Yesterday’s Notes on 3 conversations/observations with 3 women on Sunday…
From this morning’s readings for my Bible in a Year Project. And, I am thinking that a people (based on their spiritual behavior) can pronounce a curse upon themselves; a curse that can be passed on to the next generation:
Deuteronomy 28: 36-42 (NIV)
“The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. 37 You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the Lord will drive you. 38 You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it. 39 You will plant vineyards and cultivate them but you will not drink the wine or gather the grapes, because worms will eat them. 40 You will have olive trees throughout your country but you will not use the oil, because the olives will drop off. 41 You will have sons and daughters but you will not keep them, because they will go into captivity. 42 Swarms of locusts will take over all your trees and the crops of your land.”
Deuteronomy 31: 9-13 (NIV)
“So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the Levitical priests, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Festival of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
My concern whenever I approach this topic publically (although I often discuss this issue with friends privately), is the danger of encouraging and creating some: “Blame the victim” ammunition for some right-wing/conservative thinker who is motivated by ill-will toward communities of color. It helped that last night I watched a sermon by Rev. Thomas L. Wilder of Bethel Baptist Church of Birmingham Al. (http://www.bethelcollegeville.org/); where he talked honestly (as honest as one can be in public) about the “things” holding Black folks back; interestingly he focused on those things for which we could control without the “involvement” or the referencing of “White People”. We must all be honest; there are so many important developmental and enriching things in our lives, for which we have total control. For example one of my “financial vices” is that I purchase books for the young people in my church; to date no one (White or Black) in any of the bookstores I visit has tried to stop me! And so, sometimes I think we need to talk honestly and (no offense) ignore how people of bad intentions will interpret our discussion. It is not that I am maliciously excluding any group of folks; I am simply, at least for the moment, and for the purposes of this writing, ignoring them. I am convinced that the “curse” that is hurting, hindering and holding our people back from reaching true greatness, is not racism; no matter how denying, destructive and diminishing an institution it is structured to be. It is not our economic or employment situation (or the economic-employment status of the nation). It is not our schools, even though they are in serious need of revolutionary revamping. It is not our Churches, as most of them would collapse financially and structurally without the dedicated hard work and commitment of our women (who gracefully allow us men to “think” we are in charge). It is not our homes, as too many women are doing an excellent job (the best job that could be done under the present conditions) of holding them, and the families in them together. I am thoroughly convinced that the “curse” that afflicts us is that a critical mass (too many for our communities to overcome its deleterious effects) of our men are simply not stepping up to the spiritual and moral plate. I painfully saw this in my church yesterday: “Where”, I asked, “are the men who can set a positive role model for the young men and women in this church?” “Where”, I wondered, “are the men who are following the role model of Jesus Christ?” I am chairing a major fundraising project at the church (the team had to stay late after church to work. I may be the chair, but the truth is that without the women on my committee the effort would collapse.) “Why”, I thought, “am I the only man working in this room?” “Where”, I thought is the spiritual and moral leadership we so desperately need in our community?” All of these young men (and women) running wild and out of control in our neighborhoods; acting out and underperforming in schools; with their behinds, and improper behavior on full display to the public. If my biology serves me right, all of these young people had to have a mother and father; some male, biologically linked to them or not, ought to take some interest and concern in their well-being and development. One of my first acts upon returning to my home church was to check on the school performance of some of the young people. I checked on one high school young lady’s progress on a reading assignment I gave her before I left; (I know Shelia Jackson, an educator never truly retires :-). I gave her a copy of: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers; she (to my surprise), hugged me and patted me on the back after giving me her report. I was quite shocked as she is usually very quiet and very much to herself. I felt that she was expressing with that hug what another young lady put into words on that same day: “I am so glad you are back Brother Johnson, your presence was missed.” We men are very much missing and in a state of in-action. I learned a very important principle as a principal: Young people may push back and against authority (for teenagers, that’s actually part of their developmental psychological job description); but the truth is, they actually want to live in a very orderly, organized, safe and predictable environment. They also, as those two young ladies let me know on Sunday, appreciate and respect a man that has high expectations, high life-standards, and high spiritual standards, and will stand firm in them. Our young people desperately need our guidance, and to see a blueprint of model-behavior from which they can design their own behavior. Our young people want so much for us to be men to their childhood.