Monday June 8th
It is an indelible picture scared into our nation’s history.
American citizens, exercising their right of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.
American military personnel, federal officers, local police, some without badges or identification, dispersing citizens with force, using chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash bang grenades, and horses as a wedge to divide and disperse those exercising their right to assemble.
American President, members of the Cabinet, advisors, security escorts walking, standing in front of St John’s Episcopal Church, the “Church of the Presidents”.
“A Bible”, not one’s own, read or pondered, “a Bible” used as a prop, a tool for propaganda, a scandalize claim of divine blessing.
“A Bible” bounded about, held overhead by a President, without being opened, read, or shared as guiding truth in order to goodness.
Not the first time a Bible was abused in our nation’s history, nor will it be the last. It was used by our ancestors to mark their status as a “chosen race of god, true descendants of Adam.” It was used by our ancestors to justify the removal and genocide of indigenous peoples. It was used by our ancestors to justify slavery. It was used by our ancestors as the wrote the Declaration of Independence. It was used by our ancestors as they wrote the Constitution of the United States, marking slaves as only “three fifths” of a true, whole person. It was used by our ancestors. it is used by many in our day, not for truth, but as a cover for lies.
Maybe, just maybe, such mis-use leads to right-use. If only the President would open the Bible, find, read and digest the words, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
If only, many of us who have in our possession, not just a Bible, but our own Bible, would, for starters, read the words and teaching of Jesus, the so called “red letters”, move on to at least one of the Prophets from of the Old Testament, or the Psalms, or one of the oldest known written books, Ecclesiastics, we might, together, begin to paint a new picture, one with many colors, painting a picture of a nation “sealed in liberty and dedicated to the proposition”, that all are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Maybe, just maybe we could begin to tear down the walls of privilege and racism and built a community that discovers joy in diversity.
When I was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (notice, the connection between person, calling and place, minister, Word, Sacrament, USA) Dr. Geddes Hanson, my mentor and Professor from Princeton Theological Seminary offered the sermon and he declared what this guiding principle for the Church “When they come to us they come to hear the Word of God and if we do not have the Word of God to say to them, we are superfluous, they do not need us.”
May we always need God’s Word, handle it rightly, and have something of great value not only to say, but do.