“Come and See”

 

Philip spoke the above three words to answer a question by Nathanael who when told of the presence of  Jesus of Nazareth  asks, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?”  This is, on the surface, a fair question since the poor village of Nazareth was known for the  Roman garrison, the despised rulers of the Jews, that was stationed there. Is Nathanael prejudice or realistic?

In Latin any foreign person was labelled barbarus, and the Greek word for any person who did not speak the cultured language was barbarous. Nathanael, a learned Jew, expressed the prejudice of his culture: Nazareth was a crude and barbaric village.

Later in the Gospel of John, we are told of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. The hate between the Jews and Samaritans was palatable. But we are given this story and the parable of the Good Samaritan.  More prejudice.

Recently, in Chicago, a well-known comedian and actor attempted to use our prejudices against President Trump supporters, blacks, and homosexuals to gain some kind of pathetic support for him and his floundering career.

A few days ago the main building of the historic (civil rights)  Highlander School in Tennessee was burned. A “white power” symbol was painted in the parking lot of the destroyed building.

In the just published April 1 Washington Post Magazine, is an article about the 1975 disappearance of the Lyon sisters from a Wheaton, Md. shopping center. In the article the writer Mark Bowden describes members of the Welch family, who were involved in the horrific rape and murder of the sisters as, “the clan”; coming from “mountain-hollow ways”; as having a “suspicion of outsiders”,  “an unruly contempt for authority of any kind”, “a knee-jerk resort to violence;” and “Most shocking were its [Welch family] sexual practices. Incest was notorious in the families of the hollers of Appalachia,…”

One last example. . A recent film is being touted as a “must see” for people who support abortion. All and well. However, way back in 1975-’76, the surgeon Richard Selzer wrote the essay “What I Saw at the Abortion: The doctor observed, the man saw.”  A simple internet search will bring up the essay. Read it but pay attention to its sub-title before you do.

In none of the above examples of prejudice, except the first, is the invitation to “Come and see” what you are speaking against. Those three words carry power. They place the cure for prejudice on the pre-judging person. What would happen if the pre-judger sat with the woman at the well and heard her story? Can the hating burners of the Highland School not learn from its historical involvement in the civil rights movement? A talk with supporters of President Trump probably will reveal that they,  too, have their humanity and its inherent struggles. Let people who see themselves burdened with an unwanted pregnancy read what the man Richard Selzer saw while watching his first abortion.

“Come and see,” Philip says as he invites a fellow seeker to examine his own mis-conceptions. Prejudice is  real and comes in many colors and forms. But all is an evil that need not exist, if we all “Come and see.”

 

 

Prejudice

Like many residents living in the Washington, DC area in 1975, I read about the disappearance of the Lyon sisters in Wheaton, Maryland. Since then I have moved, but on occasion read other reports about the unsolved crime. Today, April 2, 20019, I read an on-line article from The Wheaton Md. Patch discussing the crime and a new book telling how the murder of the two young sisters was solved after forty years. Alessia Grunberger posted her article at 4:15 PM ET on 4-2-19. I quote from that post:
“In 2014, detectives began investigating Welch’s family.
The clan had two branches, one in Hyattsville, Md., and the other five hours southwest, on a secluded hilltop in Thaxton, Va., a place the locals called Taylors’s Mountain, ” the Post wrote. “Here the family’s Appalachian roots were extant, even though some members had gradually moved into more modern communities in and around Bedford, the nearest town. While its environs were markedly different, the branch in Maryland clearly belonged to the same tree.
The family’s mountain-hollow ways—suspicion of outsiders, and unruly contempt for authority of any kind, stubborn poverty, a knee-jerk resort to violence—set it perpetually at odds with mainstream suburbia. Most shocking were its sexual practices. Incest was notorious in the families of the hollers of Appalachia, where isolation and privation eroded social taboos. The practice came north with the family to Hyattsville….”
At 6:14 PM ET, her post was updated to the following:
“In 2014, detectives began investigating Welch’s family, which had branches in Hyattsville, Md. and in the rural area of Thaxton, Va., a place the locals called Taylor’s Mountain.”
I am glad that someone saw the slurs in the first post and removed them. By the way “Grunberger writes her first post, she seems to be quoting an article in the Washington Post. However, her quoted words may be hers: I am not sure. But I am certain of the prejudice and malice expressed in them. Such words and phrases as “clan.” “locals,” “mountain-hollow ways,” and “Incest was notorious in the families of the hollers of Appalachia, ….” show contempt for a class of people.
We view prejudice as a black/white issue. But here in an article from the Washington, DC news media, it rears its ugly and evil head. I hope the Post or Patch or both will do better in the next posting.

Skandalon

 

Some of the “news” this week is not that new. I refer to the American grandmother who gave birth to her grandchild. A quick internet search showed that this same thing happened in 2011, or maybe even earlier. One grandmother in Wales carried her grandchild because her daughter had no womb.  However, I suspect that what made this American grandmother’s pregnancy so newsworthy is the fact that she carried a grandchild for her son and his male mate by using her son’s sperm and an egg of the other man’s sister.  Quite a scientific accomplishment which satisfied a desire of a homosexual couple to have a child.

What was done for the homosexual couple was not, in today’s world,  that unusual for science.  We have twin granddaughters who speak of their  biological father as “the donor”, a well-researched sperm donor who may or may not ever meet his children. A nephew and his male partner have three children under the age of one year. The older child was born using my nephew’s sperm and a surrogate. Within a year, twins were born using his partner’s sperm and the egg of a surrogate.

I share these two stories to let you know that, while not an expert, I have a personal history with some of our new ways of having children. It is a far way from the world I grew up in when a young man had to buy “protection” against an unwanted pregnancy from a machine in a gas station rest room, and the “protection” also helped prevent the little known STDs of that era. An unwanted pregnancy in those days, the 1960s, was viewed as an embarrassment and the woman was treated only a bit better than the sexual sinners of Hawthorne.  Unplanned pregnancies in by-gone days resulted in the child being “given up” for adoption. Today, many biological parents are young, so young that their situation is referred to as “babies having babies.” Yet, mores change, and television, that great reflector of culture, now shows homosexual and mixed-race couples. They touch. Kiss. Show all the emotions of Adam and Eve.  However, what concerns me most as a Christian is not these  new images of our culture. While I may or  may not agree with them, I am more concerned with other issues that are not all that new.

 Things change. For example, I graduated high school in 1964—all white graduates. At my church, no blacks ever walked through its door. Yes, “mixing” between blacks and whites took place, such as in the case of Senator Strom Thurmond. But those were hushed. In my high school there was one know homosexual male, and two older man  always hovered. These things were with us, but not publicly acknowledged or accepted as now.  Mixed couples are, at least on the surface, accepted.  However, the homosexuals are hotly discussed by Christians.

So often in our church, I hear the phrase, “We are all sinners,” or “We are born into sin.” If that is true, and I believe so, then the ministers, deacons, mixed-race couples, and homosexuals are sinners. But it seems to me we stumble over the sin of homosexuality.

For instance: A divorced man, I teach an adult  Sunday School class. Jesus clearly states that I am a sinner for that and my adultery.  If I were homosexual, would I be allowed to teach a  Sunday School class?

I suggest that Christians understand the sins of the Commandments because they have broken one or more of them.  I understand the sad consequence of adultery because I have lived it, and that makes it easier for me to accept and love a fellow sinner because he or she has acted like me. The sin of homosexuality is foreign to me, but the sinner of it is not.

Let us concentrate on curing cancers such as gossip, hunger, inadequate housing and clothing,  and all the others. Not stumbling over the fellow sinner, homosexual or other, will make us all stronger and better.

 

 

 

Ear Phones

 

 

The morning’s spring weather brought out more exercisers on our Lake Norman road than usual. Riding my stationary bike, I exchanged greetings with Joan and Ethel, two neighbors who walk every morning. One lone cyclist sped by, his wheels singing a fast clip on the asphalt.

Gaining my rhythm, I noticed a lone female figure coming from the end of our peninsula. She jogged on the shoulder and worked her way toward me and an unknown destination. Then, way behind her came another female figure, but I could tell that this second one running.

Continuing my workout, I glanced often to check the progress of both figures. One graceful. One awkward. As the jogger neared me, I noticed her high arm carriage and that she swayed from side to side because of her arm motion. Now, don’t get me wrong, I admire her work, but as a past coach, I wished I could have talked running posture with her. Correct arm carriage would make her work easier. She also had a belt around her waist which carried items such as a water bottle and other things I could not identify. She slogged past me on the far side of our road, and I saw that she wore ear phones. Perhaps whatever she was listening to made her workout easier. Or so she thought.

The second figure came closer into view. I admired her good foot step, erect carriage, and smooth arm motion. While she had not caught the jogger, she would within a few yards. The only commonality they had was that the runner also wore ear phones.

I will not argue with any male or female exercises who thinks that by listening to music or whatever while doing their workout they do better. That’s what he or she believes. As a marathoner, I never wore them because I believed that I would perform better by fully concentrating on my foot plant and  upper body posture. I understand the opinions; however, I encourage any female who uses ear phones while running to stop the practice for her safety.

Our dead-end road is, I believe, a safe road for walkers, joggers, riders, and any other visitor. However, that is only my belief. Sadly, our culture has problems that no movement, no matter how good, can eliminate. Movements like #ME,TOO have done much to make the workplace safer for women. Laws that protect the less able have changed our society for the better. As a wheelchair user, I appreciate equal access. All of this, and much more, is good. However, I have never heard of a male jogger or runner being assaulted, and we have yet to find a way to stop men from raping or assaulting women who are vulnerable.

The two females I saw this morning are strangers. Having ridden on this road for two years, I have come to know most regulars. Perhaps they are vacationing on Lake Norman or have just moved to the area. I don’t know. But I do know that neither one of them would be able to physically repel a male. Yes, the jogger may have carried mace in her belt. But could she have gotten to it when a male grabbed her from behind, pinning her arm or arms. The fact is that men are usually stronger than women. Now, I would tell any male who wanted to take on one of the Williams sisters to re-think his wish. I  understand, and appreciate, the exceptions. However, the two females I saw this morning would not hear someone coming up to them because of the ear phones. That is an unnecessary risk.

If you exercise in open spaces, no matter how crowded, and are a female, re-consider using ear phones so that you can hear your surroundings, and this  is true for males. You will, I hope, come to appreciate the sounds of nature and learn to concentrate on your form. If you are ever at Lake Norman, come by, and we can discuss your running form—without earphones.

Arrogance from Privilege

 

A county sheriff sets up a speed trap and issues twenty-one tickets in two hours to drivers going more than ten miles per hour over the posted speed limit of 35 mph. That seems to me to be quite a bit of tickets and proves that the street has a problem with speeding. So, why would any resident complain about their streets being made safer?

Elected officials of Cornelius, North Carolina, and the home of Jetton Road where the speed trap was, immediately received calls,  likely from the folks living at the end of Jetton Road where houses sell normally for more than one million dollars. Heavy taxpayers, the wealthy and 94% white residents of the area, demanded answers for many questions. The pro tem Mayor of Cornelius had no knowledge of the speed trap, so Michael Miltich invited Sheriff Garry McFadden to meet with the Cornelius town commissioners and residents.

Now, think about it: a speed trap, many drivers “caught”, word of the trap spreads, drivers slow down. Where is the problem? Try this for an answer: The people of that area are wealthy and mostly white. They were inconvenienced and some were caught speeding. They resented the presence of twelve deputies in their neighborhood. So, because of their wealth and privilege they “invite” the county sheriff to come visit and discuss vital issues surrounding the speed trap. Here are some of the questions they asked Sheriff McFadden:

Why were the Cornelius Police not notified of the pending speed trap?

Why was the speed trap on the Sunday of the NBA all-star game?

Why were there twelve deputies involved in the speed trap?

What was the expense of the speed trap?

Now, I don’t know about you, but only one of those questions seems valid to me, and the Sheriff promised to improve communications with towns in Mecklenburg County. And, that question could have been settled by a phone call or email. But the last three are questions only privileged folks dare ask. Can you imagine a resident of West Charlotte asking any of those? That never would happen for the reasons of wealth, whiteness, and the privilege granted by our  culture to those who possess such power.

Yes, Sheriff McFadden is an elected official, thus he is bound to answer just questions of any county resident. However, to  ask  him such a question as the second is absurd and points to the arrogance of white power. And, sadly, Sheriff McFadden knew this during the meeting.

I applaud Sheriff McFadden. He was summoned to a meeting in Cornelius which would be, if not all, a room filled with white folks. He was summoned to answer questions that sought understanding and wisdom but demonstrated power. The folks in that room had been, as I said, inconvenienced. They, in their insulated lives, felt threatened by a public servant trying to  make their streets safer. So, not possessing the courage to examine their habit, they attacked. How dare he invade their golden ghetto on a special Sunday afternoon of planned parties?

I live on Isle of Pines Road in Mooresville, and we have a problem with speeders. Sheriff McFadden send twelve deputies with radar guns here. I will not complain.

 

Narcissist or Athlete

 

Commercials are interesting, at least for me. I view them as reflectors of our culture and not as attempts pushing me toward a product or make. A recent commercial for a brand of potato chip is a good example of mirroring us.

A mother stands in her kitchen eating from a bag of popular potato chips. A large, cloth carrier is next to her on the counter. A girl about six years of age bounces into the kitchen, fully dressed for a soccer game. (Since when where cleats allowed to be worn in the house?). The child cheerfully announces that the coach is letting her play forward, and she tells her mother that if she scores a goal, she has her “happy dance” all planned. She then performs the dance, and her mother repeats it, both mother and daughter smiling all the time. The girl also tells her  mother that she is to bring the team snack, but the mother stops worrying when she looks into the large carrier which happens to be holding bags and bags of chips. All is well because the mother has purchased the correct chips, the child player is prepared with a celebratory dance, and the commercial ends with a shot of the young player eating from a bag of the right chips. Great! But no, all is not well in my view, even with THE chips.

Many years ago, I heard a story of a head coach in the NFL studying a game film with his  players. When a receiver on the opposing team made a catch, he yelled at his defensive back, “You’re paid $80,000 to keep him from doing that.” The back responded, “But he’s paid $200,000 to do it.”

I like that story because as a high school coach, I used it to remind my players not to show emotion after a win or loss. I wanted them to act like the twins who wrestle at the Naval Academy or the brothers who wrestled for Clarke County in Virginia. Watching any of them walk off the mat, you would not know whether a win or loss had happened, even after multiple state championships or matches won at such events as Dapper Dan. As competitors, I would tell my runners or wrestlers or jumpers, we are, in a way, paid, and we act professionally. We never want our competitors to  know how we feel—win or lose. Celebrate later, with family and friends, not spectators. Never, I repeated often, let your opponent know how good winning or how bad losing means. Be analytical like the defensive back of the NFL.

Sadly, the celebrations by overly paid athletes have morphed into performances of narcissism. For me there is too much strutting and puffing and gloating in professional sports that has seeped, like a sewage, down all the way to a six-year-old soccer player who has a dance planned if she scores a goal. “Yea, look at me world. I am great. I scored a goal,” her wished-for dance says.

But is catching, kicking, hitting, or shooting a ball all that important when compared to other accomplishments of life?  Where does that skill with a ball mesh with the other, more important ones necessary for a life of quality?  One would think that the self-serving jubilations of some athletes, from the child clubs to adult professionals , proclaims their identities. Truly, even if a student wins four state championships, or sets a record in a race, what does that count for in the longer race we all share?

It seems to me that the value in a record or championship is only as good as we use it to sharpen our skills for living each day: to eat its bread, thankful for its blessings, and its opportunities.

“Mirror, Mirror….”

 

In his March 05 on-line report concerning the West Charlotte and Ardrey Kell basketball game Mr. Langston Wertz, Jr., a Charlotte Observer reporter wrote: “As for Ardrey Kell, a successful season ended under a cloud of controversy and with a suspended star player. Several Knights’ families who attended the game declined to talk about the week’s events. After initially answering an Observer’s questions about the controversies preceding the game, another Kell parent ripped the page out of the reporter’s notebook containing her comments.”

Now, if citizens were not aware of how much the two schools mirror each other, they do now. One rich. One poor. That is a mirror, just one we do not want to acknowledge because what is reflected is the injustice of our educational system which is managed by elected politicians who are highly influenced by the biggest dollar. Re-read the reported words of Wertz and ask what would prompt a person to think he or she has the right to rip a page from anyone’s notebook?  Arrogance of the righteous derived out of wealth or position or both is my answer.

Think of it: a Kell parent speaks of the events surrounding, of all things, a high school basketball game, then another parent (her husband?) rips the page of her comments from Wertz’s notebook. Yes, a family, a school, and its coach has apologized for the racial slur posted on social media. Apologies are good and necessary. However, that racial slur came from somewhere and that somewhere is more than a non-thinking 17-year-old basketball star playing for Kell.

What the Kell parent did to the reporter speaks more than all the apologies erupting from Kell. The act of invading anyone’s space, much less to take their property, is one of the highest acts of disdain. I was not present, but I wonder if the woman and the person who ripped the page from Wertz’s notebook are white. I wonder if the one who violently took the page is male. I don’t know, but I  know that contempt like that is usually bred out of arrogance of being white and well-to-do and sometimes leads one to think he or  she is above the rules for the rest of us. To paraphrase Mark Twain, The Kell parent acted like a Christian holding four aces because every influence valued by our society is in his or her corner.

Racism is a sin, and like other sins, it can be easily concealed and denied. However, when a person shows such aggressive arrogance to a  person doing his job, the sin is revealed. How could anyone think that type of act is right?

The boy who posted the slur did not act in isolation. He and his environment need to honestly examine themselves. It is convenient to verbally deny racism or envy or lust or any other sin. However, our acts expose who we are. And, it does not matter if the persons who engaged the reporter are white or black. The act of invading his notebook was wrong. As is the arrogance that feeds such acts.

In order to  accommodate the fans, the game had to be moved from the small (450 capacity) gym of West Charlotte. However, a part of me wishes that the Kell players had to dress, play, and  shower at West Charlotte. I wish the Kell fans had to drive to West Charlotte and sit in the small gym and have a new experience. They would have come away impressed had their eyes been opened.

It takes more than an apology or confession to eradicate a sin. While both are the first steps to right living, actions must be taken to demonstrate our change of heart.

Let’s all look into the mirror and see what is honestly there. If the image is right, good. If it is wrong, work to change it by words and deeds.