright 2011

One of those life-altering occasions occurred to me in college. I was a member of the Student Senate at Clemson University, and usually we debated such banal questions as whether or not the male Senators should wear a coat and tie to the meetings. Occasionally, to the chagrin of the Deans, we actually dealt with something of substance. In the late 1960’s overt racism was a larger fact of life on our conservative campus than drugs. In the Deep South, the Civil War, over 100 years in our past, still stirred far more emotion than World War II. The Second World War was history. The Civil War seemed like a current event. The Confederate Battle Flag was prominently and vigorously waved at our football and basketball games.

Someone put forth a motion in our Student Senate that flaunting the Confederate flag should not be allowed in our sports arenas. Ours was a newly integrated campus. I was against the motion. I was proud of my Dixie Heritage. I did not think of myself as a racist. I loved the Deep South. I loved our songs, our heroes, our food (grits, fatback, collards, barbeque, turnips, okra and cornbread), and the Rebel Yell (mine was louder than anybody’s). My accent, then and now, is deep-fried and smothered in red-eye gravy. I was and am about as Southern as a human can be!

But I was in college, getting a “liberal arts” education, and for the first time in my life, I was aware of a larger world. I had never been in school with a person of African heritage until I got to college. In my culture, we still used the “N” word casually.

A pretty Jewish coed sat beside me during the debate on the motion to ban the waving of the Confederate flag in the football stadium. She whispered to me, “Waving the Confederate flag in the face of a black person seems to me to be no different than waving a Nazi flag in my face.”

I had never thought about that! She was right. Period. I learned something that day. I voted for the resolution. I am pleased to say that Confederate flags are no longer waved at Clemson University on game day in the stadium.

Something shifted in me that day. I changed an old way of thinking. I grew up a bit.

Categories: Basketball, Faith/Spirituality, Football, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Seven Ways White South Carolinians Can Respond to This Week’s Tragedy in Charleston

Seven Ways White South Carolinians Can Respond to This Week’s Tragedy in Charleston Marion D. Aldridge

  1. Say these words or something like them to black people you encounter today—at work, at the grocery store: “I am sorry for your loss and our loss as South Carolinians.” Grieve with those who are grieving.
  2. Call your pastor, an elder or deacon in your congregation and ask if your church can begin a sister-church relationship with an African-American congregation in your community. Begin conversation. We’ve lived in two separate worlds too long.
  3. Call an African-American acquaintance you would like to know better and invite him or her to breakfast or lunch or, even better, to dinner in your home. Thousands of white South Carolinians would swear they are not racists, yet there is a huge difference in how they relate to blacks and whites. Get to know people of a different hue better than you know them now. You don’t need to be coy or clever about it. Just say, “Can we have lunch?”
  4. When you are engaged in a conversation with a person of color, listen. You already know what you know. You don’t know what they know. Listen. Listen. Listen.
  5. A house in my neighborhood lowered the flag in their yard to half-mast today.
  6. Pray.  Privately. Or, go to your church, synagogue or mosque or to an African-American church and pray there.
  7. Begin to read books about race relations and/or the black experience in America. Here are some suggestions: Autobiography of Malcolm X, Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy, Stephen Kantrowitz, Black Like Me, John Howard Griffith, I Never Had It Made, Jackie Robinson, Race Matters, Cornel West, Roots, Alex Haley, The Orangeburg Massacre, Jack Bass and Jack Nelson
Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Smoke, Mirrors and Truth: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A masked magician hosts an occasional television show called “Breaking the Magician’s Code.”  On national television, Val Valentino, the Masked Magician, exposes the tricks of the magicians’ trade.  When he shows us how our attention was misdirected, we say “Aha,” and acknowledge that we were duped. 

 We use the term “smoke and mirrors” to explain how we are distracted.  We only see and paid attention to what the illusionist wants us to see: “Look over here at what’s in my left hand.  Watch this.”  Then he waves a wand or points toward a beautiful assistant with an entertaining amount of cleavage.  Meanwhile, the magician’s right hand has been sneaking about doing something else.  We are fooled.  We do not perceive the truth because of the magician’s chicanery.  Gullible people sometimes believe a magician has supernatural powers.  How else can you explain the inexplicable?  A miracle?

 The culture of my childhood practiced a kind of sorcery when it came to race.  We were seduced to ignore the realities in front of us.  Some of us were even taught that the world we lived in reflected the “will of God.”  Just accept what you see as true.  Don’t think about it too much.

 “Let’s send missionaries to Africa because that’s the most important work that can be done on the face of the earth,” was a common mantra.  Millions of dollars were collected for “foreign missions.”  Meanwhile, we ignored the dirt roads right beside our churches and the impoverished African-Americans who lived down those rutted paths.  They may have had poor drinking water and inferior medical care, but we didn’t see that.  Smoke and mirrors.  Sleight of hand.  Let’s send our money to the Mission Board so they can tell the gospel story in Africa and Asia.   Some marketing genius called this misdirection “The Great Commission.” 

That allowed us to ignore what Jesus called “The Great Commandments,” which said that we should love God and we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  He was not collecting money.  He was answering a question about what is most important.  We didn’t do a very good job of loving our brown-skinned neighbors in those days.  That should have been obvious to anyone whose attention had not been diverted.  However, following the sleight of hand of a master magician, our vision was pointed elsewhere.  We collected lots of money to send people all over the world to talk about Jesus while we treated people of color as a second-class caste here at home.  Untouchables?  We wouldn’t even touch what they touched, so we had different drinking fountains and separate restrooms.

Martin Luther King, Jr. helped us remove our masks and see the truth.

The churches of our childhoods were co-conspirators in the illusions that were perpetrated.  Our “Bible studies” focused on lakes of fire and streets of gold, on the second coming of Jesus at some point way out in the future.  We ignored the real problems many of our neighbors faced.  I never heard a sermon on gluttony in spite of a church full of fat people.  I never heard a sermon on racism, in spite of injustice and prejudice against people of color.

Martin Luther King, Jr. saw the world differently and helped us see what he saw.  He made some bullies so mad that they erupted in violence.  Children were murdered.  Black men were lynched.  I can’t imagine that the magicians’ union, if there is such a thing, is very happy with Val Valentino exposing the truth about their tricks.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was despised by those who had a vested interest in keeping people blind to the truth. 

But Martin Luther King, Jr. opened my eyes.   For the first time, I saw behind the curtain.

Thank you, Dr. King.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Holiday, Race, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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