It's winter, winter in America. Nobody's fighting, cause nobody knows what to save.
Winter must be cold for those who have no warm memories.
-Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember
The righetous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
-Book of Proverbs
You trample on the poor, and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them, though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great are your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in these times. These times are evil.
-Book of Amos
Make no mistake, Conservative Christians and values voters won this election...
-Leading Christian Leader Richard Viguery
When I was in high school, I used to play one-on-one with this kid named John McPherson. He has a nice mid-range jump shot. If my memory holds up, I think he beat me a few more times than I beat him. John would regularly invite me to his house. I was reluctant because it was my first year at the school and I still wasn't overly comfortable with whites. I lived in South L.A.,the heart of the inner city, just two miles southeast of Florence and Normandie (the second most famous corner in L.A., next to Hollywood and Vine.) John lived in one of the more exclusive neighborhoods of Playa Del Rey; in a house with a view of the Pacific (with a pool and the most expensive furnishings I'd ever seen.) It was during my first visit to John's house that I realized I was poor. Not destitute by any means, but just poor. It was the first day that I sat my foot inside the house of a white person. And, I will never forget the impact of that memory.
Today may be listed on the calendar as November 4th, but I assure you that it is the first day of winter in America.
The Guardian reported that nearly eight of ten white males in American voted for the President. And, that 75% of all those who call themselves Christians voted for the President. These two data points leave me speechless.
I am amazed at the number of my white male colleagues who despised the Senator from Massachusetts. Truly, I wondered, what is it about this man that makes them so angry? As one fellow coach said to me, "Lindell, it's that Vietnam thing. I mean, I'd have more respect for him if he were a real soldier, but he wasn't. Four months, that is nothing. Anybody could do four months in Vietnam."
I never really know what to say to this. Growing up in South L.A., you see people get shot, hear automatic weapons discharged, and, sometimes, get rounds fired at you (wrong place, wrong time.) Funny, but one never gets acclimated to that distinct sound of a bullet whizzing by your shoulder. If you haven't experienced it, let's just say that, to quote Nat King Cole, it's unforgettable. So, when people talk about not liking Mr. Kerry because he spent only four months in Vietnam, I have flashbacks to my youth in L.A. Four months is more than enough time to get the family jewels shot off by a AK-47 round. What matters is that he went, not how long he was there. What an amazing example of reductive spinning of the truth to diminish this man's service to our country.
The other anti-Kerry comment that I hear from many of my white guy colleagues is this, "there is just something about him... I can't put my finger on it, but there is something there."
How does one respond to some amorphous, meandering comment like that? The times in my life that I have felt this way toward another person-- the 'I don't like you but I just can't figure out why,'there is a single word that comes to mind: prejudiced.
The third comment that I hear about Mr. Kerry is from the Christians that I am around daily: "It's an issue of morality, plain and simple. Can you understand that?"
I've thought about this and you know what, I can't understand it.
Does arguing in support of federally-funded dollars for stem-cell research make one immoral? Does declaring yourself 'pro-choice' mean you are immoral?
What about these two items makes a statement about Mr. Kerry's morality?
It is helpful to know what words mean; therefore, I went on a search to find out the etymology of the word, moral.
Morals, we are told, is from the Latin word moralis meaning customs
with the Latin word mores being defined as "manners, morals, character."
The Latin word was formed by Cicero (DeFato IIi) as a rendering of the Greek ethikos
(mores being the accepted Latin equivalent of ethe [pronounced ethay]).... Of or pertaining
to the distinction between right and wrong, or good and evil, in
relation to the actions, volition, or character of responsible beings;
ethical.... Relating to the nature and application of the distinction between
right and wrong; moral sense, the power of apprehending the difference
between right and wrong.... Treating or concerned with virtue and vice,
or the rules of right conduct.... Having the property of being right or
wrong.... Capable of moral action.... Habits, conduct.... Pertaining to
manners and customs" (p. 1848).
I gather that the core meaning of morality is about discerning difference between right and wrong. But, according to whose standard of judging? Rightness and wrongness cannot exist in a vacuum. Someone must provide an objective standard of 'rightness' in order for anyone to know what wrongness is. Why? Because lack of morality can only be expressed in actions that display "wrongness."
If Christian leaders claim Mr. Kerry's stance on the two issues mentioned above are immoral, then we must be able to reason that the President's approach to these same issues was and is the 'moral' choice.
The Bible is no clearer on the exact moment when life begins than it is on what happened to T-Rex, the Velociraptors, or the Lost Tribes. At best, to quote Paul, 'we see through a glass darkly.' But 'seeing through a glass darkly' has never stopped Christians before-- building entire denominations and schools of theological thought on obscure, unrelated passages.
Christian leaders select biblical passages that advance a 'pet' position that is convenient to advance. Decrying homosexuality is a 'pet postion' of today's evangelicals. One can safely make a case that certain biblical passages teach that homosexual behavior is wrong...but, certain biblical passages teach that gluttony is sinful. But gluttony doesn't carry the same impact as a topic to 'rail' against-- it just isn't, so to speak, sexy enough for today's generation of TV preachers.
The Bible-- both the old and new testaments-- makes a stirring case that those who are fortunate have a profound responsibility for taking care of the poor and the needy. I would say this is stated more clearly and in more places than any passages talking about stem cell research or abortion. Yet, these United States of American have the highest number of people living in poverty than any place in the industrialzied world. And, sadly, nearly one in five children in American live in poverty.
I hear very few church leaders decrying this fact; moreover, I haven't heard any of the evangelical cabal linking the rejection of the poor and needy in this country by Republicans as a moral issue. Jesus was loved by the common folk. Jesus embraced the poor and disenfranchised, giving voice to their concerns, and a welcoming embrace to their needs. And, He challenged the co-mingling of a religious and political structure that was more about protecting the status quo than teaching the truth of God's word.
Christianity goes off the road when its leaders fall in love with the status quo.
The Bible speaks more about greed and pride and their destructive impact on mankind than it does on some of the 'pet issues' than Christian leaders chose to advance. Greed, pride, and arrogance just aren't sexy enough to talk about when the focus of the government is singularly on the needs of the wealthy while rejecting the needs or the working class and the poor and less fortunate. Isn't it amazing how many of today's Christian leaders proclaim a 'gospel of prosperity' message that has a strange ideological link to the Republican economic message of wanton wealth accumulation. And, oh how todays Christian leaders love the government as long as someone therein gives lip service to their 'pet' issues.
I wish that I could see John McPherson again. I have no idea where he is-- if he is dead or alive. I remember the day when I went to his house and learned that I was a poor black kid. It was nothing he did. John, in fact, was a wonderful friend who pleaded with me to invite him to my home, to spend the night, to hangout...I was much too embarrased. I cringed at the thought of him coming to 84th and Figueora.
I'll never forget the day I stepped into John's house. It was, in many ways, the first day of winter for a young black kid from South L.A. Today, I felt that same deadening sorrow... and America seems...well, it seems cold.