I learned of the dreadful massacre at the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina while lying on a sleeping bag on the floor of my empty apartment. This is the very church of Denmark Vesey (1767-1822), a former slave who bought his freedom. He attempted to organize what might have become one of the largest slave revolts of the U.S. antebellum era. Those who recruited black soldiers to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War invoked the name of Denmark Vesey.
My father laid bricks long before he became a Baptist minister. He used to tell the story of how, at the beginning of a building project, the mayor, the city council, business leaders, and the foreman would show up with golden shovels for the ground breaking ceremony. A brass band would show up as well. At the appointed time after the speeches were made, the community leaders would force their shovels into the rocky ground and the band would strike up a merry tune.
We Orthodox are currently gearing up for Great Lent, visiting several New Testament accounts that we look at every year in preparation for the season of penance and reflection: Zacchaeus, the Publican and the Pharisee, and now the Prodigal Son. What we probably won’t hear in the parish is a queer reading of any of these texts, so let me indulge for a moment…
Having just learned of Duke University’s cowardly and ill-considered decision to rescind its invitation to its Muslim student group to broadcast the Friday call to prayer from its chapeltower, and especially after reading Franklin Graham’s foolish comments, I wish I could tell you that these people are not true Christians. Unfortunately, I cannot. To be sure, their actions in no way embody the teachings of Jesus or follow from our doctrines. No, this is not what being a Christian means.