It’s late, and the weekend’s chaos is winding down. After leading my poor family, including the usual suspects plus Grand Bunicu and Bunicu (who are visiting from Ohio) and Carla and Lesse (visiting from Homewood), on a wild goose chase across Tuscaloosa, we grilled some meat and corn and settled down to discuss the lack of contextual basis for “honor” in our culture while I burned mix CDs for my dad.
Originally, the day began with a plan to do a little creek cleaning at Binion Creek as part of the Northriver Watershed Festival. But we arrived too late. And then I decided we needed to visit Hurricane Creek in Brookwood. But we never found a piece of public land from which to access the creek. Sometimes the adventure takes the guise of a failure in which grumbles and complaints (Carla is the only one who didn’t join the chorus) chip away at our ability to appreciate the mere fact of being able to wander around looking for a spark. For wanderlusty girls like me, the wandering itself scratches an itch.
A flower Micah picked for me on our stroll today.
Lately, the days roll by faster than I can name them- certainly too rapidly to sit down and claim them by poring over salient details. It is not for lack of action that this reporter-of-the-quoitidien has been absent from her usual perch. So very much has happened, and continues to happen.
Just today, I read Rev. Fred Hammond’s post about his recent experiences while protesting the shameful HB 56 anti-immigrant law currently on the books in Alabama. Fred’s compassion and love for his fellow humans offers solace in these grim times. It is so easy to walk around Tuscaloosa and ignore the fact that there are fewer Latinos in public spaces- that houses which used to be occupied by large families are suddenly vacant, that swathes of faces have disappeared from our daily lives. It is easy to pretend that everything is fine- their misfortune, after all, doesn’t directly impigne on our daily routines. But such chosen ignorance is a crime of spiritual negligence and willful neglect.
He [Gov. Bentley] said the law enjoys widespread support in spite of protests. “We are not going to repeal our anti-illegal immigration law,” he said.
Gov. Robert Bentley, who signed the law, said that when he was a doctor in Tuscaloosa, he never asked people if they were legal or illegal, but protesters must follow the law.
“If they read what I read in the Bible, the Bible says you always obey the law,” he told reporters while attending a National Day of Prayer observance.
(Source: Tuscaloosa News)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrestled with these same ideas living under Nazi Germany, a democracy in which the law relegated Jews to the status of sub-humans and a systematic policy to remove them was the law of the land. Today, churches celebrate Bonhoeffer as a conscientious objector to the evils of the Nazi regime- a man who broke unjust and cruel laws. But we fail to see parallels between the past and the present because such parallels are disturbing, inconvenient, and obviously “not the same”.
This country was founded on the breaking of laws. Fred correctly observes that the Boston Tea Party and similar events in American history were characterized by conscience disregard for the laws of the time. The civil rights movement, one of our triumphs as a nation promising “freedom and justice for all”, occurred precisely because many conscience-driven Americans chose to disregard an unjust and cruel law.
Fred also notes that Gov. Bentley’s very own faith tradition- that of the Baptist denomination- was founded in law-breaking:
His own faith as a Baptist came about because people of conscience disobeyed the law. It was illegal to be of any other faith than Anglican when John Smyth declared his Baptist faith. But if Governor Bentley is correct that the Bible says you always obey the law, then his own faith is illegal, twice over because John Smyth broke the English law decreeing the Church of England as the one faith and the Church of England broke the law when it severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church over the doctrine of divorce–another law that according to Bentley’s argument must be obeyed. Remember that church law and civil law were one and the same in the time of the reformation. There was no separation of church and state.
The context of Romans 13 which Bentley refers also includes Romans 13: 6 and following: “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
But love, while wonderful as an object of lip service, is certainly impractical as a matter of public policy. Being all-knowing, our God will surely forgive us if we can’t take his injunctions seriously because, as He knows, that stuff sounds good in books but just doesn’t make much sense in real life. Tomorrow is Sunday. How many local pastors, preachers, rabbis, reverends, or faith leaders will speak about the unspeakable in our midst- the law that punishes those who wish to be Americans for not having enough money to game the process or not having enough power to squeeze through the tiny allotted quota? How many will elect to direct attention to the tornados of past rather than confront the one brewing right in our midst?