June 4th, 2008
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“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather
of power and love and self-control.”
Every semester in my Media History class, I show my students
the powerful TV images of young African-Americans being beaten,
jailed and attacked by dogs because they wanted to go to public
swimming pools, eat in restaurants and vote. Unfailingly, many of
my students are shocked just as we were shocked when we turned on
the evening news in the ‘60’s – the reason for
showing the footage.
I pray that these images also will provoke reflection about the
power of moral courage and non-violent love– the message of
today’s letter from St. Paul to Timothy.
On the tapes, deeply Christian civil rights leaders talk about the
freedom they felt from overcoming their fear of imprisonment or
even death, just as St. Paul did. Christ, St. Paul reminds us, “destroyed
death” freeing us to live with “power and love and self-control.”
What have we to fear? Lots, I suspect.
In junior high, we absorb a lifelong message. Keep your mouth shut
when you see injustice or pay a price. Few Christians are braver
than teens who buck a clique of “popular kids” to befriend
a “nerd.” They’re risking social death. God bless
them if they do it anyhow.
As adults, they’ll be the people who thwart a damaging power
game at work or refuse to participate in nasty gossip around the
water cooler. They’ll refuse to laugh at cruel jokes and reach
out to a hurting neighbor whose spouse has just abandoned him or
her. They have freed themselves from fears of what others think
so they can live powerful lives of love even if only a few people
are aware of their courage and goodness.
If we believe that Christ destroyed death, we’ll take the
modest risks required to live like this even if it costs us a spot
at the coffee klatch or makes us an outsider at the club.
to the writer of this reflection.
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