Monday, August 14, 2017

A Letter. . .

            I have been thinking about how I would like to respond to the events of August 11-12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.                 

            First of all I want to express my appreciation for my clergy colleagues who gave up a significant piece of their busy schedules in order to be a physical witness to the Gospel.  They participated in the emergency response training.  They were as prepared as anyone ever could be for the possibility of violence or arrest.  They wore their robes and clergy stoles as clear identifiers that this was the cost of discipleship and vocation.  They stood in silent witness between the two competing worldviews.  Their witness was powerful.

            Secondly I want to say that so many have spoken eloquent words about how you navigate through such events as we saw this past weekend.  One person reminded us to recall Fred Rodgers words “Look for the helpers.”  Others have initiated candlelight vigils throughout our country as public witness.  Many have expressed condolences for the loss of life:  Heather Heyer, Lieutenant Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Bates.

            As I have reflected over the events and the responses of this weekend, I think we also need some suggestions to ourselves about how we move forward – especially how we can speak to our children and youth.  There are a variety of opportunities being offered and to be offered to continue the dialogue of race in America.  Those are all good ways to engage in thoughtful reflection and I encourage anyone to do so.  The following ideas  are some additional things we can do.


            Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, a theologian, a writer, and a member of the resistance movement and he died in a German Concentration Camp.  Google his name and you can find a variety of sources to tell you about his life.  His writings are also in print.   This is only one of many books to introduce this courageous pastor to you. 
            Wonder of Wonders:  Christmas with Dietrich Bonhoeffer written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

            Anne Frank was a young German Jew who was sheltered in the attic of a Christian home.  She kept a journal of her life which has had a profound affect on countless people as they learned through her the horrors of Nazi rule.  She and her family were eventually found and removed to the Bergen-Belson concentration camp where she died in 1945. 

            Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank has been translated into English and is widely available.

         Although I do not know this book, it does appear to be a resource that is helpful to discuss racism and that horrific practice once used by such organizations as the KKK.  I  included in the “cut and paste” the information of the various awards this book received.

            The Lynching of Louie Sam by Elizabeth Stewart. 

Notable Books for a Global Society White Ravens Collection,
International Youth Library,
Munich Skipping Stones Honor Book Best Books for Kids & Teens,
Canadian Children’s Book Centre 
Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction 
John Spray Mystery Award Libbylit Prize (Belgium),
French edition Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award finalist Snow Willow Young Reader’s Choice Award nomination Arthur Ellis Award finalist,
Crime Writers of Canada 

            Another book that I can not personally vouch for but which seems to be written so that it is accessible to a wide variety of readers is the book.  Again, I am doing a “cut and paste” from her website to show the recognition this book has received.

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.
Released August 2010:
Houghton Mifflin

Junior Library Guild Selection
Richie’s Pick “It is, of course, through reading a book like this — and understanding the “Why?” — that we gain the insight necessary to help stop the flames of hatred and fear from spreading in whatever direction they next travel.”
Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year 2010
School Library Journal Best Children’s Book of the Year 2010
Kirkus Best Books for Teens 2010
Horn Book Magazine 2010 Fanfare List
Booklist Top of the List Winner for 2010 and Editor’s Choice for 2010
Washington Post Best Children’s Book of 2010
a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best
an ALA Notable title
CCBC Choices 2011 title


         The pictures that appear on our televisions and social media are disturbing.  Nevertheless it is important to talk with our children in an age appropriate manner.  “We are going to change the channel (or turn the TV off) because the news right now is showing people doing hateful things.  It’s not OK to treat one another like that.”  By the time children are elementary and pre-teen those conversations will get longer and more specific.  The books just mentioned may be  helpful to you. 
            Failing to talk about this subject though tells our children a message we don’t want to communicate.  This evil is to be named not ignored.  And why this is evil is to be named so that our children are equipped when they are confronted by the language of hate.

         For people of faith, we have a lot of stories to tell our children.  Let them hear by our words and see by our actions that we have heard Jesus say:  I command you to love one another.

            For people of our nation, let our children and youth hear from us as adults those words and ideas from the “Pledge of Allegiance”.  We pledge allegiance to the flag of The United States of America, not a Nazi flag, or a Confederate flag, or a Don’t Tread on Me flag.  Those all represent other times and other meanings – but our allegiance is to the flag that represents this great nation.  That clarification to the Pledge was made in 1923 and it seems to me to continue to be appropriate.  The concluding words of the Pledge have stood since its introduction in 1892 – one nation, with liberty and justice for all.         
These are the values that bind us together as a nation.  These are the values we are to teach our children.  These are the values that endure in the midst of events such as occurred in Charlottesville.


Grace and Peace

Rev. Clara