Blog Break

I will be away from the blogging habit for a while.  I hope to fill in posts during the next year with a monthly rant at a minimum.  I’ll be writing a lot of non-public writing as part of the residency in clinical pastoral education.  And between my other classes, a new peer group, and church work, I won’t be able to give you access to my scattered ramblings on the blog.

I did have other hopes.  But my limits are clear.

Take care until later, blog of mine.

Causes of War pt. 3

This is the last post I’ll write in response to the governor of Virginia’s recent considerations about slavery and the Civil War.  The link between slavery and the Civil War has been documented enough so that the chatter made by folks related to the confederate soldiers is baseless.  How a person can suggest, after so much good historical information about the antebellum period has been published, that the War was not caused by slavery is beyond my reach.

That’s not important since we all learn in different ways.  We all have differences of opinion.  No one interprets scholarship the way the last reader of that work did.  Still, it’s beyond me. 

To an extent, the governor of Virginia (and his good staff) decided to rewrite history, to revision it.  I’d suggest that the following things happen to us when we do that, even in the form of proclamations:

1) We get it wrong.  One of the great thinkers in my faith tradition said that faith was about seeking understanding.  I think the same can be said about history.  History, if it doesn’t seek understanding, provides a frame for understanding.  When we tell stories in a way that omits, overlooks, or deletes the impact and presence of others, our oversights lead to misunderstanding.

2) We miseducate others.  One of the meanings of education is to draw out of a person what lies inside.  When a student has incorrect information settled inside his head, he will inevitably be silly or misguided or wrong when he speaks.  We have a responsibility to say right things.

3) We stereotype.  We develop impressions and views about others from what we know.  When what we learn is misshaped history, it can’t help but produce conceptions of others that are just as unformed.

For sure there are gifts to revisioning history, but the drawbacks abound.

Causes of War pt. 2

J. Deotis Roberts wrote that “All human thought is limited and is often bent in the direction of its exponent.”  Our thinking is bent toward our objective and comes from the experiences we cling to. 

This is why I appreciate theological reflection and critique, especially when it comes from what smart people have called the underside.  The underside is the place where voices rise and sometimes holler but are generally avoided.  The underside and its chorus of voices goes ignored because the content of that people’s critique is powerful and almost incredible to most folks with power. 

Remembering well is hard work.  And it is spiritual work.  When we recall the events of our lives, or of our nation’s life, we are performing something powerful.  Of course, every memory is pulled together again–remembered–but during remembrance we are given the chance to recall the gifts and tragedies, the pleasures and pains of what has happened before. 

I think that when we don’t remember well we ready our hearts and push the hearts of others toward war.  We create dynamics where we devalue story and history and, inevitably, truth from the underside. 

Finally, a few points about how telling story relates to war or peace and to a people’s faith.

1) History should be taught to the disinherited, the left out and the least of these.  When listening to our country’s stories from the perspective of, and for the purpose of explaining that overall story to, the disinherited, we always end up telling everybody’s story.  No one is left out of history when we start telling from the bottom or from the fringe.  On the other hand, we always exclude when we start from positions of power.

2) Perhaps honor is the wrong word.  Soldiers and slaves should be remembered.  It’s an individual’s choice whether they should be honored.  Indeed, the governor of Virginia (and maybe Mississippi) chose to lift confederate soldiers as worthy of honor while suggesting implicitly and explicitly that the same was not due to Black slaves.  In my faith, we teach that God gives people free will.  Choosing to esteem someone is a person or a people’s choice.  This means that some states or churches or neighborhoods will make decisions that you disagree with and that you have be strong enough to value choice.

3) Past injuries sit with us and they form us.  To deny that is foolish.  To gloss over it is wreckless–whether its done by a governor or preacher or journalist or saleswoman.  We bring our spiritual experiences from yesterday to what happens tomorrow.  Even when those hurts are healed, the presence of those wounds (in the form or scars or markings) is with us.  We should know the stories of our wounds no matter what a proclamation says.

Questions for you: What does it mean to tell stories, particularly stories about war and slavery?  Do we have some spiritual responsibility to the men and women whose lives were given around our nation’s Civil War?  If so, what?

Causes of War

I wasn’t around during the Civil War, but I am very interested in a few recent conversations about the role of slavery with respect to the War.

Apparently, it’s common for governors, particularly southern governors, to issue proclamations honoring confederate veterans during what’s called confederate history month.  Though I know governors write many proclamations for many reasons, this is my first introduction to the month-long observation of confederate history month.  Perhaps you are familiar with it.  Well, the governor of Virginia recently supplied a proclamation at the request of the sons of the confederate veterans, the first draft of which omitted any hint at the contributions of black enslaved people.  Virginia’s governor.

I think this conversation is clearly historical.  Most people would agree (a) that slavery happened in the United States and (b) that the Civil War happened in this country, even if those same people disagree about the two being related in a casual manner.  And I didn’t know people didn’t naturally associate the two in the latter manner.  The conversation is historical, but it is also a necessary contemporary dialogue in the African American community specifically and in the American community generally. 

The Civil War was a long, extreme, horrific, and powerful moment in our nation’s history.  It’s important to remember it and to remember it well. 

I am not a historian.  I am not a politician.  I am a pastor so I’ll resist the inner urge to respond to these recent sound bites with my amateur historical views or from my strict cultural interpretation of politics–though no interpretator can ever truly separate from his or her cultural context–and respond as a leader in a faith community.  I’ll post more tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is a link to one or two reflections about things, and here are some questions for you: 1) How should people who have experienced atrocities like slavery and war tell their stories, even when those participants come at slavery or war from, say, the position of the enslaved or from a position of power?  Should stories be told?  2) What does it mean to listen well to, and learn from, history?