Thursday, January 28, 2010

thankful thursday

Thankful Thursday sounds like a good tradition to join in on, right? Here's today's list...

1. thunderstorms, even when they soak me through and through
2. a nice new friend who gave me a ride home in the rain so I wouldn't have to bike back
3. a dryer to dry my drenched jeans
4. my mentoring group
5. seeing Kaylynn, even if only for a few seconds
6. a day that's been relatively homework free, meaning, I only spent 2 hours on homework
7. a wonderful dinner tonight at the Childers' house
8. new friends I made at dinner
9. great dinner-table conversation, with lots of laughing
10. wonderful roommates!
11. a moving Holocaust remembrance chapel service yesterday
12. Pre-MAC retreat tomorrow & Saturday
13. Carol & Penny to ride with to the retreat
14. my hair on good days
15. the warm blanket that's covering me now
16. hot chocolate!
17. LOST coming back on soon!
18. good times with friends at lunch yesterday
19. REVIVAL at Hope
20. the really cute picture of Jakub, my nephew, that's my computer background - see:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

creative weapon of love

My recent review of “The Violence of Desperate Men” and “Beyond Vietnam,two examples of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s amazing insight and dedication. If you'd like, you can click the links above to read (or even hear, in the latter case) the texts. It's absolutely worth the time to catch a glimpse into the life and passion of this amazing man.

In “The Violence of Desperate Men,” Martin Luther King, Jr., tells the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56, an important event in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, which was beginning to take shape at the time. Faced with discriminatory treatment in the public transportation system, the Negro residents of Montgomery, Alabama, confronted the political and social powers of their community and took a stand against the injustices perpetrated against them by boycotting the transit system. These dedicated men and women relied on one another not only for means of transportation but also for reassurance of the importance of their cause. Opponents of the boycott and the Civil Rights Movement attempted to intimidate and divide the Negro community; they spread rumors about leaders of the group and issued false reports of a settlement regarding the city’s transit laws. They arrested and imprisoned Dr. King for a minor speeding violation, and someone went so far as to bomb the Kings’ home. Even in the midst of such disheartening circumstances, however, the members of this fledgling movement withstood the temptation to resign or retaliate. King, despite his own doubts and feelings of inadequacy, sensed a calling from God to continue in this fight, and so he pressed on, leading those around him in a campaign which sought justice and righteousness by promoting the values of peace and Christian love.

Over ten years later, with America deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War, Dr. King continued to speak out for these values, for although the scope of the situation differed, the issues at the heart of the matter were quite similar to the Civil Rights Movement with which King’s name is nearly synonymous. Addressing his fellow Americans and his government, King begins his “Beyond Vietnam” speech with the statement that “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” This time, he emphasizes, has come regarding Vietnam, and his conscience compels him to speak out. Prominent among his reasons for opposing the war are its detrimental effects on American society, his general abhorrence of violence, belief in a spirit of freedom and integrity for America, and his commission as a leader and a Christian to work for the brotherhood of humanity and the salvation of all into the love of God. King gives a brief history of the struggle in Vietnam, speaking from the perspectives of various groups which have remained voiceless. He strongly indicts the powers which have destroyed the lives of the Vietnamese people. He gives immediate and definite steps which should be taken by the American government to resolve and withdraw from the conflict, and he suggests ways for the audience to demonstrate its commitment to peace. He concludes with an extended oration on revolution, quoting John F. Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Calling on his fellow Americans to support a positive revolution of values and to fight against injustice, King presents his audience with the choice they must make: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.

The most notable premise of these works of Dr. King’s is that resistance to injustice is a Christian duty which must be undertaken in a Christian manner. Even before the influence of Gandhi was felt and the terminology of “nonviolent resistance” was used, the philosophy which enlivened and directed King and many of his fellow protestors in the Civil Rights Movement was that of Christian love. King continually emphasizes that both his support for civil rights and his censure of the Vietnam War are based upon his Christian convictions. A belief in the equality and brotherhood of all humans as God’s creatures and a commitment to promote love, as both a means and an end, are the driving forces behind what King does and says. He continually entreats others to follow these philosophies as well, advocating—in a very Christlike way—nonviolence even in the face of hardship and the embrace of those who might be considered enemies. He calls on his listeners to “protest with the creative weapon of love.”

An important secondary theme of these words and deeds of King’s is the acknowledgement that our actions in the present have an immense influence on the future and must therefore be carefully chosen and employed. One the one hand, if not chosen wisely, they may set into motion a series of events which proves detrimental or even disastrous. The mess in which America found itself in Vietnam is an excellent illustration of this premise. Knowing this, King worked intently during the bus boycott to avoid an escalation into violence, enabling the movement to successfully avoid calamity. On the other hand, if chosen prudently, our words and actions may favorably change the face of society forever. King reminds his audience that they are living in revolutionary times and that there is an urgency to act in a positive way before it is too late and the opportunity is lost; indecision and uncertainty must be conquered if the world is to move forward. Even small actions can have a momentous impact, as is illustrated by one astute elderly woman who struggled to take each symbolic step to her destination during the Montgomery Bus Boycott: “I’m not walking for myself. I’m walking for my children and my grandchildren.”

MLK Day March Reflections

I'm going to go ahead and share here a blog entry I wrote for my Contexts of Ministry class earlier this week. The assignment was to attend Abilene's local Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march and to write a reflection on my experience of the event, where people gathered to commemorate the man who has done so much in the fight for justice and equality in our world by walking in solidarity across a bridge bearing his name. To read the reflections of my classmates (and professor) visit our class blog here.

(Photo by Nellie Doneva of the Abilene Reporter News.)

As I reflect on my own experience at the MLK Day March, and as I read about the experiences of my classmates, I struggle to put into words what exactly it is that I saw and felt and thought during the event. I think the main reason I struggle to verbalize it all is that my expectations were not met in the ways I had anticipated they might be. I, too, had never participated in any events to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and ministry. This was new to me. Even though that was the case, however, I still came into the event with expectations—not so much expectations about what would happen, but rather expectations about how I would react to it. In light of the ministry of Dr. King, which I wholeheartedly appreciate and support, how would I act in this situation? How would I be affected? Who would I be?

There were encouraging and inspiring things about the march, to be sure, and I don’t want to forget those or lay them aside too easily. So that is where I begin. People gathered for a purpose, an important purpose. They took time out of their day to make a statement about their beliefs, their hopes, and their goals. The crowd which gathered showed some diversity. Those very important beliefs and dreams are shared by people not only of various skin colors, but also of various ages, economic situations, genders, and educational levels, among other things. The name of God was spoken reverently and in connection with a cause which (I at least believe) God supports and champions. All very good things which deserve more attention that I am going to give them here, but my focus is elsewhere.

Perhaps I allow myself to be too much of a cynic. Perhaps, for that very reason, I should take the time to focus on those kinds of positive aspects above rather lament the fact that the fullness of meaning which could have lay behind the events of the afternoon was conspicuously absent, at least in my own heart. In many ways, I identify most fully with Josh’s and Keith’s descriptions of the march, especially with the sense of purposelessness and even loss which Keith experienced. And I know much of that is of my own doing. My heart was not completely invested. I had an amazing opportunity to be a part of something meaningful, and instead of embracing that opportunity, I mostly squandered it by staying within my own comfort zone of known acquaintances and predictable and (dare I say?) hollow rhetoric and actions.

“Hollow.” Now that that particular word comes to mind, it is a fitting descriptor for experience. “Meaningless” is far too dire a take on the afternoon, for I know that there was meaning there to be found for those who earnestly sought it. “Hollow,” however, seems in many ways appropriate to my own participation. I gathered, but I gathered without purpose. I prayed, but my prayer does not always touch my life. I marched, but I marched without focus and without meaning. I was present, but I was absent. I was hollow.

As I reflect on the march and its purpose, I can’t help but think about the power(lessness) of the march as a symbol. To some, both participants and observers, this event was surely a potent symbol of the good that has been done as well as the long road that is left to traverse in issues of justice and equality. At the same time, I wonder just how much of an effect this statement had on the individuals, the community, the larger culture, and the world as a whole. Was the symbol itself hollow in some ways? It’s wonderful, yes, but was anyone paying attention? Did it really mean anything? Did it change anything?

I wonder, also, how would my experience have been different if my history and my perspective were different? Doubtless, it would be. I am the majority, the person of power, the elite in many ways. True, within my religious culture I have experienced discrimination as a woman, but for the most part, I know only what it is to be privileged. I’m an educated white upper middle class American. That definitely places me among the elite in the world, places me among those who have had little experience with suffering and oppression. And despite my burning internal commitment to the causes of justice and righteousness, sadly, my outward commitment often remains untested or falls short, leaving me with merely theoretical protestations of the abominations I claim to fight against. Surely this is one decisive reason this event was hollow for me?

To finally confront the cynic in me, I have to remind myself that while this event may have regrettably been bereft of much significance for me in the particular way it played out, there is yet another, more redemptive, aspect of the term “hollow.” Something which is hollow is prepared to be filled. So the questions with which I end this reflection are similar to how I began, only looking further toward the future: How will I act? How will I change? Who will I be? I pray that “hollow” is nowhere in the description.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

today's thanksgiving

- my church family at Hope

- authenticity

- friends at ACU - old and new

- Gilmore Girls

- a wonderful afternoon and evening of fellowship and fun

- singing in church and knowing those around me actually believe and live by what they’re singing

- Martin Luther King, Jr. - his dedication, his conviction, his insight

- good long conversation with Tatia, accompanied by hot chocolate