A friend of mine lost both his adult sons to Covid last winter. Then, the week before Father’s Day he lost his dad. When Father’s Day came, he found himself for the first time in his life without father or sons in this world. I say I understand how horribly downcast he is – I probably don’t. It’s appalling to be suddenly so – unmoored. I pray for my friend. I pray for his comfort. But I know some wounds cannot be completely healed this side of eternity. The situation sparks several thoughts.
I generally avoid outright political material on this blog and perhaps this is not really political either though it has certainly been turned into an area of overlap! At any rate, it appears now that apple pie is racist. So, at least, says Raj Patel – noted academic often referred to as the Rock Star of Social Justice. Perhaps I overstate Mr. Patel’s case. His concern with apple pie in particular arises from the popular conception of the dessert as a distinctively American treat – As American as Apple Pie! But, he insists, any nostalgic connections of our national identity to this bread and fruit concoction relies on a sort of cultural amnesia regarding apple pie’s colonial roots. Shucks – even the traditional artistic representations of a hot apple pie, perhaps accompanied by a fired earthenware pitcher of fresh cream, resting on a gingham cloth atop an ornate walnut table with hand chiseled details – hearkens back to a New England era that reeks of land stolen from the Native Americans and labor appropriated from African slaves!
Well, OK. I guess apple pie is off the menu. But, by the same logic, so is turkey – at least insofar as I understand the historic recollections of the first Thanksgiving. And why stop with food? Never let your children play on swings hung with chains. Chains, after all, featured pretty prominently in the whole slavery debacle. And how about boats? Those patriarchal, racist colonials got here on boats and slaves arrived the same way. All you boat owners have some ‘splainig to do! And, even if you don’t own a boat – or ever ride in one (cruise ships count!) – just think of all the goods we consume that were transported by boat! Did you think all those big steel cubicles on those huge container ships were filled with air? Wait – air! Oh no! The people of the colonial age breathed air! That’s it! No more racist air for me! I’m holding my breath starting right now! …….. Wow, that was harder than I thought. Curse those colonials for sticking me with the need to breathe air fouled by their constant wretched inhaling and exhaling!
Perhaps that’s enough to make my first point. In case you missed it I’ll try to be more clear. Slavery was a terrible unjustifiable moral wrong. There was also much evil in the treatment of the Native Americans. There were other failings as well. But it’s – I’ll just say it – STUPID to cast blame on any particular combination of fruit, flour sugar, butter, lard and water! The people who committed those evils ate many things, used many tools, and partook of the goodness of creation as all peoples of all times have done. Apple Pie is not racist. Apple Pie is not virtuous either. It’s – pie.
Second point – perhaps it would be more profitable to address the ACTUAL evils of our own time than to ceaselessly vilify inanimate objects because or either real or imagined tangential connections to the evils of the past. Slavery does still exist in the world. And I’d be willing to bet there are real present-day racists who don’t eat apple pie! If you care to make the case that some particular product we all take advantage of is the actual result of actual slave labor today – I’m ready to listen to that! But you needn’t waste my time with historic ‘pie shaming’.
Third point – and perhaps the only one I needed to make at all. Mark 7:15 (re: food)– There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.
The Women’s Ministry barn sale has come and gone again and we always have the same basic question. Where did all this stuff come from?! Well, we know where it came from. it’s just always amazing that a big barn full of stuff can appear each and every year without eventually cleaning the community out. It always starts with a few big loads. A woman dear to the congregation passed away last year and her children wished us to take a great many of her things for the sale. The grandmother of a member of the congregation moved to an assisted living facility and, following a yard sale, the family donated a lot of the items from her full-sized home for the sale. One neighbor’s mother passed away. Another neighbor’s father passed away. Books, clothes, and other such things moved into the barn. And then, people who know about the sale give us the fruits of their spring cleaning. So it goes until by truckload, trunk load and arm load – in bags, boxes and baskets – stand-alone furniture items – both levels of a good sized barn are full to the point of overflowing.
There is always a good supply of clothing. There is often a lot of furniture. There will be a toy department. Some years there is a good selection of tools. We generally get a lot of glassware and kitchen stuff. This year there was an enormous cache of high-end Christmas décor. We also got a great big chaise lounge like I haven’t seen since I was a kid! For the second year in a row we had a nice working hospital bed. And It never fails that there will be a few items we have sold in past barn sales come back around.
As the stash builds up through the winter, some items will be distributed to folks whose needs we become aware of. Don’t worry, there will still be plenty when barn sale season arrives! Somewhere around the first of May the ladies start sorting and organizing (and also pre-sale buying) even as more is coming in daily. As the sale date draws near, all pray for good weather so we’ll be able to put a lot of things outside. Otherwise, it will be really tight in the barn! Somehow or other, it all comes together and the community shows up hunting bargains.
When it’s all over the ladies will have raised a few thousand dollars and a lot of stuff will have been carried out – nevertheless, the barn is still pretty full. Some of it will be recycled as paper and scrap metal. Remember all that Christmas stuff I mentioned? We became aware of another congregation in the community that has a Christmas Store kind of rummage sale as a fund raiser. We took them a big truck load of Christmas goods – and we sold about half of what we had! Most of the rest goes to other local ministries (This year three big truck bed and twenty-foot trailer loads) where it will be distributed to folk who can use it. A little bit of the right kind of thing will go to the Habitat for Humanity Re-store.
To quote Hannibal Smith, I love it when a plan comes together!
A good friend recently pointed me to a song about a place from my past. The name of the (sad/miserable but compelling) song is You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive. The reference is to Harlan, Kentucky and the woes of the early coal mining industry. You might give it a listen. But – my mother’s folks are from the area – mostly the neighboring community of Hazard but spread all over Pike County. I was there off and on as a child up to about twelve years of age. One of my haziest memories is of a conversation with my great great grandmother (Sis-Maw) who lived with her daughter – my great grandmother (mommy Duff). The vague memory of Sis-Maw included an Indian Head-dress and a little hidden closet/pantry where, she said, they used to hide the children during feuds. It’s the only memory I have of her. Mommy Duff, of course, I remember a good deal better. And, then, there was my great Aunt, Martha who ran a small general store and was quick to give us kids treats from the candy shelves. Coal was still the life blood of the community at that time – or so I judged by the number of big dump truck loads constantly going by. The house and the store sat next to each other right off U.S. 421.
I caused a great deal of consternation one day by scaling the rock wall left where they cut the mountain to put the road through some time in the dim past. Relatives emerged from the house in time to look across the road and see me about 50’ up, reaching for the roots of a stump that dangled from the top. The relatives, all being female, insisted I climb back down – a good deal more risky than simply pulling myself over the top. In their efforts to prevent a repeat performance my mother and various aunts all assured the stump was no doubt the site of a multi-generation den of copperheads and that a crazy man lived on top the mountain who was better kept clear of. Fine by me – because they neglected to tell me to stay away from the railroad tracks where, just a few bends from the house there was the neatest trestle spanning a deep gorge – but that’s another story.
It’s all gone now. Mommy Duff passed away a year or two after that last visit when I was twelve. Martha moved to Indiana and the state of Kentucky decided the property was needed for their road expansion project – no doubt intended to make for better transport of all that coal. The state – like most states – had written the law of Imminent Domain into its charter which meant that when the state wanted to buy – you sold – at the state designated price. Most of the family was pretty unhappy about that. But the law is the law and imminent domain is the law. The house and store went away – the road expansion went through.
Many families can tell a similar story somewhere along the way and we can all agree or disagree on the merits of Imminent Domain. But I will tell you this – The earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof. And God has a highway project in mind. He will level mountains and use the rubble to fill up valleys and gorges and build His highway straight and level. He said so in Isaiah 40 – A voice is calling, clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a path and the rugged terrain a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh will see it together.
The passage probably refers to God steering governments and civilizations, causing the rise and fall of kings and nations to prepare the way for Jesus to come into the world. That’s what I think anyway. But: If the prophecy extends further and God intends to knock down any actual mountains and level up any actual gorges – He isn’t going to get any arguments from me! It’s all His anyway AND I have a vested interest in where that highway leads. I plan to get there after all.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church