January 30, 2008
Tonight I went to a prayer meeting in a black neghborhood of Muncie, with a group of some thirty people in a small church with a painting of a white Jesus on the wall behind the pulpit. I was first invited to these meetings back when I was leading community conversations on race and race relations. The group meets in a different church each week rotating through about six or seven small churches, in affirmation of their spiritual Christian unity.
They seem to accept me and I like being accepted as Christian for a night. The evening begins with some opening words spoken from the heart of one of the lay leaders. There is a wonderful song leader, an old guy with a strong voice who knows all the songs by heart and lines them out for the rest of us. I am always happy when they sing a UU song like “This little light of mine.” The next segment of the service is random reading of scripture as chosen by members of the group, then a sermon by the host pastor or lay leader. Tonight it was the classic God will help you and never forsake you no matter what happens.
Then we sing again as we gather together in a large circle holding hands and the prayers begin. As one person prays, usually the one who speaks first and with the loudest voice, all the others fill the room with a blur of sound, amens, thank-you-Jesus, etc.
I spoke up after two or three other prayers. I had been thinking of the begining, but I did not know where it would go after that. “Oh Most Holy one I pray for all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who are surrounded by death, surrounded by evil, who must see and do terrible things. Keep them and protect them and hold them so that they know you are with them even in the hell of war. I speak of the lonely, let them know you are with them even in their lonlieness. I pray for the sick, that you stregthen them and sooth them in thier suffering, I pray for the lost that you help them find a way. I thank you for this gathering and the blessing of this fellowship…” I ended with “Amen in the name of your son, amen.” I spoke with power, the energy of overcoming shyness, but also the power of sincerity. Even if I am more of a Buddhist than a Christian, more of an atheist than a theist, in that place I can affirm the human desire for hope and love and wellbeing.
Afterward the group broke into applause and a final song, one that I did not know, about “That day.” Several thanked me for my prayer afterward, or thanked me for all my work on behalf of the city, or they expressed surprise that I had shaved my beard.
It was a happy gathering an affirmation of connection accross great differences. I don’t think they know exactly how different my theology is from theirs, and I don’t think they really care. They just hold to their faith and affirm that I am willing to be with them and affirm them and stand with them in the struggle for civil rights and freedom from oppression.
January 17, 2008
Today, , the Opinion page in our Muncie Star Press, the local paper, included a letter from my old “friend” Rev. William Keller. I fought with him over the meaning of the and he lost, but he seems to have learned nothing. That poor old guy really could not think his way out of a paper bag. He rants for over 200 words about how this is a Christian nation. According to Keller “According to the Constitution, this nation was founded upon Christian principles found in the Bible.” He never quotes the Constitution directly. He also says nothing of what kind of Chrisitianity he wants established, writing as if there was only one kind. He insists: “Know what is in the Constitution and the Federalist papers. This should be a Christian Nation. The reference of Christianity and the Bible are many in these documents.” Well maybe in the Federalist Papers. Finally Keller ends by quoting Proverbs chapter 29 verse 2: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan”.
Is he saying that Bush is not a reghteous man? I know that Keller voted for Bush because God had selected him as a Christian leader. If this is what Keller means by a Christian nation I want none of it.