The American Swastika

The first time I attended an AA meeting, I was six days sober. I read the poster of the 12 Steps. I thought to myself (confidently), “Wow! I’m already on Step 10!”

It was not long before I started drinking again.

Is that really a surprise?

You see, I was not honest. I was not honest with myself or my condition at that time. I wanted to believe that I had evolved so much faster than I truly had. I wanted to believe that by simply removing alcohol from system for six days I could ignore the hard work of self-reflection and living sober that was yet come.

I also was not honest in my recovery with my sponsor, my wife, my church, or my friends. I still kept secrets. I refused to admit all my wrongdoing. There was one secret in particular that I kept. It related to the ways I was getting the necessary funds to pay for all of my alcohol. (Essentially, what I defined as “borrowing” the State of New York defined as “extorting.”)

I was unwilling to acknowledge completely that alcohol was simply one part of the problem. It ran much deeper than drinking too much.

And so, because of that, I did not stay sober for long. I found myself drinking again a short while later. Only this time, I drank more often and I drank much more. I kept telling myself it was only a phase; it wasn’t that big a deal; I could stop anytime—pretty much all of the excuses you have all heard in every movie or TV show about addiction ever.

Because I could not come clean, I became much dirtier.

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In our country, we have not yet fully come to terms with our disease of racism. So it really is no surprise that events common in 1950 and 1900 and 1860 and since the earliest days of our nation were occurring still in 2017.

One of the starkest examples of this is that we still allow the American Swastika to fly.

The fact that many people in the country are still okay with and supportive of the Confederate flag and other symbols of the Confederacy shows that we are not being honest. People try to wipe away the hateful words that were associated with not only the symbols but also the very existence of the Confederacy.

We must be honest. We must be honest that the Articles of Confederacy stated that non-white people were inferior. We must be honest that at the heart of the Civil War was the desire to have the right to buy and sell human beings. We must be honest that the symbols that have gone up across the country did not go up right after the war; they were erected in 1900 with the proliferation of Jim Crow. They were erected in 1950 as a protest against the Civil Rights movement. These monuments were not intended as a way to preserve history, they were intended to intimidate and remind people they should stay in their place. We have tried to keep our racism and racist meanings behind our symbols a secret for too long.

The American Swastika still flies because, as a country, we have been unwilling to admit our wrongdoing.

bree_newsome_by_venneccablind-d8z707h

And so, because of that, we will continue to face events like we experienced this past weekend. We will never recover from the disease and addiction of racism for long until we finally decide to embark upon the self-reflection that is necessary for growth. We need to acknowledge that events like this past weekend are only one part of the problem. The true problem runs much deeper.

Until we come clean, we will continue to get dirtier.

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We all must acknowledge our wrongdoing—both in our actions and in our inaction; in our words and our silence. We must learn to listen. We must learn to face hard truths. We must give up holding on to only what we want, what we like, and what we are comfortable with. We must seek to journey to a place of recovery.

And that will come only with hard work. But that’s better than walking along blindly until another tragedy occurs.

 

*Artwork from https://venneccablind.deviantart.com/art/Bree-Newsome-542842829

When You Fail At Lent

Doesn’t it suck to fail?

And I am not necessarily talking about the big, dramatic failures of life. I just mean those times when you had your sights set on an attainable goal and something happened to prevent you from achieving it.

Lent does this to me a lot. I enter into a 40 day period of fasting. I struggle for the first few days but then get into a new rhythm and find that my life does indeed go on without whatever it is I am giving up.

But then something happens: a bad day, an uncomfortable interaction with another person, a tragedy. Or sometimes, my coffee is cold or I slept poorly the night before. Whatever it is, something happens that knocks me down from the new routine I am living and I find myself back to where I was before Lent began.

And that happened this year. I have been discouraged for a long time now. Primarily, the root of my discouragement has been the ways Christians have allowed politics to determine our rhetoric and behavior. In a church that is called to be above the fray of the contemporary worldly systems, too many of us allow our lives to be directed by whomever is in power.

And this happens if we voted for the winners or losers.

So I entered Lent this year with two purposes: to replace my focus where it needs to and to write about my journey every day (except Sundays).

Regarding focus: I struggled at first. I wanted so badly to convince people that I was right and they needed to agree with me. I wanted other people to have the same realizations and revelations I have had. But I slowly became cognizant of the fact that my desire came from within me; not from within my relationship with Jesus.

And I started to calm down. I was viewing people and opinions differently. I still believed firmly in what I thought was right. I was still calling and emailing and advocating for positions and policies that I believe are beneficial to all people. But my relationships became more important. I didn’t figure out how all of that worked, but there was definitely a shift.

Regarding writing every day: I was doing all right. I had a schedule for each of the 40 days. I had, if not an outline, at least an idea for what each post would address. There were a few difficult days at first, but I quickly got into a routine. I was ready for each day’s post. I was looking forward to writing more.

And then something happened. Actually two things: we took a trip over Spring Break and that broke my new routine. Once I missed one day of writing, I struggled to get back into the groove.

And the constant, daily barrage of partisan politics and dishonest rhetoric overwhelmed me. “What is even the point?” is a question I began asking multiple times a day.

And now, I have missed an entire week of posts. By number, this one should be 31 and it should have been posted yesterday. The last one I wrote was number 25 and it was posted 5 days late. An entire week’s worth of posts have not been written. I feel as discouraged today as I did on March 1, Ash Wednesday.

I have failed on my Lenten journey. And yet….

The season is not over. There is still time to journey. And the culmination of this particular part of the journey is Resurrection Sunday—the day we celebrate the victory over all our failures; not because we win, but because the battle was won for us!

And that is never where the journey was supposed to end. Even the glory of the resurrection was only a marker point in the continuing journey until Jesus returns and this earth is made right. My “failure” at writing 40 posts in 47 days is not the end of my journey. It is just a reminder that the journey I am on is tough and long and hard and I cannot make it on my own.

Perhaps you have struggled in your Lenten fast this season. Maybe the food you intended to put down you picked back up. Maybe the behavior you were taking a break from snuck up on you and you have been giving up. Maybe the lure of social media was too strong to actually stay off of it for six weeks.

I am not here to tell you that all that is okay, but I am going to tell you that all of that is a reminder of why we are on this journey in the first place: we need a Savior and we are not it.

So what will I do? I will add post 31 on day 32. I will allow the post-less days from last week remain post-less. I will jump back into my journey and into my writing and I will share it with whoever wants to read it. This week, I am going to focus my posts on loving all people: those on the margins and those I disagree with. We are called to love God and love others. Let’s focus on how we can love others.

And I will encourage you to either continue or to re-start. Because the journey is not over yet.

To See. And Then To Move

This post should have come last Wednesday. But it didn’t.

In part because I am weary. I am tired. I am at a loss.

I recognize problems in the world and I want to fix them. I want to step in and do something. Yet I am so overwhelmed that I often freeze. I often feel burnt out, even though I have never really done anything.

I can easily name the problems in the world. I can point to the racism that is prevalent in many systems and structures. I can talk about the poverty and the negative implications of wealth disparity. I can see the effects of homelessness in the communities around where I live. And I want to work to fight against all of that…and more.

But there is just so much. And I am just one person. And all these things are going to continue long after I am gone, right? So what, really, can I do?

This next block of posts will deal with the continuation of my Lenten journey. As I continue learning how to break away from putting my faith and focus on power structures of this world and placing it where it needs to be—on God—I need to examine the practical applications.

I am called to open my eyes to the people right in front of me. Especially the people right in front of me who do not have the voice and privilege that I have. I need to open my eyes to the people who are hurting. I need to open my eyes to the people who are different.

I have learned through the course of my journey that my weariness due to being overwhelmed with the problems of the world does not compare with the pain of the people are actually experiencing the problems of the world.

Having a heart of compassion is necessary in order to live in this world. We must see and be moved by the pain and suffering around us. But we need to take steps beyond just feeling. We need to move and act.

Lord, open my eyes that I might see. Give me compassion. Give my courage. Give me endurance.

Give me a good, swift kick in the pants.

Me And Jesus: A Lesson In Seeing

I want to hold myself and my church accountable regarding my/our love of people. Lent Week 4, Day 23

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Jesus saw a woman at the well and spoke with her.

Jesus saw a man with leprosy and touched him.

Jesus saw a thieving tax collector and went to his house.

Jesus saw sick people and healed them.

Jesus saw poor people and noticed them.

Jesus saw foreigners and commended their faith.

Jesus saw guilty people and forgave them.

Jesus saw victimized people and fought for them.

I see a person of color and cross the street.

I see a multiple-times-divorced woman and shake my head.

I see a (fill in the political party of your choice) and assume the worst.

I see a homeless person and hope they don’t see me.

I see guilty people and talk about them to others.

I see victimized people and ask what choices they made that led them to their victimization.

I want to love God and love others. I want to be able to focus on people and not ideology. I want to follow the example of Jesus. This means I cannot look at people as if they are the worst part of themselves. I must look at people as if they are the children of God. Jesus did. And he saw people. I often do not. And I see problems.

If I am truly going to love, I need to change how I see.

You Feed Them

I want to hold myself and my church accountable regarding my/our love of people. Lent Week 4, Day 22

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This post is real short. It is a command Jesus gives to his disciples that always troubles me. It troubles me because it is convicting. It is demanding. It prevents always taking the easy way out. It means I cannot just assume Jesus or some other group of people will swoop in and solve the problem.

13 When Jesus learned what had happened, He got on a boat and went away to spend some time in a private place. The crowds, of course, followed Jesus on foot from their cities. 14 Though Jesus wanted solitude, when He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, and He healed the sick and the lame. 15 At evening-time, Jesus’ disciples came to Him.

Disciples: We’re in a fairly remote place, and it is getting late; the crowds will get hungry for supper. Send them away so they have time to get back to the villages and get something to eat.

Jesus: 16 They don’t need to go back to the villages in order to eat supper. Give them something to eat here. (Matthew 14: 13-16, The Voice)

Jesus says, “Nope. Don’t send them home. You feed them here.”

Give the something to eat. You noticed the problem. You saw the need. Now go do something about it.

I see a lot of problems in the world around me. People are in need. People are hurting. People are arguing. People are giving each other the silent treatment.

I say, “Jesus, please send them all away to where they find the solution to their problems.”

Jesus replies, “You feed them.”