Once Again On This Sacred Day I Sit and I Ponder
Last year at this time, I wrote some words that you can still find here. Maybe they will provide a little context for this post.
The church that I belong to, and that is said loosely in this day and age, is part and parcel of the side of the movement shaped by the scholar Alexander Campbell. He had no room for some things and a lot of room for other things. He was all about restoring the New Testament church, and that took on a life of its own. He was extraordinarily for his day and age.
His partner in all things restoration in the early to mid-1800s was Barton W. Stone. While Campbell was wealthy, Stone not. They were on opposite ends of the economic and the theological spectra. While Campbell was wanting to “restore the church,” Stone was wanting to influence the church toward a way of living in the world. With his apocalyptic vision, he likely would have been in the social justice movement of the 1960s. Stone also took his own version of a vow of poverty. He was as poor as Campbell was rich.
It is curious that while Campbell’s influence came strongly up the wealthier churches, and many in the South, there were also some in the north. Largely speaking, churches of Christ was a southern movement, and with the southern movement came interests in things that southerners wanted: states rights, slavery, and wealth. At least that’s what the wealthy folk wanted. Take any map of the 1860s and locate the density of slavery juxtaposed with wealth and cotton, and you’ll see what I mean.
My denomination did not care for Martin Luther King, Jr., nor the Civil Rights Movement. Social gospel is a bad phrase, social justice is a creation of left-wing Marxists who want to take over our country. CRT (Critical Race Theory) and DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and books are of the devil and those left-wing Marxists.
So, I should not be surprised when my congregation and my denomination opts not to care nor even mention Juneteenth. After all, saving souls is the main thing and what does Juneteenth have to do with saving souls? Actually, it has a lot to do with the health and welfare and lived experiences of Black Americans. The gospel is pond-water weak unless it connects with people’s lived experiences.
So, today, I’ll just live in my disappointment. I also live in the joy and worship services where Juneteenth was emphasized, Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, and the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
I’ll go back and re-read what I wrote on this day a year ago. Will also read a few other things that are important.
As white Americans, there are some things to learn about Juneteenth and its people:
1) If we want to be anti-racist, learn about this holiday, and learn what it means to those who celebrate it wholeheartedly today.
2) Do you own work, and do not depend upon Black friends to be our teachers. Give them a break.
3) Read good literature about the holiday starting with Kendi and Tisby.
4) Realize that whatever we learned in school about Juneteenth was just a thumb-nail sketch of what really was experienced by the people yearning to be free.
5) Realize that those of us and our families who have forever been free, are clueless about people who protested before they set foot on the slave ship, during the Middle Passage, after the ships came into American waters, and every day under the scorching sun across the South as they made money for people who cared nothing about them except to earn them the next dollar from cotton sales.
6) Understand that there are different degrees of freedom. There is freedom from the lash and bondage to en-slavers, but then there are Black taxes, Black codes, lynchings, the Great Migration, red-lining, and all manner of other things in your community. There is the onslaught of macroaggressions and microaggressions.
7) Know that just because your white leaders say, “We have no racial issues in this town,” that they are probably wrong. Get to know over the course of time your Black brothers and sisters, and when the time is right, ask them, “Are there racial problems in this town?”
8). Understand that while you and I may never have own people, or our people may have never owned other people, that we benefit by structures designed to reward us.
9) Wrap you head around the notion of the fact that we are just now coming to officially honor Juneteenth in all of its glory, and Republican congresses across the country are working hard to stamp out CRT (which they are uninformed about), DEI, books by important authors, and other things. How can Juneteenth be important when Black authors who lived in those hard days of the ’30s and ’40s be ignored and marginalized?
10) They myth is that Black Americans were immediately free. The true and brutal story is that en-slavers wanted them around for a few more harvests. Those who took their freedom were likely to have faced the KKK or other painful realities of enslavement. So, no, June 19, 1865, did not immediately bring about freedom. It was a start, and a painful one in which it took years to get where we are now as a country. Check out this article for more details.
11) Do what you can to make the world a better place, a place of equity and inclusion, a place where anti-racism lives on. Read a book written by a Black author, buy from local Black-own businesses, and contribute to Black-led organizations.