Thursday, October 12, 2017

a parable of honor and dishonor

Supposed a wealthy man had a son whom he loved.


He nurtured his son and raised him to be self-reliant and told him he was special. He took him hunting, gave him an allowance for chores, co-signed for a car loan when he turned sixteen, and connected him with people who might be able to further his career as he grew older. And even though the son didn’t always see eye-to-eye with his father, he knew deep down he was loved and safe in his father’s house.

When his son was in the second grade, the father contracted with a foster-child program and brought home a seven-year old to live in the home. But it was not an altruistic act; as a matter of fact, the father mistreated the child and taught him early on that he was not as bright and clever as his son. He kept him out of school and forced him to work long days in his factory without paying a penny.

The boy ate and slept on the floor of the tool shed in the backyard and could see the television flickering through the curtains of the house and hear the father and son laughing over the latest sitcom. Often the father beat him with a leather belt for the slightest infractions. He was promised nothing as he grew older and for many years after he was old enough to leave home, the father made arrangements with employers in the city to not hire the young man…or at the very least, limit his choices to the least of jobs. He even ensured that city council pass laws to keep the foster son from appealing for any change that might assist him. Deep down, the father was fearful of anything that might encroach on his own son’s benefits.

When the father died, his bereaved son had a large shiny plaque placed in the town square boasting of his father’s generosity and kindness. And because the father was well-known and well-connected, the son petitioned the city council to celebrate his father’s birthday each year, with special songs sung about him along with beer and whiskey toasts.

And though the foster child was invited to sing praises, he declined. The many years of abuse, neglect and shame had obviously not engendered the same warmth or gratefulness. The men of the town were appalled at the foster son’s shunning of the special day and how unappreciative he was. And when the foster son was brought before the council, he brashly told them that passing by the town square on the bus each day to work only reminded him of the suffering he had endured at the hands of a cruel and abusive man. There was no memory of generosity or kindness, only scars and remembrances of lonely nights. The plaque served only as a reminder of pain and degradation.

Is it any wonder that our brothers and sisters of color don’t have the same visceral enjoyment of the symbols that bring remembrances of forefathers and freedoms that they never experienced in century-after-century of slavery and ill-intentioned “separate-but-equal” laws? If slavery is America’s original sin, how is it that the privileged fail to see any disconnect between unabashed patriotism and the abusive parent? And when there is talk of “taking America back”, what do you think they feel? Even the days of “Leave It To Beaver” were not a great era for people of color. Empathy demands that we wrestle with that instead of simply dismissing it as unpatriotic.

So help me understand how a statue glorifying a rebellion—a traitorous movement resulting in a bloody war that killed more Americans than both World Wars in order to protect a state’s right to legally own black people—was ever a step in the right moral direction? Do we really want to honor that?

I’m no theologian, but I don’t think our current reluctance or even denial to honestly deal with our history resonates with the Founder of the movement I belong to who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”



[I don’t normally blog here, but instead at www.elementalchurches.com…though posts there are typically geared toward church leadership.]

6 comments:

  1. The left does in fact love America. The difference is they love America in the same way the abusive drunk loves his wife. He just believes she needs a good beat-down to keep her in-line. Beating up America and those who happened to have white skin is in vogue, it's popular and fully acceptable in society. The truth is we can point to any nation and any peoples and find horrible sinful behaviors. In the end it's "what's the point?" other than making the obvious observation we ALL need Jesus. Yes, yes, yes we can spend our time pointing at "them" and "those people over there" in hopes we appear sensitive and wise, but in the end it's the same sinful DNA from grandpa Adam.

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  2. This isn’t a “left/right” issue. Nor is it about appearing “sensitive and wise.” This is about the huge racial divide that has torn our country apart...and about owning our history. When I counseled marriages that were badly broken, it did no good to simply say “let’s just move on” without dealing with the root of the problem. To reconcile is to own your part, or as a 12-stepper might say: “take a fearless moral inventory of my life.” This isn’t “beating up America,” but rather being honest with our past and how it affects our present. And yes, we all need Jesus, but even He can’t heal the stuff in my life that I don’t believe is a problem or won’t admit is an issue. Denial is an ugly, deadly disease...both personally and culturally.

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  3. Our unfortunate current racial divide is in large part a "left/right" issue and creation. Clearly the players on both sides demonstrate that reality on the 24 hour news cycle. I often do hear this idea that we have to "own our history". Honestly I don't encounter too many reasonable adults who don't fully recognize and have a good working knowledge of our basic American history. The good, the bad and sometimes embarrassing moments seem to be in almost constant conversation just like we are doing right now. I read an article the other day that suggested the problem was our radically racist police and even our entire American culture that was corrupt and evil from the day it was founded. I don't agree with that. America has never been perfect and blameless but far from the Nazi infested, skin-head led nation some are painting us out to be today. That's a false poltical narrative beyond any reasonable description. Slavery isn't America's exclusive sin, slavery has been apart of man kind for thousands of years and has been practiced by all races and even today. Can we give America an ounce of credit for ending that evil institution with the blood our own sons in a few decades after our birth? If pointing fingers at people who had nothing to do with wrongs of others is "dealing with the root of things" then I must have missed something. I am fully prepared to "admit" people have done others wrong, there is no doubt about it but the wrongs and rights aren't exclusively assigned to skin pigmentation or ethnic group. The soul who sins is the soul who dies. I just wouldn't feel justified to go to Germany today and expect a 36 year old man or woman to feel remorse over what other Germans did who happened to throw 6 million Jews in ovens 75 years ago. I just wouldn't point my finger and ask them to "own" your history just because they have German blood. The history of man is a twisted one, full of evil and sometimes amazingly good and loving things. If the path to healing is "some" must come to terms with history, then I think most reasonable adults are there. On the other hand if the path to healing is an admission we are all human (Romans 3:23)(Jeremiah 17:9)then I think we are on our way. Thanks for the conversation Dave and thanks for your amazing contributions to making this place more bearable until He comes. If you see a giant hole in my reasoning/logic, please feel free to correct it.

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    1. Thanks for your comments! I don’t think I see the struggle for racial reconciliation as a “left-right” issue, but a social and moral problem to be wrestled with honestly. The point of the post was questioning why we honor historical figures with statues who actually rebelled against America and cost hundreds of thousands of American lives because of their economic dependence on race-based slavery. To use your Germany analogy, there’s a reason why the German government created numerous Holocaust memorials, museums and even a National Holocaust Remembrance Day. There is a reason there are no statues honoring Himmler, Goebbels or Hitler in Germany. No, we don’t need to point our finger at a contemporary “36 year old (German) man or woman to feel remorse” because we don’t have to—they chose to nationally “own” their history. For instance, can you imagine how a Jew in Germany today—decades after the Holocaust—would feel if everyday they walked past a bronze statue of Hitler in the center of town or in front of a government building? That is what our African-American fellow citizens feel when faced with statues of Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis. This is less about assigning blame as it is exercising a measure of empathy…and removing the stumbling blocks that hinder that.

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