Friday, February 25, 2011

Questions from Crisis, part 6

Concluding a sermon by Rev. Ronald W. Leichty at First EUB in North Manchester, Indiana (May 14, 1967).

Through all of this there are at least two reasons why this whole issue is a religious concern.

First, because the maintenance of the status quo, maintaining things just as they are, this is not a Christian goal and a Christian concern. God sent Jesus Christ into the world to change things. Jesus was not sent to pat the Jews on the back and to say ‘nice goin’, boys; keep up the good work.’ Jesus was sent into this world to change things. And the history of the Christian Church, as the history of the United States, is a history of a people in revolution. This revolution we cannot ignore; it has come to us … we are a part of it.

Pentecost, which we celebrate today, is a recognition that God sent a continuing power to be with his people. God’s gift of the Holy Spirit whose task it was to continue to motivate his people, not just to revolt for revolution’s sake, but to look in the direction of what is needed in the world and to have the courage to move in that direction.

The red that you see on the paraments this morning is not just for beauty. This does not represent peace in the traditional sense. It does not represent tranquility. The red represents the blood of Jesus Christ. It represents the blood of martyrs in every generation who have died in order that the fulfillment of God’s challenge to his people might be fulfilled.

The first reason that this is a religious issue is because maintaining what is, is not the heart of the Christian faith.

The second reason why this is a religious issue is that it deals with our relation with God and with other people. Love your neighbor as yourself. This deals with other people. And we in the church are convinced that it is only as we are in a right relationship with God that we have a chance to be in a right relationship with our fellow man.

The work of leading and showing us what this means was left in the hands of Jesus on earth. And it was put into the hands of the Spirit to continue to motivate us so that we could understand that God did accept us when we weren’t fit to be accepted; and thus we must accept others if they do or say what they want or not. And we come to understand that we must love our neighbors as we would want them to love us. And we come to understand that we must hear them out even as we expect them to hear us.

We have been in a crisis, my friends. We have not come through unscathed. Perhaps we did not know where we were or what we believed ; now we do. Now we know the direction to go and the place where help is needed. And I am convinced of this: that it is a good thing we are Christians. For we know the source of our help. God through his ever-present Spirit offers to lead us individually to a deep, abiding and assured faith. And this we cannot take apart from that. He also offers to give us a faith by which we can respect and love and live with our fellow man.

God expects no more of us; we cannot ask any more of our fellow man. Amen.

more next time

Friday, February 18, 2011

Questions from Crisis, part 5

Continuing a sermon by Rev. Ronald W. Leichty at First EUB in North Manchester, Indiana (May 14, 1967).

The fourth question that I put before you is this: What do you believe is the purpose of education? If one questions stand out from this week’s activities, this is it. What do you really think education is all about? What should we be trying to do in our schools and more pointedly in a college that is in our town?

It seems that there is a tremendous gap between the understanding of what we are trying to do in education, between many people in our town and the professional educator. As an oversimplification, let me say that what I heard this week in many conversations seemed to be saying this: that the educational task is a task of indoctrination. Indoctrinate young people with the facts by which they can be good citizens in the pattern of the community. Indoctrinate them to be good members of the community so that they don’t ask the wrong questions or rock the boat. Indoctrinate them to fit into a life that is basically white and protestant.

This is not education; and professional educators do not see their task in this light. They see their task as opening the doors by which youth understand what is  going on in this world, by which they come to an understanding of opening before youth the many resources that are available in this world. Professional educators see their task as helping youth to choose how they will use their life in the light of these opportunities. They see their task as helping youth to make value judgments in the light of all that occurred around them.

From this standpoint, I think you can see why a man like Dr. King was invited to come. Dr. A. Blair Helman, the President of Manchester College, summarized these goals in his statement when he came onstage to indicate Dr. King would not come. He said this: “One commitment of education is that ideas are to be presented and challenged. No idea is to be taken for granted. Education is a process in which one hears ideas and then makes up his mind.”

It goes without saying that this concept of education is different than that which many of us fear. And yet, it is positive. And the gap must be bridged. In order to share this concept with the community, the Chamber of Commerce and the college are sharing staff persons, meeting with business persons from our community on a monthly basis to try to answer questions and to help understand.

I have sent from our church over my name a letter to Dr. Helman urging that this series of meetings be continued and also suggesting that additional meetings be arranged for other groups of persons within our community. I hope that many of us will have opportunity to share in such sessions. For I am convinced that it will help us to answer a basic question that was found to be lacking in these days: “what is the purpose of education?”

to be concluded

Friday, February 11, 2011

Questions from Crisis, part 4

Continuing a sermon by Rev. Ronald W. Leichty at First EUB in North Manchester, Indiana (May 14, 1967).

The third question that bothered me a great deal during this week had to do with definitions. What is communism? What is patriotism?

During these days these two words were used with great frequency. And I do not have a great learned paragraph to explain and define it for you. But this I know; that true communism is nowhere present in our world. Communism in the United States is a color word. The tradition has developed that anyone who does anything we don’t like is branded a communist. And we don’t have to prove he’s a communist. Somewhere we have turned the tables around and forced those of us who believe in a person to prove he’s not a communist. And for those of you who have your friends branded this way, you are forced to prove they are not communist; and in so doing we have completely twisted around the concept of the American judicial system.

Likewise patriotism is linked at this time to support of the administration’s policy in Viet Nam. This be itself is not patriotism. We criticize national policy; I’ve heard many of you do it, I have done it. We criticize high taxes. We criticize social security and yet we participate in them and we aren’t branded communists because we dissent from one national policy. But let one person denounce the policy in Viet Nam and they are colored for life.

My friends, patriotism is not so narrow as supporting one particular national policy. Patriotism is not proof nor disproof by our actions and regard to draft cards or saluting a flag or using zip codes or having prayer in the schools or accepting social security. But of this I am convinced that if we allow ourselves to be forced into either pattern, a unified patter – either of Washington or of Russia – then we are open to a take over. Of that I am convinced. But as long as the freedom of dissent is laid before us, at least that long, the powers of communism will find it, I think, impossible to take over this nation. As long as the ability and freedom of dissent is there and it is used, I do not fear a take over from the outside.

But the question is there. What about you? What is communism to you? What is patriotism to you?

to be continued

Friday, February 4, 2011

Questions from Crisis, part 3

Continuing a sermon by Rev. Ronald W. Leichty at First EUB in North Manchester, Indiana (May 14, 1967).

During these days, four questions kept reoccurring and reappearing in my mind. And these are the four questions that I put before you this morning for your consideration.

The first is this: In regard to this deep feeling and emotion that is evident in our community: are these feelings new? Are these feelings new?

Obviously the answer is no. The feelings and emotions were there all along. They had just not been touched in such a way that they came out. But now they have been touched! And they are out and the yare with us and we see, at least some of us, what we really are. This says that sometimes we even surprise ourselves at the things of which we are capable as human beings. It’s there … if only it’s touched. The feelings are there; they’re not new.

The second question is not quite so simple. It is not quite so cut and dried: Do we really believe in freedom? Do we really believe in tolerance? Do we really believe in the right to allow somebody else his point of view? Do we really believe in dissent?

We Christians are great ones for saying we believe in tolerance. But usually this means that we believe we have the right to say what we think. Usually this means we think we have the right to criticize. And as you know, we do. We criticize the tax structure of our town, of our county, of our state and government. We criticize the church program. We choose which friends we allow to be near us and which friends we’re going to push aside. We do these things and many other things that illustrate that we believe that we have the right to choose.

But a real belief in tolerance, a real belief in freedom allows the other fellow the same rights that we claim for ourselves. Are we as willing to allow the other fellow to criticize what he and whom he chooses? Are we as willing to accept another person who criticizes the things that are dear to us like we want him to accept us when we criticize the things that are dear  to him? When we ask the question, ‘do you believe in tolerance?’ I think for most all of us the answer has to be both yes and no. For few of us are willing to grant to the other fellow a freedom to dissent as whole-heartedly as we embrace it as our inalienable right.

Persons who cannot listen or will not listen to another point of view lack confidence in their own position. To close doors … to shut off sources is neither to be Christian nor human. To close off sources … to close our senses to others, this indicates the weakness of our own position. Our inability to have what we believe scrutinized does not illustrate strength, but weakness. It’s something like the story that’s told about preachers. “If you don’t have a good point, make the one you do have loud!”

Still another concern I have at the point of tolerance is the point of responsibility. Tolerance and dissent are not possible without responsibility. Those who merely criticize, those who are merely against, will also be ignored except for the noise that they make unless they have something to offer positively. Too many times today we hear only the noise. We need the voice of the dissenter who feels he has a better idea; and to this man the world has an open ear and a ready tolerance. This is the freedom we need.

Dr. Viktor Frankl, speaking in Indianapolis a week ago, an Austrian psychiatrist, spoke to our need of we Americans for responsibility. He used these words: “You Americans need to complement your statue of liberty on the East Coast with a statue of responsibility on the West.

Amen! We need the  tolerance; the tolerance of dissent that has come from the freedom of the American system. We need dissenters, but we need responsible dissenters who offer to us the hope of maintaining and continuing and projecting what our forrefathers saw as the hopes of a continuing nation.

Do you really believe in freedom? Do you really believe in tolerance? Do you really believe in the right to dissent?

to be continued…

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Scenes from an Italian (Panera) Restaurant

Had the occasion to spend some time in a couple of different restaurants over the last couple weeks. When you are in a place like Panera and there are people and conversations happening all around you and sometimes people are only a couple of feet away, there’s no way you can expect that your conversation is private. Especially when you’re talking at the top of your lungs!

P1: [in Liberty University sweatshirt] I really wanted him to go there. I just wanted to know that when he wasn’t home someone else was watching over him when I wasn’t there. It’s scary.
P2: So he likes it?
P1: He seems to. But it doesn’t matter. I like it and he’s getting a good education too.
P2: Ok.
P1: They check his room a couple times a week. Make sure its neat, makes his bed. They can’t ground him, but they give him demerits. And when he gets demerits, I find out.

Man 1: There are two of them. They’re both really small.
Man 2: How small is small?
Man 1: One is about 40 and the other is about 25. She said she rarely gets more than that. They’ve been about that for years and years.
Man 2: Huh.
Man 1: Yeah. They can’t pay her and they can barely pay their bills. But they’re never going to close those two churches. They can’t.
Man 2: Why not?
Man 1: They’re almost 200 hundred years old. You can’t just shut down churches that are that old – no matter what. No matter what happens you have to keep them open.

Her: Really?
Her: Really!
Her: No way?
Her: Way!
Her: Huh!
Her: Yup.
Her: Done?
Her: I guess.
Her: So…?
Her: I dunno.
Her: Huh.
Her: Yup.