What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
- Romans 6:1-4
June 25, 2020. Today I stood at the high point of Henry Hill, in the center of the Manassas Battlefield in Virginia. Two days ago, I spent an hour at the Robert E. Lee Monument on Monument Boulevard in Richmond, Virginia. Manassas was the site of the Battle of Bull Run, the first major battle of the Civil war, fought to end the awful practice of human slavery in America. The second was the site of one of the many battles fought over the last few weeks, 159 years after Bull Run, to end the awful practice of the oppression of human souls in America, because of the color of the skin that holds them. A seemingly impenetrable matrix of mutual white/black fear and hate, racial injustice, self-loathing, and myriad repressive forces, has kept the oppression in place. Two battlefields, same war.
On the morning of the battle of Manassas, Mrs. Judith Henry, the elderly owner of the farmland where the battle raged, lay ill in her home in the center of the battlefield. Her daughter Ellen, and a hired black girl, Lucy Griffith were caring for Miss Judith. Union artillery, fearing Confederate sharpshooters in the house; bombarded the house, killing Mrs Henry. They were the first collateral casualties of many who would be killed by those fighting the Civil War. Commemorative markers at Manassas tell the story of the three women.
The Lee Monument in Richmond, having been occupied by protestors for ten days, has been converted to a shrine to the dismantling of the impenetrable matrix of mutual hate, fear, injustice, oppression and self-loathing that perpetuate the captivity and suppression of black souls in America. And it is now a place of remembrance for some of the black, collateral casualties of the war to heal America of the last scar tissue of its birth defect, slavery. Temporary plaques placed around the monument tell their stories.
Two battlefields, same war. The Manassas site was solemn, bucolic, and spoke of the beginning of the effort to end a national cancer. Beautiful, moving. The Richmond, Lee Monument was raw, hot from vented anger and frustration. A dark skin of graffiti and urban art covered the white limestone base of General Lee’s equestrian statue. Some of it movement slogans, some of it sweet memoriam, and some scriptural. The concrete highway barriers that ringed the traffic circle on which the monument sits, was also covered in cathartic graffiti. Inside the circle, a tent “library” distributed movement literature. A barbecue commissary distributed free food. A mixed-race group played half-court basketball on a regulation goal, and flowers marked uncountable shows of reverence. Several black visitors expressed to me a wish for fewer four-letter words. A black gentleman from Chicago and I shared the sentiment that the cathartic graffiti climbing up the base toward General Lee’s statue was more powerful with the statue in place. Two battlefields, same war. This one felt like the first fetid breath of a dying monster. Beautiful, moving.
Paul’s letter to the church in Rome has Paul explaining how justification by faith makes seeking God’s approval, solely by works under the law, a moot exercise. Jesus’ death made us heirs to his grace. But…If we are free to sin and still enjoy God’s grace, why not sin all the more? Because, we are as free to sin as we are free NOT to sin. The wages of sin being death, Jesus has therefore set us free from both death and from sin. Then why don’t we act like people who believe themselves to be free? I guess sometimes you just have to break some stuff to see and own God’s freedom —and to set one another free in God’s love. Moving, beautiful!
Musical Reflection I Want Jesus to Walk With Me - Moses Hogan
Lord of my being, help me to take joy in knowing that I am free to love, because I am who I am, by your grace alone. And please help me to accept that my fellow human souls are, who they are by your grace; and as free as I to love and be loved. Amen.