A Little Self-Righteous Venting

This is for everyone who knows me well enough to call me a bigot, a racist and self-righteous. I’m glad you know me so intimately. It makes me happy you know I come from ancestors who were abolitionists and had a stop on the Underground Railroad to help escaping slaves make the perilous journey to Canada and freedom. You know how proud I am to be the great, great granddaughter of an immigrant German who volunteered to be part of the Union Army to bring emancipation to Southern slaves.

You also know then I was raised by parents who were color blind, who judged people by their character and raised us the same way. Do you remember the one African American family in our small upstate NY town who were close friends with them? Ah, you will recall then how we spent the night at their home, ate their food and played with them. You’ll also remember how terrified I was the night a cross flamed angrily on the hill where their home stood. You also know how I learned a valuable lesson, at the age of 5, from a very angry pastor. I used the “N” word not understanding what it meant but I learned very quickly how I should never use it again because it was degrading and horrible.

Yes, it thrills me when you call me a racist and self-righteous. It was incredibly self-righteous of my parents to open our home every summer to an African American child from inner city New York so they could experience the fresh air of the country. We slept in the same room, talked and laughed into the night, played all day and attended church together without one thought we different other than where we lived.

Of course you remember how I was bussed during the days of segregation to a predominantly African American school just so the government could keep its quota and statistics in line. I don’t know how I survived with my racist, bigoted and self-righteous attitude.

I guess you understand then how I got my self-righteous attitude. I grew up in a family that didn’t have much, my “new” school clothes were hand-me-downs from other people in our church. I understood from a very young age if I wanted to get ahead in life I had to do well in school and work hard. When I went to college I had to rely on grants, scholarships and a part-time job. I didn’t get a full-time ride because I was an athlete.

When life “happened” and I had three young children to support I found a place to live in a government subsidized housing project where I lived alongside African American and Hispanic mothers trying to make a better life for their children. We weren’t white, black or Hispanic mothers; we were just mothers taking care of our children. You remember the disgusted looks and comments I got when I used food stamps to pay for groceries? Of course you recall the humiliation of using Medicaid to pay for my children’s doctor visits. Without a doubt you remember the shame I felt when a church group brought Christmas gifts for my children because I couldn’t afford to.

Once again I had to work hard and go to college so I could make a good life for my family. I was part of a group of single mothers–white, African American and Hispanic–who went to college during the day and worked part-time jobs to get out of the project. And we did by helping each other, sharing with each other and encouraging each. But you know that–I’m rehashing old news.

When my sons grew up and volunteered to serve this country, in the shadow of their ancestors, I’m sure you recall how their best friends, who “had their back” in war, were not white guys but African American and Hispanics. The same wonderfully brave young men I sent packages to because they didn’t have anyone to send them something. How utterly racist of me, how incredibly self-righteous. And you’ll remember the funeral I attended where a mother, like me, was handed a folded flag after her son’s battle bruised body was lowered in the ground. Yes, we wept racist, bigoted tears that day as I wrapped my white arms around her sobbing black body.

So, then, you understand how I have come to be the way I am. How when I see young men–groomed and preened and fawned over since high school and through college and into the NFL because of their ability to play a game–kneeling in protest over things most of them have never experienced it makes me a little self-righteously angry. When my sons choked on Iraqi dust and dodged bullets and IEDs, they were clutching a football and bathing in applause.

We live in the greatest country in the world. Its not perfect and it is flawed but it is still a beacon to millions of people who would die to stand on our soil and the only kneeling they would do would be in gratitude for the opportunities and freedom no matter how imperfect we are.


Vinegar and Milk

Vinegar is a highly acidic liquid. Milk is a base liquid. When you combine the two, it causes a chemical, neutralization reaction. Almost instantly, the proteins in milk (called casein) lump together. If you planned on drinking the milk you’ll discover it has soured and is no longer palatable. You might end up throwing it out because it is useless as a drink. But, this concoction is not entirely worthless. The combination is an excellent replacement if you want to bake a batch of delicious buttermilk biscuits. What was on the one hand considered awful, ruined and without use can become a vital ingredient in creating something worth eating (if you like biscuits).

We look at people around us who make horrible, awful choices for their lives and shake our heads. In our estimation, their lives are ruined, without merit, useless. We don’t think they can be redeemed or ever change their trajectory. Their sins have become like vinegar. However, if given the right circumstances and encouragement and hope their lives can be restored and become useful.

In the Bible we read the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. We can assume, this was not the first time she had participated in the act and she was well-known in the area. An angry crowd drags this woman (not the man) and throws her down at Jesus’ feet. “This woman is an adulteress and the law says she is to be stoned,” exclaim the Pharisees in the crowd. “What do you say?” Jesus pauses, stoops down and scribbles in the sand, and then says, “Whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” Of course, given those parameters no one could accuse her and the crowd dispersed. Jesus then takes her by the hand and, instead of berating her for her sin, he tells her, “Go and sin no more.”

This woman’s life could have been destroyed by the “vinegar” of her sins but instead her life was changed and we assume she lived a completely new life after her encounter with Christ. Instead of throwing people away because their lives have become curdled and spoiled, we need to embrace them and show them how their lives have value and how they can become useful and new. We aren’t called to be judges; we are called to be healers and restorers of spoiled lives.

Remember–every one of us has been touched with the “vinegar” of sin. Not one of us is unspoiled. All our lives have been curdled by our choices. But, we have been forgiven, redeemed, and have been given the hope that our lives can be used for something good. Let us extend the same redemption and hope to those who are hurting around us who feel their lives are too spoiled to be changed. Let’s make some biscuits instead of throwing out sour milk.