Thursday, January 19, 2006

Us and Illusions - Excellence and Ends in the Vineyard (Excerpt)

One way to avoid going out this Morning with any Illusions or delusions is deliberately paying attention to avenues of devoting distinct deference to divine difference. Paying attention means doing as Dr. King, who dared with dignity and distinction to destroy discrimination! There’s no doubt Dr. King did not let political big wigs nor his personal political opinions, ethnicity, nor his religious adherence stop him from reaching beyond his comfort zones. Obviously, Rev. King knew the truth and wisdom behind the Nigerian proverb: “Fine words do not produce food.” He knew that food was in the fields and vineyards, not in mere words.

When will we start producing food? Yeah, listening to Dr. King’s words is nice. Reading his legendary speeches is fine. Going to King commemoration services yearly in early January - that’s all very good. But, doing just that won’t produce food! Like those annoying sitcom repeats, and the even more annoying pink energizer bunny, we have got to keep going and going and going and doing and doing and doing! As Dr. King says (and I’m quoting): “We’ve got to keep on keeping on, in order to gain freedom. It would be fortunate if the people in power had sense enough to go on and give up, but they don’t do it like that. It is not done voluntarily, but it is done through the pressure that comes from people who are oppressed.”

Therefore, those of us who are unemployed, those of us who are women, those of us who are short, those of us who are ugly, those of us who are not heterosexual, those of us who are poor, those of us who are black, those of us who are Christian, those of us plagued with a disease, infirmity, or disability . . . We’ve got to stop celebrating the past and start doing in the present for the future! I’m convinced! SOMEBODY IS HEARING ECHOES OF DR. KING TODAY! SOMEBODY IN HERE WANTS SOCIAL JUSTICE TO PREVAIL! SOMEBODY WANTS TO BE ASSURED THAT EVERY VOTE IS ACCURATELY COUNTED! SOMEBODY WANTS THE CHURCH TO PAY ATTENTION TO HIS OR HER NEEDS WITHOUT HAVING TO SHOW A W2 (as if the Prophet Malachi – MINISTERS!- was only talking about monetary offerings)! SOMEBODY WANTS TO SHOUT AND NOT BE SILENCED! SOMEBODY WANTS ADEQUATE LEGAL REPRESENTATION WHEN CHARGED WITH AN OFFENSE OR A CRIME!! SOMEBODY WANTS TO GET MARRIED IN THE EYES OF GOD AND NOT THE EYES OF THE GOVERNMENT!!! DON’T GO OUT THIS MORNING WITH ANY ILLUSIONS, ‘CAUSE A LOT OF SOMEBODYS IN HERE WANT TO SING WE HAVE OVERCOME!”

Please Don’t Leave from here this Morning SOS. You know what that stands for? “Stuck on Stupid” – Don’t leave here SOS - with illusions, delusions, feigned ignorance, and misconceptions of reality. Please! for God’s and humanity’s sakes! The multiple teachings of Dr. King caution us, as do I and our scriptural readings today: to BE AWARE, to wake up, and to pay attention. We hopefully have learned from the frustration in the 1950s and 1960s of the leading white Southern ministers like Alfred Dickinson, pastor of First Baptist and John Buchanan of Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, whose disagreements often resulted from the precarious middle ground between hard-line segregationists and liberal integrationists.

Yet, some of us today still insist on being moderate as a way toward equality and social justice. Would this town be named Providence if Roger Williams had been a compromising moderate? What about other models such as Golda Mier, Mohandas Gandhi, Jane Addams, Patrick Henry, Victoria Mxenge, Jonathan Edwards, Mary Church Terrell, and Henry David Thoreau? Claiming to be in the middle or straddling the fence accomplishes little. As 13th Century Florentine writer and poet Dante Alighieri claims about the Inferno, “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” If I’m standing on your toes - just say Ouch!