Tongues -- not crosses -- of fire

Did you see this story on CNN today?

Cross burnings investigated in North Carolina
DURHAM, North Carolina (AP) -- Three large crosses were burned in separate spots around the city during a span of just over an hour, and yellow fliers with Ku Klux Klan sayings were found at one location, police said.

Read the whole story at http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/05/26/crosses.burned.ap/index.html.

Two weeks ago, we celebrated the season of Pentecost. After Easter, we move toward this celebration of the arrival of the Holy Spirit. In my home church, the confirmation kids become full members of the church. In countless churches, we move toward reaffirming our understanding of how the Spirit is present and working in our midst. On this Sunday -- and God-willing throughout the whole season -- we remember our unity as the disciples first experienced it some 2000 years ago. On this Sunday, where we understand each other in new and profound ways through the power of the Holy Spirit, we read the story as it first happended. For the lost, confused and bewildered disciples, it went like this:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

Tongues of fire. Not crosses of fire. This story reminds us that no matter how many things that we think separate us, we are still linked. We are still connected. Seemed to be tongues of fire. But, we each got a little piece of that action. It rests on each of us. We all share in this weird experience that quite frankly could take 1001 shapes today. But, no matter how we tell the tsoyr in our present context, we are still "all together in one place."

And yet, there are some that want these tongues of fire to deny the humanity of others. How by the grace of God can this be? How in the world can it be that during this season -- after the prophetic witness of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X in the civil rights movement -- that we can be burning crosses anywhere? We all play a part in this. I don't care if it happens on a church lawn or a junkyard. I don't care if it was the Klu Klux Klan or some teenagers that thought it might be funny. I care that we are not living into the season of Pentecost and cherishing each other while sharing our food, lives and love. The story is supposed to end where "All the believers were together and had everything in common." What in the world have we done wrong?


Galatians 3:28

I really like artistic experiences that remind me -- and perhaps all of us -- about how we connected we are. Tonight, I saw Paul Haggis' Crash (http://www.crashfilm.com/) which accompolished this very thing. In the opening scene, we see only a shadow of a man's face as he talks about living in L.A. where glass and metal separate people. He reflects that this lack of connection -- this lack of touch -- propels people to crash into each other so that perhaps this is a film about auto safety or road rage. And yet, that's not enough. For a film that dares to critique our social systems (to the glory of God), there are many things that this film could be about of which racism, gun control and sexism would only scratch the surface.

But, what fascinates me is this concept of barriers. What are these barriers? Are they limited to glass and metal? Or do we continue to construct them ourselves from intangible materials? Hate seems to be one of these primary building materials. We build walls to divide ourselves from our fellow humanity from hate. I'm not sure what hate is. Haggis seems to infer that this leads to racial divides. But, I can't get over the fact that so much of this hate stems from ignorance. No, that's not true. Some of it is. The ridiculous statements we make about Blacks, Mexicans and "China-men" are partially ignorant. But, some of it is fear as so much of who we are comes from some deeper, darker fear we dare not name. And still some of it comes from lack of relationship. There is no touch. So, do we crash into each other?

I'm overjoyed to see a filmmaker wrestle with the images of Middle Eastern culture post-9/11. I'm still sick from the violence of this ignorance hatred that has been perpetrated before and after the attacks on the Twin Towers. It's refreshing to not see images of war as the "crash" that causes us to wrestle with our understanding of our fellow humanity. And yet, I wonder how we are touched. Does this require physical contact? Or can one be touched by a child? Obviously, this is possible. And yet, I pray to the dear Lord above that true touch can be found in the young as well as the old. Children bring us wonderful moments of peace but to see a child and be touched while trying to kill her father seems a tad problematic. Can we not be touched by all of God's creation? Does it really take a violent crash -- an accident, a gun shot, a verbal assault, a sexual violation -- to begin to realize that we are all connected?

But, clearly, we don't get it. We just continue to crash into each other. Our Christian narrative is testament to this. We have made so many people into the other -- the ones that didn't get it. We've led crusades and inquisitions to only continue this violent crash proving that we don't get it. And here we are today, fighting more wars, forgetting about injustice in our own towns, and ignoring the plights of many in the Sudan, Indonesia and other far away lands. In her new book Plan B, Anne Lamott quips, Christians "speak in reverent terms of grace, justice, equality, mercy and then we despise people who are also created in God's image, who are Her children, too." Lamott wants us to love George W. -- but tonight, that's just too much for me. Instead, I want to wonder what his cabinet (as clearly they do Bible studies together) makes of Galatians 3:28.

The apostle Paul reminds us that these barriers -- these barriers that we have manged to build of our own hate, fear or ignorance don't actually exist. Instead, we all belong. In a Christian community, we all belong to Jesus Christ. But, this could be broadened. Don't we also all belong to God? Or more importantly, don't we all belong to each other? Not that we are our brother's or sister's keeper -- or at least not in the sense that this passage is typically exegeted -- but instead, we are all responsible for loving each other. Lamott reminds us that we must realize that we are all family. So why not sing along with Sister Sledge? Sing out and proudly. And please, sing with love.