When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day . . .
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me, larger voices callin’
What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten . . .
Who knows love can endure
And you know it will . . .
Stills, R. Curtis, and M. Curtis
Since Memorial Day, my wife Janet and I have had a continuing conversation how we’ve battled racism and discrimination, even contempt from family members and acquaintances, all our adult, professional lives for our working in urban schools, caring for the kids and families we taught and connected with over the years, seeing the inequities and injustices and knowing like Oskar Schindler, “[We] could have done more.”
My days teaching literature, especially those works that highlighted conflict and tension and man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, all against the classroom backdrop made up of students from a world of poverty and racial tension, has made me more sensitive to the plight of the marginalized and the failure of the Church (particularly the white Church) to address social justice issues and to demonstrate true spiritual compassion. My father always said the creeping socialism of FDR was the fault of the Church failing to do true mission work and care for those in need.
Psalm 82: 3 – 5a (NIV)
3 Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
5 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness . . .
My first introduction to segregation and the civil rights movement came in the spring of 1961 when I accompanied my parents to Memphis for the first time, but the harsh reality hit truly home in July of that same year when we actually moved here. The eye-opener for me came, when stopping in Decatur, Alabama, I drank out of a water fountain with the word “COLORED” stenciled on its side. The reaction from the locals was immediate and harsh, and my cultural and social “re-education” began, and was, at times, a struggle and conflict with the Southern status quo. At some point, all enriched by my older sister’s marriage to a guy from Louisiana and then mine to Janet, whose mother’s side came from Kosciusko, McAdams, and Durant, Mississippi (and still live in Attala and Holmes Counties). It’s a long story, one that I won’t belabor now, needless to say, but a story comprised of a series of “defining moments” from elementary school to the present that shaped my worldview and philosophy of education.
All this as preface to say this: in addressing the current racial/political climate, to me, there are two key considerations to be addressed immediately when asked “What do we* do now?” (*We is certainly all of us, but especially the governmental power structure, especially at the local and state levels.)
And those two considerations are public education and healthcare. I think there is a legal, moral, ethical, and spiritual (Gospel, missional, Kingdom) responsibility to provide the public with the necessary tools to live, and it seems to me knowledge and physical health are basic human needs (and are central to the fundamental civil rights of life, liberty, happiness).
For a number of years I taught “School Finance” in the graduate school of education at CBU to prospective school administrators. Two guiding principles in funding schools are equity and adequacy – equitable resources across the district, the county, the state; and adequate funding to insure all children have those equitable resources. Sadly, we have failed in our responsibilities to make certain all children have such access.
Luke 4: 18 – 19 (MSG)
God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
It is my feeling the road to narrowing the gap begins with taking care of our most vulnerable: our children and our elderly – and this starts with a resolve to make certain all children have access to adequate, equitable resources and highly qualified teachers across the board and that same kind of access to proper healthcare for everyone, young and old alike, that maintains standards of appropriate physical and mental health.
Micah 6: 8 (CEV)
8 The Lord God has told us
what is right
and what he demands:
“See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God.”
In his collection of sermons, Strength to Love, Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Love can endure; it will endure. Ultimately, this is the Gospel message and Kingdom work found in Psalms, in Micah, in Luke, and in Matthew. It is a message of hope and love and compassion and action. This is what we’re called to do!
Matthew 6: 33a (CEV)
33 But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants.
The Southern Cross
. . . When the mariner, sailing over tropic seas, looks for relief from his weary watch, he turns his eyes toward the Southern Cross, burning luridly above the tempest-vexed ocean. As the midnight approaches, the Southern Cross begins to bend, the whirling worlds change their places, and with starry finger-points the Almighty marks the passage of time upon the dial of the universe, and though no bell may beat the glad tidings, the lookout knows that the midnight is passing and that relief and rest are close at hand. Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning . . .Eugene V. Debs (1918)