Sports: The Tie that Binds

The improbable come from behind victory of the New England Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons left fans exhausted, elated (or distraught) depending on one’s allegiance.  This ‘Win for the Ages’ joins a list of great sport moments in Boston.

I grew up in Rhode Island with a natural allegiance to Boston teams.  Memorable moments in sports, both victories and painful losses, help define who we are and where we belong.

I remember watching the Boston Bruins in my Uncle Freddy’s living room…with  Bobby Orr flying through the air in 1970.  I remember listening to my transistor radio under the blankets, long after I was supposed to be asleep, as the great Johnny Most called the Celtics play by play.

My Uncle Bob, my Dad’s mischievous younger brother, gave me my first beer at age 16 (‘don’t tell your father’) as we watched on television the Patriot’s with Jim Plunkett as the QB.

In 1978 I was working in a supermarket as a tie breaking play-off game between the Red Sox and Yankees was broadcast over the stores sound system.   I remember the cries and curses that arose when Bucky ‘##&*ing’ Dent hit a home run to break our hearts.

On Sept. 12, 1979 I witnessed Carl Yazstremski reach the milestone of  3000 hits.  Witness is a bit of a stretch. My lifelong friend, Clyde Haworth ( a Yankee fan) had a dorm room off of Kenmore Square.  We sat on the roof, sipping a favorite beverage, listening to the game on the radio…with a partial view of Fenway Park. Such are the lengths we fans go to, when a team captures your heart.   https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=carl+yastrzemski+hit+3000&qpvt=carl+yastrzemski+hit+3000&view=detail&mid=0BC1239140A1C60B66D20BC1239140A1C60B66D2&FORM=VRDGAR

In 2000 I rode with my Dad in an ambulance as he went for radiation treatment.  His cancer had spread and the prognosis was poor.  Striving for any type of normalcy, I remember my Dad asking: ‘How did the Sox do last night?’

In 2004, four years after my Dad and Uncle Freddy had died, then living in Oregon, I watched with my friend Win Dolan (another New England transplant) as our Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.  We toasted my Dad and Freddy and all those who hadn’t lived to see this day.

Those who aren’t sport fans may think such stories are over stated, even childish.    But sports with their medley of heart-break and joy have a way of shaping who we are as we remember those living and dead, to whom we belong.  Those with whom we have a shared memory.

photo-tom-bradyThis past Sunday, like most New England fans, I thought all was lost.  But as the second half of the Super Bowl progressed, we found the impossible become the improbable become ‘a win for the ages’.  I shared the moment with friends while our buddy, Clyde Haworth (at the Super Bowl with his son Jake), texted video clips of the crowd… as despair gave way to delirium.

Such are the ties that bind us to one another.  Sports offer a storyline within which we share a lifetime of memories.  Sports serve too as a diversion from the painful realities of life.

In a few weeks, Spring Training begins for baseball in Florida and Arizona. The storyline continues as fans gather around their team and learn a new line up of players.  A new season means a fresh start for our team and for us.

We await those familiar words: ‘Play ball’!

 

 

Cherry Picking the Bible

Rev. Franklin Graham, an evangelical pastor and the president of the international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, sees no problem with the White House executive order that prevents refugees fleeing war-torn Syria (and other majority Muslim countries) from entering the United States.

For Graham, it’s simply “not a Bible issue.”

The Huffington Post spoke with Graham and asked whether it’s possible to reconcile Trump’s ban on refugees and limits on immigration with the Christian commandment to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger, and to be a Good Samaritan to those in need.

Graham said he doesn’t believe those two things need to be reconciled.

“It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue,” Graham told HuffPost. “We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/frankling-graham-refugees_us_5889049ce4b061cf898c6c42

In the past, Graham has drawn criticism for making inflammatory remarks about Muslims and the faith they practice. He’s demonstrated an inability, or a refusal, to understand the difference between ISIS, a terrorist group, and Islam, a religion followed by 1.6 billion people around the world.

For Franklin, “It’s simply not a Bible issue.”

Really?

My question is: ‘Franklin, how do you respond to the Scripture which advocates for those most vulnerable?’ To do otherwise is to ‘cherry pick’ from the Bible to support one’s own bias.

Leviticus 19:33-34:
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Deuteronomy 10:17-19
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
Matthew 25:42

“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.”

For Christians like me who look to the Bible for guidance, how can we not stand with the refugees and against our president’s immigration policy?

Jesus in Matthew 22: 20 – 22 was asked how we are to navigate between our life as a citizen and as a person of faith. In affect he is asked, ‘what do we do when Caesar asks us to do one thing and the teachings of our faith would have us do the other’?

Jesus responds: ‘Render unto the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and unto God the things that belong to God’. Of course, that’s the rub. Discerning where our allegiance rests.

Rev. Graham in saying ‘this is not a Bible issue’, is choosing to bow down to the emperor. That of course is his right. But to say ‘it isn’t a Bible issue’, is simply not true.

Refugee woman with baby

No one wants to be an immigrant or refugee. We become immigrants and refugees because circumstances of war, violence, poverty force people to make a terrible choice. To leave one’s homes in the desperate search for stability, safety and hope.

President Trump is effective in playing the ‘fear card’. But in reality our welcome of refugees is paltry compared to Europe. For example in 2015/16 Germany a country of 80 million people accepted 950,000 refugees (majority from Syria). In contrast over that same period we accepted 15,000 Syrian refugees and we are a country of over 300 million.

In the face of the President’s executive order(s) to close the borders, build a wall, institute a religious litmus test (Christians first) and impose ‘extreme vetting’ on refugees who have fled violence and terrorism… I ask my fellow Christians: ‘Who will you follow?’

Note:  For information on President’s Executive Order of January 27th and the subsequent effect: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/us/politics/white-house-official-in-reversal-says-green-card-holders-wont-be-barred.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=1

Stories from the March: We Belong to One Another

The Women’s March https://www.womensmarch.com on the day following President Trump’s Inauguration was a grassroots movement that brought millions into the streets (in cities across the nation and world).  Each person who marched has their own story. 

This is the second of two ‘guest blog’ installments by my friend and pastoral colleague, Julie Flowers https://www.fbcbeverly.org/ In the week since the March, President Trump has already written a flurry of executive orders and signaled plans for new laws.  Changes that I believe will erode our core values as a nation. 

Democracy is a fragile enterprise and requires that each generation give voice to and protect those core values that define who we want to be.  I invite you to read Julie’s story, reflect on what you hold dear and get involved.  

Installment 2: In Which We March

(Intersectionality, Connection, Anti-Racism, Feminism, and a Moment That Could be a Movement)

 We followed the crush of people up the stairs and out of the Metro station, stepping out into the overcast Washington, D.C. morning. Elisabeth and I paused, trying to get our bearings. There were people everywhere. There were street vendors calling to us, selling hats, shirts, and buttons; there were crowds moving in a throng toward the National Mall; there were Women’s March volunteers in orange mesh vests, answering questions and pointing the way toward where the marchers were gathering: down toward the Mall, past the vast island of port-a-potties, a chanting, cheering, sign-holding crowded that already, even at this early morning hour, stretched for city blocks. Taking it all in, Elisabeth and I set out toward the Mall, as chants of “Fired up! Ready to go!” echoed just beyond us.

photo-womens-march-4

We made our way, merging into the crowd we had seen in the distance. Now we were not outsiders looking in – we were one with this mass of people, closely packed into the streets. The crowd was mostly women, although there were certainly a large number of men – of all ages, all races, and with varied stories. Some were there in wheelchairs. Others walked with a walker or a cane. Some clutched the hands of young children or wore babies in carriers, securely strapped to their bodies. And we were a part of it.

All around us, we saw signs – “Look at that one!” we would call out to one another, as we noticed a favorite. We took pictures. Everyone was talking, strangers in the crowd becoming friends, even if only for those few moments. We were united in a common cause – resisting hate and standing up for women, for our POC sisters and brothers, for immigrants, for Muslims, for the environment, for education, for freedom.

photo-womens-march-3

Something happened, there in that place. For those moments, in that unique time, in a crowd that could have been pushy and angry with one another, annoyed at being packed in too tight and too close, annoyed at being hungry and thirsty and tired, the opposite happened. People saw one another. People worked together to make sure a wheelchair could easily pass through. Young people stopped to help older people down a curb or over a low fence. A middle-aged woman led a young woman who looked faint out of the tightest part of the crowd by the hand. They had only met moments before when the older woman noticed the younger one was struggling, and now, in this place, they were friends – and more than that – they belonged to one another.

There was an attention to and a care for the mutual well-being of those in that crowd. I saw people look one another in the eye. I heard people offer words of care, kindness, and support. I saw countless people in one area open bags and produce a wide array of snacks for a little boy who was hungry.

Lilla Watson, an Indigenous woman and artist from Australia, said:

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is tied up with mine, then let us work together.”

In those moments, crowded together there on the National Mall, spilling over onto city street upon city street, there was the spark of the realization that our liberation is, indeed, bound up with one another. We were a sea of stories; a sea of backgrounds; a sea of experiences, and we could not – and we cannot – rise without one another.

Feminism – and make no mistake, the feminist movement has room for women and men – must be an intersectional endeavor if we truly want to bring about our shared liberation. Intersectionality, a term first coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw is a means to express the reality that women experience oppression in varying configurations and degrees of intensity.

There is no one-size-fits-all type of feminism. For example, black women face both sexism and racism as they navigate their day-to-day lives. Or a black lesbian woman faces racism, sexism, and homophobia. Intersectionality is the term given to acknowledging those layers and unique lived experiences of women.

To forge a way forward, to truly resist the hateful rhetoric and damaging and dangerous actions of Donald Trump’s administration, we must acknowledge that our liberation is bound up in one another’s. As a white woman, too, I am committed to acknowledging and checking the privilege that the system affords me for nothing more than the color of the skin into which I was born, and to inviting the voices and the experiences and the leadership of my sisters of color to come forward. Women and men of color in this nation have been fighting and marching and chanting and organizing against a system that oppresses and disenfranchises them for hundreds of years.

photo-womens-march-5

For many of us, waking up in despair on November 9th and all that has unfolded since, has been but a small taste of what it’s been like to stand in their shoes in this nation. Respect for their voices, their experiences, and their struggle is imperative if we wish to move ahead and win liberation against tyranny and hate for all of us. If we wish to move ahead and save our planet. If we wish to move ahead and protect women’s rights to make choices about their own bodies. If we wish to move ahead and fight for equal rights and dignity and justice for all people.

Our liberation is bound up with each other. Divided, we will fall. There is no question.

The women’s marches – not only in Washington, D.C. but all across the nation and around the world – were a moment. But there is, within that moment, the power and the potential to unleash a movement. A beautiful, powerful, intersectional, anti-racist, feminist, justice-seeking, movement.

The chants of the march echo still in my ears: “The people, united, will never be defeated!”

May it be so.

If you want to read more about feminism, intersectionality, and the Women’s March, here are a few resources (not intended to exhaustive in any way!) to get you started:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/why-our-feminism-must-be-intersectional/

http://www.vox.com/identities/2017/1/17/14267766/womens-march-on-washington-inauguration-trump-feminism-intersectionaltiy-race-class

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/intersectionality-womens-march-on-washington_us_5883e2bce4b096b4a23248bb

Stories from the March: Tomorrow There’ll Be More of Us

The Women’s March https://www.womensmarch.com on the day following President Trump’s Inauguration was a grassroots movement that brought millions into the streets.  They marched in Washington D.C and in cities large and small across the nation (and around the world).  They marched with the message that ours is a nation of inclusion and that the moral health of our nation is measured by how we treat one another, particularly those who are most vulnerable. 

Each person who marched has their own story.  Below in two installments is a reflection by my friend and pastoral colleague, Julie Flowers.  I invite you to read and  get involved.

Installment 1: In Which We Arrive in Washington

 I looked at my suitcase, giving it one last check to make sure I had everything. Full raingear, ski pants, ski jacket, mittens, emergency rain ponchos, first aid kit, extra wool socks, portable phone charger, bandana, shirts with feminist messages on them – all there. Granola bars, water bottle, small bag to carry with me – also there. I looked by the door where things were piled up and ready to go. Large white foamcore board, markers, paints, and paintbrushes were all set. I was headed to the Women’s March on Washington, and I wanted to be prepared for anything.

The next morning, following our 12 hour drive traffic-filled (all marchers!) to Maryland, my friend Elisabeth and I woke to an unseasonably warm day (I didn’t need any of my emergency supplies!) and headed out. We climbed into the hotel’s metro shuttle, already filled with other women of all ages, and it took us to the station, where we hopped on a train headed into D.C. It was filled with women and men of all ages and from all over the country and of all races and with diverse stories – all headed to the March.

The train was crowded, but the atmosphere was warm and celebratory. People looked one another in the eye. They connected. They spoke with warmth. We were there, together, for a shared purpose. We were there to show the new administration that, together, we would stand up and fight for women’s rights, for LGBTQIA rights, for an end to racism and

photo-womens-march-2
Elisabeth and Julie

systemic oppression, for the environment, for our children, for our public schools, and for peace and justice for all people.

 

The metro stopped at Judiciary Square. Elisabeth and I got off, along with thousands of our closest friends. We could not do much more than get off, however – the metro platform outside the train was filled with those headed to the march. In both directions, along the platform and up the stairs toward street level, all we would see were other people, holding signs, linking arms, ready to stand up, ready to show the beautiful and diverse face of this nation to its new leader. We were ready to show the new administration what democracy looks like; ready to show the President that America’s diversity is her strength.

A cheer suddenly rolled along the crowd as we waited to ascend into the light of day. Like a rumble of thunder coming over a plain, it started somewhere in the distance of that metro station and it roared over us, growing steadily as more voices joined in. People clapped. And cheered. We were ready.

I looked ahead of me, and a sign carried by another woman caught my eye. “Tomorrow there’ll be more of us,” it read.


photo-womens-march-1Now, if you, like me, are a Hamilton fan http://www.hamiltonbroadway.com you will recognize that as a line from the song “The Story of Tonight.” I was struck by the poignant message – and by the promise – of that sign. It spoke of a movement, not just a moment (more Hamilton references!). It spoke of a commitment to stand up, to speak out, to fight for our planet and for its people, for our sisters and brothers, for our children, that would extend far beyond that one Saturday.

“Raise a glass to freedom,” Hamilton and his friends sing in that song. “Something they can never take away no matter what they tell you.” Those words echoed in my head as we climbed the stairs toward the street level, following the woman carrying the sign. I felt tears well in my eyes as I felt the power and poignancy of that moment – that moment when I, along with millions of others all around the nation, were taking to the streets to insist that freedom is, indeed, something that can never be taken away; to insist that we the people are stronger than fear, stronger than hate, stronger than division, stronger than executive orders designed to turn back the clock and strip us of our rights.

“Tomorrow there’ll be more of us,” I thought, as we stepped out, blinking, into the daylight.

Installment 2: In Which We March to follow.

 

 

When Faith and Politics Meet

Some friends on Facebook who share my Christian faith have suggested that I’ve crossed a line between politics and faith.  In particular it has been suggested that I’ve become too political by supporting the upcoming Women’s March https://www.womensmarch.com and critiquing President Trump’s stated policy on deportation, climate change, women’s rights.

I offer this response.

‘Dear Friends:   Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the upcoming Women’s March.   You are correct in pointing out that this Women’s March in Washington D. C and similar marches taking place in cities across the United States are supported and being promoted by a wide variety of groups. Some of these groups are explicitly political.  Many others are rooted in their faith.  

This reminds me of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s  when a wide range of groups, some overtly political, secular and some faith-based  worked in common cause to ensure civil rights for all.  While there were surely differences amongst such groups, their shared desire to protect and expand civil rights was a uniting factor.

At the church I serve,https://www.fbcbeverly.org/ we  have several members who will be in Washington D.C and many more in Boston. Each are going at their own expense guided by their faith and conscience.  Dr. King said ‘that the church is to be the conscience of the state’. 

Jesus said in Luke 20: 25 ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s’.  The rub is discerning when to follow the emperor and when our faith says ‘no’.

For many of us, the policies voiced by President Trump will have profound implications for us and our neighbors:  Deportation of up to 11 million undocumented neighbors; roll back of climate change treaty, undermining of Women’s reproductive rights, potential loss of affordable health care etc.   The question for all of us as people of faith is:  How does our faith inform us as citizens?  What would our faith have us do?  What do we do when our faith informed conscience is at odds with the policies of our government? 

 I believe that people of good will can come to different conclusions as to how ones faith speaks to the policies of our time.  I respect if your faith leads you to a different conclusion.  The creative tension is that we are each responsible for listening for the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

 The challenge for all of us is to remain in respectful relationship.  Remain in relationship even as we disagree.  Believing that in our passionate disagreement the Spirit remains at work…expanding our hearts and minds as to what is possible.

 I share with you a love for this nation and a love for God.   I join you in praying for wisdom and for the  well-being of President Trump and his administration and for all elected officials of whatever political persuasion.   With you I commit to helping our nation become more loving and just.

Grace and peace be yours’. ~ Kent

Dr. King Still Speaks

This most recent presidential election season saw the normalizing of white nationalism and fanning of racial tension for the cause of political expediency.  The Black Lives Matter movement reminds us that racism, particularly within the judicial system, where people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of those incarcerated, remains a persistent stain upon the soul of our nation.

We have much work to do.

Dr. King was a prophet.  He spoke truth to power. His message was rooted in the righteous anger of prophets like Amos 5:24 and Jesus who wept over Jerusalem and said ‘If now, even now, you knew the things that make for peace.’

Dr. King’s letter from his jail cell in Birmingham still speaks.  Speaks to those of us who are complicit in our silence.  Speaks to encourage those standing up for those on the margins (people of color, the poor, refugees, undocumented immigrants, LGBTQ, women denied equal rights).

Dr. King still speaks.  Let us listen.  Let us respond. ~ Kent Harrop

mlk-jail

Letter from Birmingham Jail or Letter from Birmingham City Jail, is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an American civil rights leader. . He gave bits and pieces of the letter to his lawyers to take back to movement headquarters, where the Reverend Wyatt Walker began compiling and editing the literary jigsaw puzzle.

King’s letter is a response to a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen on April 12, 1963, titled “A Call For Unity“. The clergymen agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets. They criticized Martin Luther King, calling him an “outside agitator” who causes trouble in the streets of Birmingham.  Below are highlights from the more lengthy letter penned by Dr. King.

 

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

16 April 1963 My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” ….

…But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”;

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. There are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.”  So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.

No One Left Behind

In the last posting of GreenPreacher (Running and Dancing for Life)  we met Kelly Pheulpin.  We learned about her journey to lose over 100 lbs and eventually become a Zumba instructor.  In today’s guest blog, Kelly shares her story as the leader of the ‘Slowest Runners’ and her commitment to help others  become healthier too.

In our highly individualistic and competitive culture, Kelly and friends are committed to a counter-cultural journey where the slowest runner sets the pace, where no one is left behind and everyone wins. Imagine.

                                                       No One Left Behind

2012 brought me a year of firsts.  I taught my first solo Zumba class, I joined a running club, and I tried a distance longer than a 5K. I decided to join the Wicked Running Club because I wanted to find a running partner to help me become faster and more consistent with my running. What I found was a family.

Our color is red and when you put on that red shirt for the first time you right away feel like part of the club, and you usually meet a few members at a race. In reality, what joining Wicked has done is opened the door for everyone in the club to offer encouragement on this journey. There is no better feeling in the world than coming around the bend to a sea of red screaming and cheering you in. You feel unstoppable. Having a running community at your fingertips allows you to meet up with training buddies with the same pace or goals. 

The running community welcomed me with open arms and I have been a permanent fixture ever since.  I now lead a training group through Wicked called “The Slowest Runner Sets The Pace”. We meet several times a week and I will happily run with whoever my slowest runner is. It is empowering to help someone else accomplish their running goals. I have been lovingly named the “Queen of the Slowest Runners”, which is a title I take very seriously. I believe that any runner, no matter their pace, is destined for their own greatness whatever that may be.

photo-wicked-runners-club

Through my work with the Slowest Runners I accomplished things this year (2016) I never thought I could: I trained and ran my first ultra marathon of 30 miles. When I received a race entry into Ghost train an ultra-marathon I said, “Thank you, but I can’t run this. I have never run more than a ½ marathon.” However, I’m not a quitter and I love challenges so I decided (after a time) to think about it. As I thought about it, I realized that I COULD do this. Next, came finding other crazy runners willing to join me in this quest. I found an amazing training partner, Sandy, which helped me achieve my goal.

Sandy and I started our training 8 months before the big day. We ran through most of the North Shore and sometimes in New Hampshire as well. We even went on vacation together to stay on track. (When race day came we found we had something else in common; we over pack! Good thing our husbands love us and were willing to be our race support.)

As we stepped up to the start line we were so excited and nervous at the same time. The race started and we were on our way. Just as in our training we decided to document the miles with selfies. We found out fast that we didn’t have enough fingers to correspond with the miles completed and take the photos but we were laughing and enjoying the adventure. We had two fifteen mile loops to complete our goal of 30 miles. When we came in from our first 15 miles we were wet from rain but in good spirits. Our friend and fellow runner, Patty, ran us in for the last quarter-mile. She gave us just the right amount of motivation to keep us going. Our husbands gave us big hugs and kisses and wished us luck on our next loop.

We were still having fun and laughs as the miles kept adding up. As we were heading towards the final miles and dusk was setting in my Aunt Ann was heading back out for her third loop. She provided words of encouragement and told us how proud she was of us for completing this race. We now had the end in sight and our pace was speeding up. We saw our husbands and I started to get so excited and emotional we had finished! Together Sandy and I had tackled Ghost Train, which meant that we can now call ourselves Ultra-Marathoners. Our husbands wrapped us in their arms and told us how proud they were. To this day this remains my favorite race and I can’t wait to try it again next year.

photo-kelly-and-team
Kelly and her team of Slowest Runners

Running and Zumba have become integral parts of my journey to healthier living. What’s important is finding the regimen that works for you and sticking to it. For some, like me, the social aspect is key. But for others, it’s getting into the routine. For everyone, though, this is about making a commitment to yourself and going on a journey to find what works. It wasn’t easy getting here… but it’s what gets me up in the morning, literally!’

Thanks to Kelly for sharing her story. As her friend and one of her pastors at First Baptist in Beverly, I am inspired by her commitment to serving others.  This is a message that is needed now more than ever.

I invite you to read and be inspired to be ‘your best self’ in this New Year.  Kelly and company will be happy to provide support.  To learn more about Wicked Running Club go to: http://www.wickedrunningclub.com