MY REFLECTIONS ON SELMA

                           
           On March 21,1965 at the invitation of my friend and colleague Andy Young, along with my brother in ministry, Rev. Dr. Carl Dudley, and I went to Selma, Alabama.  Dr. King routinely sent out calls for clergy and others to join him in marches and demonstrations which brought attention to the unjust laws and law-makers throughout the south.  As I remember Carl Dudley earlier had been the only white minister out of 100 invited by Dr. Dr. King to join him in Miami, Florida to address what would become the title of one of King’s booksWhere Do We Go From Here?  There were so many organizations and churches sending representatives to Selma that there were no more commercial flights available for my group of clergy to travel to Selma.  However, the late Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis, Missouri and a champion of civil rights made a call to James S. McDonnell, CEO of McDonnell Douglas Aircraft who made his private plane available to us.  Further, five of the Presbyterian ministers invited to travel with me were given an ultimatum by their Sessions (The governing board of Presbyterian churches) not to go to Selma if they wanted to keep their pastorates. All five ministers accompanied me and Carl anyway.
     One has to remember the movie Selma is just a movie and not a documentary, albeit in my opinion it was a wonderful artistic achievement and I encourage all to see the movie.  A documentary is giving factual material in an artistic form and there were some omissions which might have encouraged many more folks to see the movie.  When we arrived in Selma our airplane was diverted to a small airfield a couple of miles away from the main Selma airport but closer to the local church that served as headquarters for the marchers. Unfortunately the movie did not capture the importance of the role the local churches played in the Selma marches. We went directly to one of the many local churches welcoming us to Selma where we sang, prayed and prepared for the march ahead. The songs steadied our nerves and the prayers gave us courage to participate in the march. In retrospect I could not have put myself in harms way except for the fact of my young age of 30 and the inspiration following Andy Young in Selma.
     It was a beautiful warm and humid day and the crowd was huge as we awaited Dr. King’s arrival to the podium.  I remember the presence of many white protesters who lined the streets as we marched to the center of the area where Dr. King would be speaking.  They shouted at us and called us all sorts of ugly and disrespectful names but they could do nothing more because the White House had sent the national guard to protect us.  Furthermore, the freedom songs, the prayers and the strength of the crowd itself had thoroughly prepared me for such a time as this.  The movie did not give much information about the strong support we experienced from many white clergy and students from around the country. The movie unfortunately did not capture the bravery and sacrifices of the black citizens of Selma who cheered us on and provided water for us and who left their porches to embrace us as we began gathering for Dr. King’s speech.  These citizens had to remain in Selma after all of us had left and that put them once again in harms way.  But they never complained nor did they stop their efforts to “let freedom roll down like a mighty river” in a segregated and hateful city of Selma.  I can never forget how they made all of us marching feel welcomed.  These citizens are the real heroes even though particular names like John Lewis and Andy Young and others were mentioned in the movie and rightly so.
      As the March ended and Dr. King left the podium Carl Dudley and I headed back to the church where we were to meet the clergy from St. Louis who had traveled to Selma with us.  I felt so affirmed and comforted by what had just occurred in Selma defying all of the efforts of Governor Wallace to keep us from marching.  How I wished the movie could have captured the joy and determination and the inspiration of those whites having their first experience of praying and singing and worshipping in a black church. The movie did not show the courageous Catholic Nuns who gave the march organizers their permission to place them at the very head of the marches and demonstrations especially in Selma.  To be clear this decision was a part of the organizers strategy because we believed even the angriest of whites would dare not attack or denigrate the Nuns with national television cameras rolling.  And it worked.
      A few weeks ago I answered a phone call from Nate Dudley, eldest son of the late Rev. Dr. Carl Dudley.  Nate was calling to ask me to speak to his daughter Emerson who had just been to see the movie Selma with the family and he wanted Emerson to hear directly from me about her Grandfather’s experience with me in Selma.  I will remember for years to come my telephone conversation which is further evidence of the importance for everyone to see the movie irrespective of the historical omissions.  I told Emerson the story of her grandfather and I had while walking back to the church where we were to meet our group.  As we were about 150 yards away from the church Carl and I looked up and we were being surrounded by about 50 or more angry white people, mostly men who began shouting at us and calling us names.  They referred to Carl as a “N” lover as they got closer and closer to us.  There was some minor pushing and shoving of us but Carl and I had had nonviolence training which was a prerequisite for clergy like us who were directly involved in the movement.  I was not terribly frightened at first but as they got closer to us it became clear that Carl and I could be harmed. In an instant one of the white men spat in my face which caused me great anger in spite of my nonviolence training. For one moment Carl froze because he knew I had been violated and as well as we knew each other he had no idea how I would respond to this violation of me.  In a nano second I thought to myself “I am going to die or get hurt badly because I am going to knock this guy in the mouth regardless . . and in the next second I saw my pregnant wife’s face and I realized I might never see the birth of our second child.”  I caught Carl’s eyes and he had a sheepish smile on his face that told me we should run which we did and as we looked back having left them in the dust (remember we were very young) we heard them laughing and saying “look at those N run”.  Needless to say this was a defining moment in my life which made me rethink my role for future marches and demonstrations.  It would be several years before I would participate or demonstrate in marches where there was a possibility that I would be personally violated again.
     Selma is worth seeing because it reveals a horrible period of segregation and discrimination and violence and death  of black people.  It reveals how we were treated by a large segment of white people in this country which so many of today’s generation have no knowledge of.  I just read an article about a curriculum known as Advance Placement which is believed to be too negative and critical about American history especially history like the kind represented in the movie Selma causing a State politician to introduce a bill banning AP in the classrooms.  Selma reveals what really happened in America and everyone needs to know about this historical stain in our history.  Selma does just that and I encourage everyone to see the movie and have discussions and conversations about it.  I believe our future generations need to know about the country’s history so they may learn from it rather than deny it really happened.  I had to control my inner feelings in the movie Selma especially the clip on the four girls killed in Sunday school at a Birmingham church.  But that is an historical truth and fact which needs to be known.  The tragedy of 9/11 is revisited every year since it occurred as a reminder of America’s resolve and determination in the midst of that horrific terrorist attack.  Advance Placement is but one way and an important way of assuring the history of America is authenticated.
      As we were preparing to leave Selma that March day in 1965 we discovered via radio that Mrs. Viola Luizzo a white woman from Detroit had been brutally murdered.  After the euphoria of the Selma march and Dr. King’s speech and a coming together of peoples from all around the country her death caught everyone off guard.  There was a pall over the country upon hearing the news of Mrs. Luizzo’s murder making for a toxic and scary atmosphere which engulfed me and Carl.  People are dangerous when they respond out of fear and anger and that was the atmosphere for many more months to come.  The Rev. James Reeb a white Unitarian minister was brutally beaten to death having stopped in a convenience store in Selma.  That incident is portrayed in the movie Selma and as awful as it was it is a part of America’s ugly past and needs to be known.  As I near my 80th birthday in September 2015 I am mindful of how truly fortunate and blessed I am to have lived through this period of history.  I know for a fact that I am alive today because of the nonviolence training I received at the hands of Ambassador Andy Young.  I know for a fact that “trouble don’t last always.”  I know deep in my soul why the songs in black churches were central to my survival and participation in Selma and elsewhere.  And that is why “I don’t feel no ways tired. I’ve come to far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy. I don’t believe God brought me this far to leave me.”  And so it is.
Dr.Paul
     Next Entry: Reflections on the U.S. Congress

SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

     One of Dr. M.L.King, Jr’s  favorite quotation begins thusly:
          Vanity asks the question-is it popular?
          Expedience asks the question-is it politic?
          Cowardice asks the question-is it safe?
          Conscience asks the question-is it right?
          There comes a time when we must take a position that is neither popular, or politic or safe, but one must take is because it is right.
I have learned that life’s questions are far more important than life’s answers. So, I ask you what kind of questions are you asking?  Are you on good terms with your conscience? What are you truly thankful for?  What are you doing for others?   How free are you from fear?  What do you truly hunger for?  Are you listening for the sound of the genuine in YOU?  What constitutes authenticity for you? How do you live each day?  Where do you find joy? Where do you find love?  To whom are you accountable?
These and other questions is what I believe the stuff of life is made of.  The more questions I have the better understanding I have of myself and the world in which you and I live. The more questions you and I have the more we keep searching.  You see, the art of asking questions is the prelude to discernment.  For example, when I ask the question “why is there war in Nigeria and Afghanistan” my question is more about discernment than the question itself.  You and I must always be on the hunt for discernment which is preceded by asking questions. I ask questions about my sorrow in search of discernment about my need for joy.  I ask questions about my fears in search of discernment about freedom from my fears.  Notice that I am not asking for answers as much as I am searching for discernment about my fears.  In my discernment I am led to discovery that allows me to ask more and more questions.
It is important for me to be on good terms with my conscience because it is my conscience that keeps asking me the question “is it right?” Is it right for me to worry?  Is it right for me to remain silent when I know it is important to break the silence with my questions?  I am always, always in conversation with my conscience.  Sometime I am in a tug of war with my conscience because I am not always prepared to accept the consequences of what my conscience is saying to me.  During this “tug of war” with my conscience I am on the hunt for something that is deeper and deeper inside of me.  I know the deep inside of me is speaking to the deep inside of me and I long for some kind of discernment that will enlightenment me.  The more questions I raise about the deeper side of me the more discernment I find,  For example, I keep asking why it is so hard for me to forgive those who have waged war against my spirit.  It is a legitimate question that keeps me working on ways to acknowledge I have more ground on forgiveness to cover.  If I should stop seeking forgiveness for those waging war against my spirit I will have surrendered, thus putting a halt to my discernment.  You see, it is discernment that flushes out the questions for my life and yours.
There is something quite liberating about asking questions.  For example, when I ask questions about some of life’s mysteries I am emboldened by the simple fact of discernment of these mysteries.  There is freedom in the questions because the questions lead me to other questions.  As long as I keep asking questions I am involved in a process of keeping myself open to hear other questions.  From these questions comes discernment and discernment creates other questions that nourishes my spirit.  The purpose of asking questions is to nourish our spirit.  My spirit is the pathway to my heart wherein lies my discernment.  Discernment is also another way of saying I am enlightened.  Enlightenment leads me to an awareness that I am on good terms with my conscience and that allows me the freedom to be me without making it difficult for you to be you.
There is fluidity in the asking of questions which keeps my activities alive.  I am alive and my conscience is alive so long as my life’s questions are fluid.  In journaling I raise questions over and over again that often leads me to an understanding of who I am in the presence of the God of life.  As I wrestle with life’s dilemmas and as I seek understanding for those things I do not understand, I am comforted in the knowledge that I can ask questions from the depths of my heart and find even more questions in my life with God.
My goal is never to grow tired of asking questions. And remember, there is in God sufficient strength, whatever our needs may be.
Dr. Paul

A TIME FOR RECONCILIATION AND PEACE MAKING

                      
     I have been sitting here thinking about the numerous demonstrations following the Grand Jury verdicts in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York.  I was feeling my own anger welling up inside of me as I helplessly watched the riots and the vandalism occurring in real time on many of the television networks.  If that were not enough I then read about the senseless murder of two innocent NYPD officers as they sat in their vehicles.  The shooter turned out to be a black man with severe mental issues yet causing a huge reaction from cops around the country. More animosity began between the Mayor of NYC and organizations representing the cops. Even now the anger of protestors and the cops has caused a huge divide within city government. How can you call for calm when there is so much anger welling up inside of the NYPD and the community?  How can a truce be forged out of this chaos and bickering?
     I officiated the funeral of a fraternity brother who died at age 93. He was a distinguished law professor at the Howard University Law School.  Testimony after testimony mostly from family members and former students could not say enough about their beloved professor.  As I listened to these tributes I realized the professor’s career path had begun when America was deeply separate and not equal.  Against all sorts of odds and barriers the professor forged ahead and did not allow a repressive and segregated system keep him from pursuing his goals and aspirations.  I know several men and women like the professor whose contributions are well known throughout the country. These giants whose shoulders I stand upon today faced cruelties, oppressive policemen, racist judicial systems and a plethora of other indignities but they never, ever allowed these vicissitudes to stop their forward progress..  They faced obstacles far greater than the ones African Americans are facing today but they never allowed anger or attempts to block their progress from  forging ahead.  So I ask, “why can’t we?”  Why can’t we find ways to come together as “the people” and work towards reconciliation and peace?
      Make no mistake, I know the present road to equality and justice for all is difficult.  I realize the despair and hopelessness of many of the people peacefully protesting what seems to them to be  an unjust system badly in need of fixing. However, vandalism ,destruction of property and attacks against the cops will solve nothing.  NYPD cops blaming their mayor for the violence that occurred following the Grand Jury’s verdicts and their disrespect for Mayor DeBlasio only increases the violence and anger of the community.  Their actions solve nothing!  What needs to happen is this: put aside animosity, accusations and anger and create a space for reconciliation and peace. Most importantly, it must be remembered that we are all victims at some time or another. We are all guilty of harboring racist and insensitive beliefs learned long ago by many of us.  There must be some place where such a diverse and inclusive group of people may come together to work on solutions to the issues now dividing America.
    Creating such a space for reconciliation and peace could be simple if houses of worship were approached about opening up space for dialogue, discussion and soul searching. If not houses of worship then some other space could be opened up.  But this must be done as soon as possible in order for the anger and accusations to subside.  Mounting fears and suspicions following the senseless murder of two innocent cops must be addressed immediately.
      A few years ago I spent six weeks in South Africa as a guest of the Presbyterian Church of South Africa.  I arrived shortly after Apartheid had been dismantled and Nelson Mandela was overwhelmingly elected President.  Consider the brutality and inhumanity of apartheid in SA and the 27 years of false imprisonment of Nelson Mandela who never allowed his incarceration and inhumane treatment to cause him to respond with anger or violence.  I personally witnessed a session of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission formed following the ANC’s political victory.  I saw first hand how reconciliation and forgiveness allowed true freedom for the people of SA.  I realize oppression of any kind is awful and must be eradicated.  But there is no comparison between apartheid in SA and the brutality by law enforcement agencies throughout America.  If SA could create a truth and reconciliation commission then why can’t we?  It is in my humble opinion the most reasonable solution to the seemingly never ending fight against racism, sexism and militarism which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, defined as the three great sins of America. Doing nothing only continues the disconnect between the police and the community which will only produce a negative response and outcome.  Why not give ourselves a chance to confess and forgive so we can be reconciled with each other?  Why not decrease the animosity and rancor and fear by considering such a Commission?  Think about it! “They drew a circle that shut me out, heretic, rebel a thing to flout, but love and I had the wit to win, so we drew a circle and took them in.”  And so it is.
Dr. Paul

DEFIANT OR JUST DUMB?

   Former Vice President Dick Cheney says in his defense of the torture tactics used by the CIA during the Bush Administration that the tactics were not “torture” as defined by the Justice Department.  One has to wonder whether or not the media should be interviewing this senile old man in the first place.  Besides, his remarks are predictable and horrible in that all it does is to poor more negativity upon an already negative and angry public.  His unbridled remarks only gives rise to more fanatics like Senator Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachman.  Why do we need to know or even care what fanatics are saying?  All they know how to do is to criticize.  In the meantime while covering Cheney’s misguided remarks and the antics of Ted Cruz both houses of Congress reluctantly and narrowly pass a short-term spending bill preventing another shut down of the Government.  We should know by now how strategic Ted Cruz’s and Dick Cheney’s actions are being choreographed. Not only is Cheney defiant he is dumb. And he is resentful of President Obama’s presidency.
      There is more coverage by the media of Cheney’s defiance than coverage of the demonstrations and protests in Washington. D.C.  Did you see the report on hundreds of pages of documents “inadvertently left out” by the Missouri Prosecutor handling the Michael Brown case? We need to keep our eyes on the prize which is not about what Dick Cheney is or is not saying.  We should keep our eyes of the prize which to my mind is finding newer and better ways to address the great racial and cultural divide in America.  We should be having serious discussions about changing the paradigm on how we should approach a growing distrust of the very men and women in law enforcement sworn to protect rather than punish and kill mostly African American men. And yes, we should be having discussions and dialogue on the rise in black on black crime which is destroying the once revered fabric of the African American communities around the country.
      We might give consideration to establishing what one of my devoted surrogate son’s is proposing and that is to make the Dr.M.L.King,Jr. holiday a day of “Peace and Partnership” with police precincts across America. Houses of worship of all religious faiths would join with policemen in a service of dialogue, discussion and discernment. There must however, be guided strategies to follow the demonstrations.  We are under no illusion that Peace and Partnership programs will solve the problems but it is a start.  I have some experience of the positive impact a congregation can have on law enforcement.  During my pastorate in Brooklyn Heights, New York one of our signature programs which continues to this day is recognizing the policemen of the 84th precinct every year in a Sunday service of worship.  During my ministry I at First Presbyterian Church I had direct communication with the police officers of the precinct.  I conducted sensitivity training sessions at the precinct, spoke regularly at the beginning of their work day, met often with the leadership of NYPD, thus establishing a relationship and partnership with them. Me and my clergy colleagues were often called upon in tense moments with the precinct and the community.  Our presence made a difference.
      I continue to believe there is a still more excellent way to address the disconnect and distrust between the police and the community.  I continue to believe we are smart enough to find solutions to the growing tensions between the police and the community.  I am clear that the recent verdicts handed down by the grand juries in Ferguson and on Staten Island are reprehensible and has placed a huge stain upon law enforcement in America. I grieve at the sight of the mothers of young African American men shot to death and who have come together to express their outrage over the loss of their sons. Black lives do matter and we must not let these mothers voices be silenced.  But we must also come together to find solutions to the problems lest they keep happening.
      Somehow we need to find ways to change the atmosphere of anger and violence and mistrust within law enforcement in America. As long as the negative voices in our political system continue to be heard above the efforts of groups like One Ferguson and those peacefully demonstrating around the country all we will have is more violence and disruptions.  Dick Cheney’s comments and reasoning are divisive and angry causing those who support his point of view to act in the same manner.  It is our right to disagree and to express our point of view which is one of the best practices of a democracy. However, when those views are laced with angry words and personal attacks the outcome is predictable.  There must be room for civilized discourse to take place.  There must be room for differing points of views but it need not be nasty and confrontational and divisive. May we come together in one accord to find solutions to the many issues confronting our nation.  With the help of the Creator, I know and believe it is possible for us to find the still more excellent way.
And so it is!
Dr. Paul

PERHAPS A NEW PARADIGM IS NEEDED?

      I HAVE BEEN ALLOWING MY OWN DUST TO SETTLE FOLLOWING THE TWO VERDICTS HANDED DOWN A COUPLE WEEKS AGO WHERE NO CHARGES WERE FILED AGAINST TWO WHITE POLICE OFFCERS WHO KILLED TWO UNARMED BLACK MEN.  IT TOOK LONGER THAN I EXPECTEDFOR ME TO RECOVER  WHICH SURPRISED ME.  IT WAS NOT UNTIL FRAN AND I WERE ON A PLANNED CRUISE LAST WEEK THAT I SLOWLY BEGAN TO FEEL MY OLD SELF RETURNING.  SITTING ON OUR DECK NO THE SHIP AND FEELING THE COLD AIR OF BALTIMORE GRADUALLY TURNING INTO THE WARM SUN OF THE CARIBBEAN I WAS REMINDED HOW MUCH LIFE IS LIKE THAT.  LIFE IS REAPING AND SOWING ,IT IS ANTECEDENT AND CONSEQUENCE, IT IS EXHAUSTING AND REPLENISHING, IT IS  WEEPING AND REJOICING.  “HOLY MOSES, I HAVE BEEN REDEEMED.”
      I RETURN TO A SHORT WRITING OF HOWARD THURMAN WHICH SPEAKS TO ME AND I WOULD HOPE IT SPEAKS TO YOU. IT READS:
         AT TIMES WHEN THE STRAIN IS HEAVIEST UPON US, AND OUR TIRED NERVES CRY OUT
         IN MANY TONGUED PAIN BECAUSE THE FLOW OF LOVE IS CHOKED FAR BELOW THE
         THE DEEP RECESSES OF THE HEART,WE SEEK WITH CRAVINGS FIRM AND HARD THE
         STRENGTH TO BREAK THE DAM THAT WE MAY LIVE AGAIN IN LOVE’S WARM STREAM.
         UNTIL ,AT LAST, WE ARE RESTORED AND MADE ANEW.
I HAVE SPENT MY ENTIRE LIFE WORKING FOR TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE.  EXPERIENCE HAS TAUGHT ME THAT TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE IS OFTEN DELAYED DURING THOSE TIMES WHEN THE STRAIN IS THE HEAVIEST.  EXPERIENCE HAS ALSO TAUGHT ME THAT ‘TROUBLE DON’T LAST ALWAYS.’  EXPERIENCE HAS TAUGHT ME THAT NO ONE CAN RIDE YOUR BACK WHEN IT’S BENT SO I HAVE LEARNED TO STAND UP.  WHILE I WAS DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED WITH THE RECENT VERDICTS I AM ALSO AWARE THAT IT MAY BE TIME FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT IN THE STRATEGIES BEING USED WHICH MEANS A POSSIBLE SHIFT IN SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LEADERSHIP IN AMERICA.  MAYBE, JUST MAYBE THE DO NOTHING, INFIGHTING AND OBSTRUCTIONIST U.S. CONGRESS HAS AFFECTED THE WAY WE HAVE BEEN THINKING AND ACTING.  THINK ABOUT IT! WE HAVE SEEN A STEADY PLETHORA OF BAD NEWS IN SPORTS, IN POLITICS, IN BUSINESS IN RELIGION AND IN OUR OWN PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS. IT SEEMS OUR PENCHANT TO BE FEARFUL AND ACCUSATORY EVEN OF THOSE SERVING ON THE FRONT LINES OF THE EBOLA VIRUS HAS CAUSED US TO TURN AGAINST EACH OTHER INSTEAD OF TURNING TO EACH OTHER. NO WONDER WE ARE IN SUCH A NEGATIVE ATTITUDINAL MESS.  HERE IS WHAT I AM PROPOSING AND REMEMBER WHAT I HAVE ALWAYS SAID: I HAVE NO NEED TO BE RIGHT AS MUCH AS I HAVE A NEED TO BE HEARD.
  1. CHANGE IN THE NARRATIVE. PITHY SLOGANS AND WORDS LIKE ‘WE SHALL OVERCOME“ AND “I CAN’T BREATHE’ WHILE NOTE WORTHY MAY NEED REVISING. INSTEAD MAYBE THE WORDS SHOULD BE “YOU MAY TAKE MY BREATHE AWAY BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE AWAY MY HOPE”. OR WORDS LIKE:WE WILL OVERCOME.’ MAYBE WE SHOULD BE DEVELOPING AND INCORPORATING NEW PERSPECTVES LIKE THE POINT OF VIEW OF A POOR BLACK GIRL OR BOY, OR WELCOMING THE DISINHERITED OF ANY RACE TO THE TABLE WHERE DECISIONS ARE BEING MADE.  WITH A COUNTRY SOON TO BE MAJORITY-MINORITY THIS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER SAYS DR. PATRICIA KING WHOSE WORDS APPEAR IN THE NEWSLETTER OF THE CHILDREN’S DEFENSE FUND.  FURTHER, WE MUST BE INTENTIONAL AND CREATIVE ABOUT CHANGING THE NARRATIVE WHATEVER IT IS TO BECOME.
  2. CHANGE IN LEADERS AND LEADERSHIP STYLES.SENATORS MITCH MCCONNELL, JOHN MCCAIN, TED CRUZ, AND RON PAUL HAVE CREATED SUCH A NEGATIVE ATMOSPHERE IN THE PUBLIC AND POLITICAL DISCOURSE AFFECTING A SERIOUS NEGATIVE CHANGE IN THE WAY WE DISRESPECT AND TREAT EACH OTHER. REV. AL SHARPTON, REV. JESSE JACKSON, DR. BEN CARSON AND TEA PARTY MEMBERS WHILE EFFECTIVE IN THE PAST HAVE LITTLE MORAL OR SPIRITUAL CAPACITY. THEY ARE ANGRY AND THEIR MESSSAGE ARISES OUT OF ANGER AFFECTING THOSE WHO WOULD FOLLOW THEM. SOME WHITES SAY THEY HAVE BEEN RELUCTANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PRESENT DEMONSTRATIONS AND PROTEST BECAUSE IT APPEARS THEY ARE NOT WELCOME-LIKE “THIS IS A BLACK THING.’  I REALIZE I WILL RECEIVE SOME PUSH BACK HERE.
  3. NEW SEATS AT THE TABLE FOR CHANGE. THE NEW TABLE MUST BE MADE UP OF THE CIRCLE OF INCLUSIVITY 0F HIP HOPPERS, YOUTHS, BLACK, HISPANIC, WOMEN, MEN, ASIANS AND MUSLIMS AND SENIORS LIKE AMBASSADOR YOUNG AND MAYOR DINKINS AND JIMMY CARTER AND RABBI ELI WEISEL AND OTHERS. THEIR GREATEST ASSET SHOULD BE THEIR WILLINGNESS TO LISTENAND TO UNDERSTAND AS THEY CREATE A NEW PARADIGM AND A NEW NARRATIVE WE CAN ALL LIVE BY. THEY MUST BE TRANSPARENT AND INTENTIONAL ABOUT THEIR WORK.
HAVING SAID THE ABOVE I WOULD LIKE ALL OF YOU WHO MAY READ THESE WORDS TO KNOW THAT I STILL REMAIN HOPEFUL IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING HAPPENING IN THE WORLD.  HOPE IS WHAT I DO. PRAISING GOD IS WHAT I DO. RESPECTING OTHERS IS WHAT I DO. LOVING OTHERS IS WHAT I DO. BEING PEACEFUL IS WHAT I DO. BEING GRATEFUL IS WHAT I DO. BEING SPIRITUAL IS WHAT I DO. BEING JOYFUL IS WHAT I DO. BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER IS WHAT I DO. BEING PRAYERFUL IS WHAT I DO.  BEING ACCOUNTABLE IS WHAT I DO. BEING IN SILENCE IS WHAT I DO. BEING FAITHFUL IS WHAT I DO. BEING INCLUSIVE IS WHAT I DO. SEEKING FORGIVENESS IS WHAT I DO. WHAT ABOUT YOU? WHO ARE YOU? WHO ARE YOU BECOMING?
AND SO IT IS!
DR. PAUL

YOU MIGHT AS WELL GET USED TO ME

                     There is something stirring deep inside of my soul as I watch what is happening in God’s world today. My cup has been running over for a very long time and as such, it is causing me great pain. I sit in my study late at night trying to get myself centered and focused lest I fall into the abyss of darkness. As a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement I find myself wondering whether the matter of race will ever be settled?  Denial is a dangerous condition regardless of skin color or ethnicity.  That so many are in denial about race and racism is disturbing to my spirit and I am wondering what it will take to turn things around?  But, as I was listening to gospel music (something I do almost every evening) to regain my balance after the events of the day, I heard a song that brought tears to my eyes and lift to my tattered spirits.  It was for me a sacramental moment in which I remembered that I was a child of God and that I mattered to a lot of people and I also mattered to me.  The song reminded me that no matter what is happening in the world I am still a part of the world and it is up to me to create a sacred place where I can be me without making it difficult for you to be you. By creating a sacred space within, I heard these words which affirmed me as a person of value, a person of worth and a person of faith. Here are the words:might as well get used to me, I am living without apology, I’m not wrong here, I belong here so you might as well get used to me.”
   When certain members of Congress stand before the American people in righteous indignation towards President Obama declaring publicly “they will do everything in their power to thwart and block anything this president tries to do” why are we not surprised this Congress has the worst record of any Congress in history?  Equally important, the media through its correspondents repeatedly fail to ask members of Congress simple questions like “is there anything good this president has done?” “do you remember Mr. McConnell how you and a few others of your political party have repeatedly said your only goal is to make sure this president fails?”  And now that Republicans have political control of both houses of Congress they are calling upon the president to “work with them”. Mr. McConnell, Speaker Boehner “you might as well get used to me, I belong here, I am living without apology.”
    All of my life I have been working to make sure no one will be marginalized or written off because we do not fit the flawed images held by white people of what they think we are supposed to look like or be. However, if you live in denial that race makes a difference in how a person is treated you begin to believe that.  Such expressions as “why don’t black people get a job, or why don’t they get an education or why are they always complaining about race race.”?
Unfortunately, the McConnells and Boheners and Limbaugh’s and others like them have never believed that a Black man should ever, ever be the President of the United States.  They still seethe each time they see President Obama bounding up the stairs of Air Force One (which they believed to be exclusively for them).  The presidency to their mind has been reserved for white men and they remain in shock, they are angry and they are determined to do everything in their power to make sure this never happens again.  What newscasters, pundits, scholars and others won’t talk about is what I have just said and that is puzzling to me.  Well, here’s to all of you: I am living like its meant to be, I am living without apology, I belong here, so you might as well get used to me.”
       Tonight the President is scheduled to make use of his constitutional authority to address the Immigration matter and already the three major media networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, have decided not to carry the President’s message. However, two Hispanic networks and CNN are poised to carry President Obama’s important message.  Why is that?  I am not sure if this has ever happened before with the networks especially on such a controversial topic as Immigration.  Whatever the reasons, Republican threats and posturing towards President Obama are being reported over and over again on the networks.  They seemed to be crazed about this president using his constitutional powers which is revealing their true character and racist attitudes.  Unfortunately, many people agree with the networks and the Republicans threats by making such dumb statements like ‘lets sue him, lets impeach him.”  And not only Republicans but some Democrats agree President Obama should wait until the new members of the Congress are seated promising they will give the Immigration discussion a fair chance.  Why would the President trust that?   Might as well get used to me, I am living without apology, I belong here.
    In the meantime, the correspondents like Blitzer and Tapper and others have not asked any of the Republicans railing against President Obama the crucial questions. Unemployment was 7.8% when President Obama took office in 2009 and it is now 5.8%, Dow was 7,949 in 2009 it is now 17.573. GDP was -5.4 but is now +3.5; deficit was 9.8 in 2009 and it is now 2.8. Why aren’t these critics being asked about these facts?  Why don’t the correspondents remind the President’s critics why they refuse to give the president credit for anything he does or about the accomplishments that have been made since he took office?  Now that John McClain will be chair of the Armed Forces Committee in the Senate, I am wondering if he will try to impose his failed policies upon the Obama administration and how will the press treat him?  I still believe the election of Barack Obama twice to the office of the presidency is the major factor driving white men to unprecedented racial and homophobic rants about the President?  In case it is, I believe it to be a good thing because they are only affirming what we already knew they were thinking about black folks anyway.  After all in their minds the election of a black man to the presidency of the United States was never supposed to happen in the first place. Looking at “requirements” to become president Mr. Obama passes the test with flying colors except of course, he is black.  Instead they say he is “smug, an elitist and egotist” all being words of denial about their true feelings of being racists.  So few are ready to talk about these matters and instead couch their words in phrases and terms which do not get at the heart of the matter.  I say again, these are my thoughts and opinions and I have no need to be “right” about what I have said rather I need to be heard.  In hearing what I have written one can agree or disagree and that is my right as much as it is yours.  By doing so we can enter into honest and open dialogue about what we think and believe.  As long as we are open and transparent about our beliefs the better it will be.  I firmly disagree with some of what President Obama is doing and saying and I let him know that through the contacts I have of people close to him.  However, he deserves to be heard and to be respected as the Leader of the Free world.  Nothing more and nothing less because the President’s office is sacred and therefore must be respected by all.  Whether the president is a woman, or Hispanic or Black should be of no consequence.  Again I say “you might as well get used to me.”
   As a nation waits to hear the verdict of the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri it seems clear to me major mistakes have already been made by the authorities. The first mistake is declaring a State of Emergency by the Governor.  Secondly, inserting 5000 police officers to keep the peace. Thirdly, deploying the National Guard for standby in the case of violent protests. This kind of build up places more emphasis upon a armed response which creates an atmosphere of fear.  When any one of us responds out of fear there are serious and often violent consequences.  Very little has been said about groups in Ferguson who have been working since the flare up in August, to keep the peace, to provide space for dialogue and to engage in nonviolent protests.  Such a group is One Ferguson who too few people know about.  The media has not covered their efforts nor have the authorities worked closely with One Ferguson to hear their ideas and for them to hear what the authorities are thinking.  Given the police build up and instituting a state of emergency portends some in authority may already know the decision which may favor no indictment.  I don’t know this to be the case but my antenna  went up the moment I heard about the decisions of the Governor and police.  Again I say, you might as well get used to me, I am living without apology, I belong here.”
And so it is!
Dr. Paul

PERHAPS IT’S TIME FOR A TIME OUT

      I wonder if it’s time for Americans to have a time out?  When children are overactive or they have too much energy that causes a conflict with parents we often say to them ”alright! Time to have a time out.”  When is it time for grown ups to take a time out?  How did we get so cynical and negative about almost anything?  What has caused us to be so unkind towards one another?  Why are we so afraid of people who do not look like us?  Why are we so frightened by the Ebola virus?  Have you thought about it? Over 5000 people in West Africa have died of the virus and many more are infected yet our numbers in the U.S. are less than ten and only one person has died yet, we blame President Obama and the CDC for bringing this deadly virus to the United States.  How dumb is that?
A doctor who has volunteered to treat Ebola patients in West Africa is vilified and taunted by Americans for being “irresponsible”.  Here is one of many who have put themselves in harms way to save t  he lives of innocent people and we are acting like ungrateful children for his services.  I have no doubt this virus is potentially dangerous and the loss of just one life to the virus is too many.  However, we need to take a “time out” and allow the doctors, nurses and other professionals handle this matter.  Those wanting to shut off Africa from the rest of the world are only fanning the flame of hysteria.  What are we so afraid of people?  What is making us turn on each other with vicious and hurtful comments?  I cannot wait until the elections are over so I will not have to listen to the political candidates tearing each other apart with negative campaign ads.  No wonder we have such little respect for each other when all we hear are negative comments about everyone and everything.
I am more terrified by the kids shooting to death their classmates than I am of Ebola.  I am more afraid of ignorant politicians who will say or do almost anything just to get elected to office.  I am more afraid of politicians who place blame on viruses like Ebola yet, they quickly cut funds for research.  I am more afraid of the people who treat returning veterans from military duty like they are second class citizens.  My next door neighbor works at a hospital in Bethesda where he sees the maimed, the broken, and those without limbs having to fight the flawed system that is supposed to care for them.  Perhaps it is time for all of to take a step back and regain our sense of respect for each other.
I would recommend that we do some real soul searching during our time outs.  Think about these words if you will? “I prefer to live by choice, not by chance.” I choose self-esteem, not self pity. I prefer to make changes, not excuses.  I choose to listen to my inner voice, not the random opinions of others. ask yourself: how can I change the narrative of my life?  dreams have no expiration date. cancel your subscription with people who always angry or upset about something. Take time to pray, to meditate, to be silent, to be motivated, to be kind, to be thoughtful, to care more for other people.
My spiritual partner Marsha reminds me over and over again how she refuses to be around people who are negative all of the time.  She goes on to remind me of the importance of finding sacred places to be authentic-to be heard and to learn how to laugh more and to be grateful for blessings seen and unseen.  Marsha also speaks about her need to “take time out” to re-group and regain her balance.  I would suggest that you find a spiritual partner as I have.  It should be the kind of person that really listens to you and you listen back.  Find that person from whom you derive strength and confidence and joy.  In your time out remember that you are not alone.  Remember the words of the spiritual song “I’m so glad trouble don’t last always.”  Take time to listen to music that speaks to something deep inside of you causing you to rejoice.  Listen to the laughter of children when they are playing together-it will make you ever so grateful and joyful.  Most importantly, remember these words: life is short, live it. love is rare, grab it, anger is bad, dump it, fear is awful, face it. Memory is sweet, cherish it.” And  so it is!  Dr. Paul

 

LEARNING WHEN TO LET GO

                  
          I believe many of you have seen the Geico Insurance commercial featuring Kenny Rogers where he is singing softly one of his old favorites ‘The Gambler: you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away’.  These words ring clearly when I think about the many relationships we all have.  There are the relationships with spouses, children, siblings, employers, friends and neighbors that are a major portion of our lives.  However, there comes a time when we must assess those relationships especially the ones upon which we depend heavily.  Or as Kenny Rogers would say “you’ve got to know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away” or else be drawn into the deep abyss of life. There comes a time when we just have to let go so we may move on and become better.
      I saw these words the other day and it caused me to truly think hard about the many relationships all of us are in.  Let go of people who dull your shine, who poison your spirit and bring you drama.. .cancel your subscription to their issues.  There are lots of people we all need to let go of but find it very difficult to do.  I can think of a number of people I need to let go of so I can work on being authentically me.  I want to work harder on managing the necessary relationships in my life.  I would like to be a better husband, father, pastor and friend.  Being brutally truthful I know there are some close relationships I have that I need to let go of.  I have difficulty doing so because I am often in conflict with my self-image (how others see me) and my self-fact (how I see myself).  If I can let go of some of the relationships that poison my spirit I can make room for relationships that are affirming and uplifting for my spirit.  If I can let go of the relationships that dull my shine I can make room for more light to shine upon me.
      I want to learn better how to balance my relationships with people who are willing to understand the differences between my self-image and my self fact.  I am always under siege by my self-image.  While that is not all bad it certainly is not who I am or strive to be.  My self-image is always, always drawing me to a place that is not always authentic.  I do appreciate what others think and say about me because it informs me as to what kind of relationship I wish to enter into or not.  My self-image does not necessarily define who I am because my self-image is not what I think of myself.  I’d like to think my self-image is a sort of proving ground where I wallow in the via positive of what is being said about me.  I often form my relationships with people who have been seduced by my self-image and not by my self fact. I want relationships where my self-fact is as honest and transparent as it can be.  It is important for all of my relationships to be created out of my self-fact.  This requires establishing relationships that can be authentic and genuine.  And if it is not, I want to cancel my subscription to that relationship.
    Letting go of my self-image is not always easy because my self-image always seems to be reinforced by matters that are shallow.  My self-image is always seducing me into thinking and believe the hype rather than the real substance of who I am.  I want to let go of all the people in my relationships that constantly try to dull my shine. By letting go of such relationships I am able to enter into the ‘discovery phase’ of my self-fact.  Those are the relationships I have that allow me to be me without making it difficult for you to be you. I am always on my way to establishing the kind of relationships where I do not have to pretend. In letting go  of relationships that poison my spirit I become more of a vessel willing to be used for the greater good.  My spirit is important to my becoming an apostle of sensitiveness and I cannot be that apostle with relationships that are constantly needing me.  I have to know when to ‘walk away’ and when ‘to run’ less I lose my gait.
      I mentioned how I re-discovered a former student and dear colleague in ministry after several years of losing contact.  When we reconnected it was as though we had never really been apart.  Ours is a relationship built upon friendship, family and faith.  Ours is the kind of relationship where we build each other up rather than tearing each other down.  Ours is a relationship which allows us to speak our truths to each other without judgment and without blame.  We both have ‘sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.’  Most importantly, we have learned how to listen for the sound of the genuine in each other.  Ours continue to be the kind of relationship where we can take our self-image with a grain of salt.  We have learned how to let go of the baggage that is non-essential for our continued journey.  Most importantly, we acknowledge the essential value of our self-fact that enables us to hear the sound of the genuine in each other.  Mike and I have secured our relationship of over thirty years with the seal of God’s blessings.  May all of us re-examine the relationships we are in and find ways to strengthen them so we can make them stronger or find a way to let them go. And may we have the courage to let go of the relationships that keep us from finding our true self fact.  And in doing so let us remember: life is short, live it. love is rare, grab it. anger is bad, dump it. fear is awful, face it. memory is sweet, cherish it. And so it is!
Dr. Paul

THE NEED FOR CONSTANCY NOT CONSISTENCY

      Trinity Church Wall Street is beginning its annual Discovery program, an adult faith and education series this week.  Two words describing the program caught my attention: constancy and consistency.  How do we understand these words in light of events occurring in our world today?  Several crises are upon us: attacks on ISIL; Ebola outbreak in Africa; continued racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo; political elections in November to name just a few. Clearly, there are many more complex issues weighing heavily upon us.  Let us begin with the PBS special last evening on “America After Ferguson”, where Correspondent Gwen Ifill carefully and skillfully moderated a very tense and complex conversation about race in America.
      Last year I attended the memorial service for South African President Nelson Mandela.  Here was a man who embodied the South African word “Ubuntu” or “human kindness”  a bond of sharing  that connects all humanity.”  How does anyone of us in our personal and professional lives embrace Ubuntu?  Is it possible to embrace Ubuntu with ISIL?  Is it possible to embrace Ubuntu in finding a way to defeat and control the Ebola outbreak in Africa?  Could Ubuntu work in Ferguson, Missouri or in American politics?  If we are to solve any of these recurring problems it will, in my opinion require us to have an understanding of Ubuntu in our interactions around the world.  It will also require constancy and consistency if we are to be successful.
Look, for a moment at Ferguson.  For several weeks this beleaguered community has been struggling to find a way out of its mistakes, false starts and unrest caused in the aftermath of the death of an unarmed black teen Michael Brown shot to death by a white police officer.  Now that is a mouthful!  In listening to the residents and others expressing their thoughts on this tragic death which has torn apart its citizens one thing is quite clear: the great racial divide with blacks and whites in America continues.  One need only listen to comments from both sides to realize America has a long ways to go. What makes the distance so long is our lack of constancy.  We have good conversations about most polemics occurring around the globe however, the lack of constancy in our efforts creates the great disconnect.  Without constancy in addressing our issues I am afraid it will be difficult to reach any sort of agreement.
To be constant in our effort to be truthful is a requirement for those who believe in a higher power.  To be constant in our effort to be honest in our relationships is a requirement for breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions about people we do not know nor who look like us.  To be constant and vigilant in our desire to be made whole is a requirement for breaking down racial and cultural barriers.  Constant means unchanging or firmness and faithful and steadfastness in all of our relationships.  Constancy is what leads us to freedom within ourselves.  Freedom results from a forgiveness that is complete.  We are the prisoner and not the one we need to forgive. There is Scripture to reinforce my point: Col.3:13. “bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. . forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  President Obama declared in a speech: “It always seems impossible until it is done.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, said: “the time is always right to do what is right.”  What prevents any of us from taking in these powerful words of affirmation? 
I continue to say to “I don’t have a need to be right as much as I have a need to be heard.” I don’t wish to throw out another’s beliefs nor my own, rather I want us both to be redeemed.  The great racial divide, the great religious and political divide occur because we are so sure we are right in what we believe in. How can we be so sure we are right when those opposing us are so sure they are right? Most importantly we must find a way to create safe spaces and safe conditions where honest and truthful conversations can be held.  So much of the disconnect within the U.S. Congress is that it is no longer a space where civil and honest discourse may take place.  If I cannot express my thoughts and opinions without being automatically described as a racist, homophobic or gender insensitive then how can I ever change?  I cringe at the thought of the NFL and the NBA are becoming the standard bearers of the discussion about diversity and inclusion.  I am disturbed that the media has become the standard bearers for discourse in America on almost any topic.  We are the ones we are waiting for to heal the brokenness and to find a still more excellent way out.
In my quest to be constant in my faith, trust and love I am always searching for a place which allows me to be wrong so I can be redeemed.  This requires all of us to let go of people who dull our shine or who poison our spirit and who bring you drama.  Cancel your subscription to their issues.  Cancel your subscription to folks who remain in denial about almost anything that asks them to consider another point of view.  May we not impose upon others what we ourselves do not desire.  We consistently rely upon bad habits and opinions that have no basis in reason or fact except as we know them.  Constancy is preferred because the God of my life is constant in loving me, in correcting me, in nudging me, in encouraging me to launch out into the deep.  God is most constant in my life and God continues to keep me grounded so I may find an opening to do His will.  And if you do not believe in God that is your right and privilege and you would be welcomed at my table.  I will not cut you off from dialogue and conversation as so often is the case.  I believe now is the time for us to recapture the dreams of those upon shoulders we stand.  It is impossible until it is done.  And so it is.  
Dr. Paul

IN SEARCH OF COMMON GROUND

       LIKE MANY OF YOU I HAVE BEEN WATCHING THE EVENTS TAKING PLACE IN FERGUSON, MISSOURI AND WONDERING WHETHER COMMON GROUND CAN EVER BE FOUND.  I CONFESS THAT EARLY ON THE IMAGES OF ARMORED VEHICLES ,RUBBER BULLETS ALONG WITH TEAR GAS BEING THROWN AT THE POLICE COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN ANY WHERE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.  IT WAS NOT THE MIDDLE EAST RATHER IT WAS AN AMERICAN CITY WHERE FIFTY TWO YEARS AGO I SPENT TIME AS A VERY YOUNG PASTOR. FERGUSON WAS 99% CAUCASIAN AT THAT TIME BUT THAT NUMBER IS NOW LESS THAN 25%.
THE LATE REV. DR. CARL DUDLEY AND I BEGAN AN INNOVATIVE AND EXCITING MINISTRY IN ST. LOUIS IN 1963.  ONE OF THE SIGNATURE PROGRAMS WE STARTED INVOLVED WHITE MEMBERS OF FIVE SUBURBAN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCHES OF WHICH THE FERGUSON CHURCH AND ITS PASTOR WERE PARTICIPANTS.  WITH THE BLESSINGS OF ST. LOUIS PRESBYTERY AND THE FIVE CONGREGATIONS WE INVITED A MINIMUM OF TWO WHITE FAMILIES TO BECOME FULL MEMBERS OF BEREA PRESBYTEERIAN CHURCH WHICH AT THAT TIME WAS AN OLD HISTORIC AFRICAN AMERICAN CONGREGATION.  WE WERE MOVING INTO A BRAND NEW SANCTUARY AND EDUCATIONAL BUILDING WHICH HAD BECOME NEWSWORTHY BECAUSE OF A LARGE FISH NET HANGING AT THE CENTER OF THE SANCTUARY.  THIS WAS ONE OF SEVERAL CREATIVE IDEAS PASTOR DUDLEY INTRODUCED TO CHURCH ARCHITECTECTURE.  FERGUSON PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CONGREGATIONS TO SEND FAMILES TO OUR PROGRAM.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR SENT OUT A CALL TO CHURCHES ALL OVER AMERICA TO JOIN HIM IN PEACEFUL NONVIOLENT PROTEST IN THE SOUTH.  CARL AND I WERE AMONG SOME OF THE VERY FIRST MINISTERS TO JOIN DR. KING.  WE ALSO ENCOURAGED THE WHITE PASTORS OF THE FIVE CONGREGATIONS TO JOIN US IN HEADING SOUTH TO SUPPORT DR. KING.  ALL FIVE SENIOR PASTORS IMMEDIATELY SIGNED UP TO GO TO SELMA AND THEY DID SO EVEN THOUGH THEIR CHURCH BOARDS THREATENED TO FIRE THEM IF THEY WENT SOUTH WITH US.  I REMEMBER OUR GOING TO FERGUSON THE NIGHT BEFORE WE WERE TO FLY TO SELMA.  AT THE END OF DINNER OUR HOST WHO WAS ONE OF THE FAMILIES OF FERGUSON PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH PARTICIPATING IN OUR EXCHANGE PROGRAM SAID TO US: “WE UNFORTUNATELY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO JOIN YOU AND OUR MINISTER ON THE TRIP TO SELMA HOWEVER, WE WANT YOU TO KNOW YOU HAVE OUR SPIRITUAL, FINANCIAL AND PRAYERFUL SUPPORT SHOULD YOU NEED US. DO WHAT YOU BELIEVE IS RIGHT FOR EVERYONE AND KNOW THAT WE HAVE LAWYERS PRIMED TO COME TO ALABAMA SHOULD YOU BE ARRESTED.”  FERGUSON PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH BECAME OUR STRONGEST SUPPORTER FOR THE NEXT SEVEN YEARS OF OUR PASTORATE.
THE FERGUSON OF 55 YEARS AGO IS NOT THE FERGUSON WE HAVE SEEN ON THE SCREENS OF  TELEVISONS THE PAST TWO WEEKS.  THOSE DEMONSTRATING OVER THE SHOOTING DEATH OF MICHAEL BROWN BY A WHITE POLICEMAN COULD CARE LESS ABOUT MY STORY AND I GET THAT.  WHAT IS TROUBLING ME IS THE SEEMINGLY LACK OF WHITE MINISTERS AND WHITES IN GENERAL IN THE PROTEST MARCHES.   I RAISE THE QUESTION, WHERE ARE THEY? DID THE CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANZATIONS TRY TO REACH OUT TO THEM?  IF NOT WHY NOT?  WHATEVER IS OR IS NOT NEGOTIATED GOING FORWARD WILL NECESSARILY HAVE TO INCLUDE WHITE PEOPLE.  THEY MUST BE AT THE TABLE TO MAKE SURE THEY HEAR THE PLAINTS OF BLACKS AND VICE VERSA.  DR. KING WAS ALWAYS OPEN TO SITTING AT THE TABLE WITH THE OPPRESSORS.  WHY CAN”T WE? AND I RARELY IF EVER SAW DR. KING ANGRY,  WHAT CAN’T WE?
THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT FIFTY YEARS AGO INCLUDED WHITE MINISTERS, WHITE COLLEGE STUDENTS AS WELL AS ORGANIZATIONS LIKE THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CHRISTIANS AND JEWS.  WHERE ARE THESE ORGANIZATIONS NOW? WE WERE JOINED TOGETHER ON THE FRONT LINES OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND THEY WERE SUBJECT TO ARRESTS AND INTIMIDATION AND BRUTALITY AS WE WERE.  WHERE ARE THEY NOW? GIVEN THE DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES RACIALLY AND SOCIAL MANY BLACK PROTESTERS DO NOT LOOK LIKE THE PROTESTERS OF FIFTY YEARS AGO.  I BELIEVE THIS CAUSES FEAR AMONG MANY WHITES AND BLACKS WHO IN THEIR OWN WAY HAVE STEREOTYPED AND PROFILED THE NEW GROUP OF PROTESTERS.  FIFTY YEARS AGO THE CONFLICTS WERE MORE IN SOUTHERN STATES THAN IN NORTHERN INDUSTRIAL AREAS WE SEE TODAY. WHAT HAS CHANGED?
AS I PREPARED TO PREACH AT A PREDOMINANTLY WHITE CONGREGATION LAST WEEK IN BETHESDA, MD I REALIZED I HAD NOT GOTTEN OVER SOME OF MY OWN PERSONAL ANGER AND OUTRAGE OF THE SHOOTING DEATHS OF MICHAEL AND ERIC BY THE GUNS OF WHITE POLICEMAN.  I WAS A REAL MESS UNTIL I RECEIVED TWO EMAILS FROM CLOSE FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES WHO ENDED THEIR MESSAGE TO ME WITH THESE WORDS: “THERE IS STILL REASON TO CELEBRATE.”IT WAS NOT UNTIL I SAW THESE WORDS IN FRONT OF ME THAT I REALIZED I COULD NOT PREACH A SERMON REFLECTING MY ANGER AND GRIEF AND DISAPPOINTMENT OVER THE SHOOTING DEATHS. I TURNED IMMEDIATELY TO I CORINTHIANS 13 PAUL’S LETTER TO THE CHURCH IN THAT CITY. THE WORDS OF SCRIPTURE SPOKE VOLUMES ABOUT HOW I WAS APPROACHING MY SITUATION IN THE WRONG WAY.  IT HAS BEEN SAID THIS PARTICULAR EPISTLE IS THE BEST DEFINITION OF LOVE EVER PRINTED.  I ALLOWED PAUL’S WORDS TO TOUCH MY HEAD AND MY HEART AND IT SOON MADE A DIFFERENCE IN MY FEELINGS. I KNEW THERE WAS NO WAY FOR ME NOT TO BE OPEN AND PRAYERFUL IN MY TONE. I HAD TO PROVIDE AN OPENING FOR MYSELF BEFORE I COULD FIND AN OPENING FOR OTHERS.  I REMEMBER THE MANY LECTURES AND FOCUS GROUPS DISCUSSING WHETHER OR NOT  NONVIOLENCE COULD WORK AS A STRATEGY IN TODAY’S WORLD OF CONFLICTS.  WHEN I LEARNED OF THE HORRIFIC DEATH OF JOURNALIST JAMES FOLEY IT CAUSED ME TO WONDER WHETHER NONVIOLENCE COULD EVER BE PRACTICED IN TODAY’S WORLD AND I COULD NOT FIND AN ANSWER.  I PERSONALLY AM ALIVE TODAY HAVING PRACTICED NONVIOLENCE DURING MY PARTICIPATION IN MARCHES AND PROTESTS FIFTY YEARS AGO. MY MANYVISITS TO ALABAMA AND GEORGIA WERE FILLED WITH DANGER AND I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED OR INJURED ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS BUT I WAS NOT AND I AM GRATEFUL FOR THAT.
I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO HEAR AGAIN THE WORDS : NOT BY MIGHT BUT BY MY SPIRIT SAYS THE LORD.” I WILL CONTINUE TO BELIEVE JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL FOR MICHAEL BROWN AND ERIC GARNER AND TRAYVON MARTIN BECAUSE I HAVE MORE FAITH IN WHAT GOD CAN DO FOR AMERICA THAN WHAT AMERICA CAN DO FOR ITSELF. JUSTICE DOES IN FACT ROLL DOWN LIKE A MIGHTY STREAM EACH DAY IN THE LIVES OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD.  MY HOPE AND MY PRAYER IS THAT ALL OF US MAY FIND WAYS TO ENTER INTO DIALOGUE WITH THOSE WHOSE OPINIONS MAY DIFFER FROM OURS.  I BELIEVE GOD PROVIDES OPENINGS FOR US TO ENTER INTO IF WE ONLY WOULD ALLOW OURSELVES TO LISTEN FOR THE CLUES. I HOPE YOU AND I MAY FIND THE STRENGTH AND COURAGE TO BE OURSELVES WITHOUT MAKING IT DIFFICULT FOR OTHERS TO BE THEMSELVES.  THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM FOR COMMON GROUND BUT ITS UP TO US TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.  THERE IS ENOUGH ROOM AT THE TABLE OF NEGOTIATION AND RECONCILIATION FOR ALL OF US.  WHY NOT TAKE THAT FIRST STEP AND BEGIN A DIALOGUE WITH YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR CHILDREN YOUR ADVERSARIES-THE KIND OF DIALOGUE THAT DOES NOT PLACE BLAME RATHER IT BECOMES A DIALOGUE THAT IS OPEN TO CONFESSION.  BY DOING SO WE WILL BEGIN TO SEE CHANGE AND JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL IN OUR TIME.  AND SO IT IS!  DR. PAUL

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