Hauntings and Hope

The images from Haiti are a haunting horror that will hang in the gallery of our minds for a long time.

            It’s not just the physical devastation of a city.  Of palaces and cathedrals that have stood for centuries reduced to rubble.  Of shanties collapsed and poverty’s few possessions strewn like a candy wrapper blowing across a parking lot.  Of roads blocked and services halted.

            No, what haunts us is the people.  The vacant stares of shock, especially in the children, who have discovered that even the ground they walk on is undependable. The angry frustration over the inability to get life’s basics, like food and water and basic medical care.  The slow river of tears down the faces of people crouching on a sidewalk outside the collapsed building where their loved one’s body is buried.  The bodies lying in the streets or bulldozed into mass graves by the hundreds.  Trying to imagine what it must be like to smell death’s stench with every breath—and wonder if you’ll escape it. 

            And then came Sunday…the Lord’s Day.  And people put on their Sunday best to walk over the rubble to attend worship services held outdoors all over Port au Prince. The cry of prayers for mercy from God—and even praise for mercy from God—were heard all over the city.  The rocks in the rubble didn’t have to cry out in praise—the Haitian people were already doing that. 

And even in the pain, you could hear the prayers and sense hope rising from the rubble.

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             Crisis is not the only thing that haunts us.  Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a reminder of our continuing need to pursue racial reconciliation. We have to pursue it because our past is shaped by the lack of it.

            The images and words haunt us.  Reeking ships of slaves kidnapped from African homelands to work sugar, cotton and tobacco plantations in the ‘New” World—most often owned by white people.  Auctions where a price was put on a human to be owned by another.  Jim Crow laws. Separate water fountains, seats on the back of the bus, and eating on the back porch of a restaurant.  Demeaning language, lynchings and Bull Connor.  Montgomery and Little Rock and bombs at churches.  Gunshots on a Memphis motel balcony on a spring morning. O.J. Simpson and Rodney King. The Jena 6, some shootings in Harlem and the saga of the police officer and the Harvard professor.  The never-subtle politics of race (from both perspectives) and even last week, Sen.Harry Reid’s comments about skin shade and dialect. 

            We can’t escape the tension—even in church, where despite some strides, Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in American life.

            But then come other images and whispers.  Wilberforce and Lincoln.  The Underground Railroad. Rosa Parks, who stayed in her seat on the bus. Some brave little girls in Little Rock. Civil rights legislation. A speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Some who have never given up or walked away from the battle for racial equality.  The blending of the best of cultures. President Obama’s election.  Churches where races share in worship together. Individuals willing to bridge the divide by engaging in simple friendship with a neighbor of a different race.

            And when you remember it’s not black and white–its human, it’s people, somehow, even in the questions and suspicions, you hear the hope rising, a dream being realized,  for a better day

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          Next week marks the 37th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which effectively legalized abortion in our nation.  

The haunting from that day darkens more in our culture than we realize. Since that time, around 50+ million babies have been murdered by abortion procedures. 

Let that sink in…

                      — 50+ million babies.

                      — 50+ million people lost—along with their smiles, personalities, relationships, gifts and potential contributions to society.

                      — 50+ million moms with an unstilled ache or grief or guilt for the child who might have been.

                     — 50+ million ripples into lives of others touched by the loss—not to mention the devaluing of human life—from conception to grave– that scars every aspect of daily life.

            And yet…polls continue to show that the majority of Americans oppose elective abortion.  In recent years, the rate of abortions has steadily dropped as has the rate of teen pregnancy.  There is a rising adoption movement rooted in gospel motivation that has begun to take hold among younger evangelicals.  In popular culture, movies like Juno and Bella have celebrated young people who chose to bring a child to life rather than end that life.  Even in recent debates over health care, government funding for abortions has been left out of most policy formulas.

            This is not a public policy issue; it’s a people issue.  So, while abortion is still legal and still a horror, there is hope rising that the conscience of our nation is being softened to the reality that human life is precious.

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            Hauntings and hope. It’s the stuff of life on earth.  It’s the backdrop of faith in God.  We hope in God and His gospel in Jesus—even if the view is clouded by our current hauntings

            For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  (Romans 8:18-25)

            “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance character and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint.”  (Rom. 5:3-5a)

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One response

  1. There is a tremendous Delirious? song called “Our God Reigns” that has a line that truly strikes me on this issue.

    “40 Million babies
    lost to God’s great orphanage
    It’s a modern day genocide
    and a modern day disgrace

    If this is a human right,
    Then why aren’t we free?…”

    That last part has always struck me.

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