What Can I Do?

I graduated from high school in 1976. Look, I’ve already told you I’m a senior citizen.

We were just two years out from Nixon’s resignation, and a year out from the fall of Saigon.

You want to talk about turbulent times. I can tell you about turbulent times.

Also, get off my lawn.

I digress.

In 1976 much had been made of the coming Bicentennial Celebration. Everything, and I pretty much do mean everything, had a Bicentennial flair.

In our creative writing class, we wrote a skit about selling a bottle of “Bicentennial Air.”

Churches across the country found it a time to pray and turned to the book of 2 Chronicles.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2nd Chronicles 7:14

Churches later panicked when, just a few months later, Jimmy Carter narrowly defeated Gerald Ford.

Surely, the end times were upon us.

In the grand scheme of things, those were pretty simple times. Perhaps the worst things we really suffered were plaid polyester pants and disco.

In the spring of 1976 just a couple of months before graduation I, along with several classmates, stood on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol as members of the Virginia Model General Assembly.

We were all wearing plaid pants.

I do not miss the 70s.

Coincidentally and meaning nothing other than a bit of trivia, current Governor Ralph Northam was the Attorney General for that Assembly.

Today, and for an unspecified amount of time, the State Capitol grounds are closed to the public following the weekend’s violence.

Once again, perhaps it is time to turn to the book of 2nd Chronicles.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

We could get into all kinds of theological discussions about whether or not that verse really applies to the church of today, and whether it applies to America.

But, let’s not.

Instead, we should focus on what it is. A call to prayer.

Far too often these days “thoughts and prayers” have been cheapened. It’s just something you say when you don’t know what else to say.

Maybe it’s been cheapened because we aren’t following through.

Yes, I went there.

I don’t know the answer to the current situation in our country. I know I can’t fix it.

And so, to a certain extent, I feel helpless.

Yelling on social media, unfollowing TONS of people, and even this post, aren’t going to fix it.

So, perhaps it’s time to actually put those “thoughts and prayers” into practice.

The government cannot solve this.

The military cannot solve this.

The social justice warriors cannot solve this.

The list goes on. Depending on where you stand you might see some on the list as the problem rather than the solution.

Where then, do we turn?

People of faith know that the obvious answer is to turn to prayer. However, far too often, we try to engineer the solution on our own.

Over the years there have been great periods of spiritual revival in this country and in other places around the world. These revivals often brought great social change…for the better. But they didn’t just happen.

Dr A. T. Pierson once said, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.”

I am not a student of the great revivals, but I’ve heard many stories where this is indeed the case.

On a personal level, I know of the 1970 revival at what was then Asbury College (now University). One day a great revival came upon the students in chapel. That chapel service lasted for eight days. In the days and weeks to follow, people were drawn to the chapel and to repentance. Ministry teams went out around the world.

Many people who experienced that revival are still in ministry today.

You can learn a little about that revival here.

The Asbury Revival began with students meeting to pray in a classroom below the chapel. They met for weeks. Just for prayer. Then revival came.

I did not anticipate this post going in this direction. So, why am I here?

I am no great person of prayer. I fail daily.

But my faith tells me that prayer changes things. It certainly has a tendency to change the person doing the praying.

My faith also tells me that God hears our prayers. And I believe He answers.

No, not like Jim Carey in Bruce Almighty. We saw how that worked out.

God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we would like.

If you are a person of faith it is time to pray.

You can help things along by not sharing those hateful tweets or those irrational memes on Facebook, but at least take time to pray. And, maybe pray about what you’re posting.

Pray for this country.

Pray for the black community.

Pray for the police officers.

Pray for our leaders.

Pray that we would have leaders.

And yes, even pray for the protesters and the looters.

I’m not naïve enough to think that, if we all stopped to pray, that we’d wake up in the morning and everything would be all sunshine and lollipops.

I’m not naïve enough to think that suddenly our land will be healed.

Maybe instead we can begin a healing in our own hearts.

That’s where it has to start anyway.

Back in the 70s a lot of church music was written by John W. Peterson and Don Wyrtzen. If you were in a choir in those decades, you probably sang their songs.

Together they wrote a musical called “I Love America.” Yes, the musical is flag waving and all red, white, and blue. Everything in 1976 was red, white, and blue.

Still, I’ve always loved the sentiment of a song near the close of the musical.

I’d hoped to find a version that was a little less schmaltzy, and a little less syrupy. But that’s what our music was in the 70s.

If you grew up in church, especially an evangelical church, you’ve more than once heard the “special music” singer say “just listen to the words.”

So, just listen to the words.

And pray.



Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

 

RECAFFEINATED MONDAYS: What Can I Say?

Richmond, Virginia on Saturday night. Photo by an NBC12 viewer.

City on fire!
Rats in the grass
And the lunatics yelling in the streets!
It’s the end of the world! Yes!
City on fire!
Hunchbacks dancing!
Stirrings in the ground
And the whirring of giant wings!
Watch out!
Look!
Blotting out the moonlight,
Thick black rain falling on the
City on fire!
City on fire!

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim

I struggled all weekend with what to write today. At the end of last week, I was trying to put together the words to address the murder of George Floyd, as well as the deaths of Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

All senseless. All horrible.

On one hand, it felt like I needed to say something. On the other, I realize that I have a very small audience here, and that most already agree.

But then…

“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”
– Martin Luther

With all due respect, Marty, I’m not sure that’s gonna cut it anymore.

What could a southern, white, male senior citizen possibly contribute to the conversation?

I mean, I am someone who has never been denied a job or dismissed from a job because of skin color…incompetence is an entirely different post…and, FWIW, politics is an entire novel…

I am someone who doesn’t get looked at with suspicion when he walks into a store…

I am a father who never has to worry about his sons “driving while black”… again, driving while doing something stupid is an entirely different post…

What could I possibly say? What right do I have to say it?

And yet, how can I stay silent?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

But Thursday, and even Friday during the day, I looked at the commentary I saw. Left and right were condemning what happened to George Floyd. I didn’t see anyone defending the policemen. Oh, a couple of wingnuts here and there tried. But everyone else, and I do mean everyone else, was condemning what happened and calling for swift action.

Then the protests came, and the rioting started, followed by the fires and the looting.

On one hand, we were watching the historic SpaceX launch, but at the same time, we were watching our cities burn.

I couldn’t keep up with the news.

It was like watching the landing scene in Airplane…now arriving…gate 10, gate 11, gate 12…


It’s been happening in downtown Richmond. After two nights of violence with monuments vandalized, stores destroyed, a bus burned, a police car burned, the Mayor and Governor have instituted a curfew.

Hopefully, that will help.

I go on Twitter (I know, it’s a cesspool), and see that celebrities are donating to the defense funds of those arrested in Minneapolis and I’m like once again…excuse my abbreviated French…WTF?

No, I don’t get what it’s like to be black in America. I don’t have the same fears. I don’t have the experiences that would cause me to react in similar manners.

But I can’t find any scenario where the rioting and the looting and the property damage make sense.

When my friends on the left (some of them lefter than others) post the memes about how the football kneeling protests or marches didn’t work so now there has to be violence, all I can think is, have you lost your effing mind?

How does destroying the dream of an African American bar owner in Minneapolis who saw his life savings burned to the ground bring justice?

How does beating a Dallas shop owner to nearly to death, just because he wanted to defend his property, bring justice?

How does looting a Catholic bookstore run by nuns in Chicago bring justice?

How does beating an elderly woman with a two-by-four while she and her husband are trying to defend their shop bring justice?

How does destroying the offices of a progressive newspaper in Raleigh bring justice?

How does setting a house with a child inside on fire, and then blocking the fire department bring justice?

I live in a city where, three months ago, some 20,000 2nd Amendment supporters marched on the State Capitol in defense of their rights and in opposition to overreaching gun control laws coming out of the General Assembly (sorry, was that politicizing?).

While most of them were armed, not a single shot was fired. And on their way home, they picked up their trash.

I spent days watching the Tweets and Facebook posts of friends who were terrified at the very thought.

Now, many of those same friends are defending the riots. Riots that damaged multiple businesses in our arts district.

We were already on the edge of economic disaster. Many small businesses will never recover from the COVID-19 lock down.

Now their property, perhaps the only leverage they had against reopening, is gone.

How is this justice?

I know, as a white man, I’m not allowed to ask that question. So, I’ll let the Mayor of Atlanta do it for me.


I can’t fix this issue. But I also can’t stay quiet.

Years ago, I had another spell where I had given up on active involvement in politics. It was the picture of Elian Gonzalez at the business end of a storm trooper’s gun that got me involved again. And I stayed involved for years, working in local politics, blogging online.

Finally, I came to a point where I was just as disgusted with those I was promoting as I was with the not-so-loyal opposition and I turned my attention elsewhere. I turned to writing, to making art, to making theatre, and to the wearing of the red suit.

I’m still trying to focus on those things, but they may not be enough.

Maybe the problem is when we choose not to speak up for injustice.

Maybe the larger problem is not being able to agree on what justice is.

For now, it may be that we have to learn to agree on what justice is not.

Justice is not what happened to George Floyd.

Justice is also not rioting and burning down our cities.

Both statements can be true.

But, am I allowed to say them?