Rise & Shine - February 24
How do Our Past Mistakes Inform Our Present Attitudes?
The Rise and Shine discussion group meets Sunday mornings at 9:00 am in the Parlor. Adults from the 8:00 & 10:00 services gather for discussions that are relevant to their lives through the lens of a current topic and scriptural references. This week's discussion outline can be read or downloaded below.
Rise & Shine, February 24th
1 Peter 1:18 (The Message)
Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. (For context, read 1:17-21.)
In the News
Past Cringe-Worthy Behavior Catches Up With Virginia's Governor and Attorney General
At the beginning of February, a political storm began when a picture on Gov. Northam's 1984 medical school yearbook page surfaced showing two people -- one in blackface (a form of theatrical makeup mostly used to represent a caricature of a black person), the other in a KKK hood and robe. Initially Northam said he was one of those in the picture, but later, after viewing the photo, which he said he had not seen previously, he denied that he was either of the persons in that photo. He added later that he had darkened his face to look more like Michael Jackson for a dance contest that same year. The governor, now 59, would have been 24 years old at that time.
Then, State Attorney General Mark Herring, who would be next in line to become governor if both Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (next in line to become governor if Northam resigned, accused of sexual assault and rape) resigned, released a statement acknowledging that he, too, had appeared in blackface, at a party in 1980, to portray a rapper he listened to. Herring was 19 and in college at the time.
In a statement Northam released when the photo first surfaced, he said, "This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine [as a pediatric neurologist], and in public service." Northam has refused to resign, saying that he now recognizes the hurt that blackface behavior causes, and that it does not represent his present views.
Northam added, "But I want to be clear. I understand how this decision shakes Virginians' faith in that commitment. I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their governor."Herring has also apologized for his blackface episode.
According to a Washington Post-Schar School poll conducted following the revelation of the racist photo on Northam's yearbook page, Virginians are split evenly about what he should do, with equal percentages wanting him to stay as governor and resign.A majority of African-Americans in Virginia, however, prefer that he remain in office: 58% to 37%.
The Washington Post, reporting on the poll results, quoted Virginia resident Louise Butler, 76, of Richmond. She's African-American and grew up in the city and can still recall an argument she had as a teenager with a white woman over where she was allowed to sit on a bus.
Butler admits to being shocked and disappointed by the yearbook photo, noting that the Klan costume, in particular, brought back memories of the violence and discrimination experienced by black people in the South before and during the civil rights movement.
Nonetheless, she said that despite the views Northam may have held as a young man, she believes he is now committed to advancing racial equality -- something Northam now says will be the focus of his remaining years as governor."He's been a good governor, and he's been good, as far as I know, to black people," Butler said.
The existence of the photo was first reported by Patrick Howley, editor in chief of the website Big League Politics, who later told The Washington Post in an interview that he learned of the photo from a tip from a "concerned citizen, not a political opponent."
The tip came after Northam's comments about late-term abortions, Howley said. He declined to further identify the source, but according to two people at Big League Politics, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the tip appears to have come from a medical school classmate or classmates of Northam who acted as a direct result of the abortion controversy.
More on this story can be found at these links:
The Complete and Utter Collapse of Virginia's Democratic Party. CNN
Virginians Are Split on Governor's Fate Amid Blackface Scandal, Poll Shows. The Washington Post
A Tip From a 'Concerned Citizen' Helps a Reporter Land the Scoop of a Lifetime About Northam. The Washington Post
Embattled Ralph Northam, in First Interview Since Blackface Furor, Says He Wants to Focus on Racial Equity. Fox News
Here are some Bible verses to guide your discussion:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. (For context, read 11:1-2, 8-12.)
Abraham set out on a journey at the call of God that was not without its own episodes that many view as cringe-worthy, and some of those had lifelong negative effects on others. We wonder if Abraham ever regretted sending his son Ishmael and Ishmael's mother away. Did he ever regret obeying what seemed to be a divine message to sacrifice Isaac, an event that must have terrified Isaac, even though he was spared, and possibly scarred him for life?
Questions: In what sense is journey a motif for your life? How, if at all, are your attitudes about people unlike yourself different from what they were in your youth? In what ways has God been in those changes of perspective?
Galatians 1:13, 15-16
You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. ... But when God, who ... called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being ... (For context, read 1:13-24.)
The apostle Paul here acknowledges his cringe-worthy period (in another era, his persecution of Christians may also have been a crime, but that was not the case in his day). Such was his reputation for zealous persecution that after his Damascus Road conversion, Barnabas, an established Jesus follower, had to vouch for him before other followers of Jesus would accept him (see Acts 9:27).We wonder if Paul's theological opponents ever brought up his cringe-worthy past in an effort to discredit him.
Questions: Which of your cringe-worthy moments would you not want your life to be judged by?
2 Peter 1:5-7
For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. (For context, read 1:1-11.)
The fact that Peter speaks of these seven virtues as "supports" for faith suggests that they are structures we can work on putting in place as we journey with the Lord. When we set out in the Christian life, many of us begin with faith that is pretty shaky, but we can work on putting supports in place, and Peter gives us an idea of what those supports can be.
Questions: In what ways do you work on supporting your faith with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection and love? How is doing this like a journey?
For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. (For context, read 7:1-6.)
Jesus is here pointing out that when it comes to judging, we need to focus mainly on our own shortcomings, faults and failings. We are responsible for our own actions and for amending our own lives, no matter how tempting it is to join in on pointing out the failures of others. Not that judging another might not at times be appropriate, but that it needs to be in the context and recognition of our own sins and sinfulness.
Questions: Think about times when you were tempted to pass judgement on someone for something that you yourself were once guilty of. How should you react? Discuss the following scenario: "I did something wrong long ago, was not exposed then and have learned from it and changed; the offense of the other person we are now talking about is current and overt." What are the conflicts, and how, if at all, might they be resolved?
Prayer for those who suffer for the sake of conscience (BCP p.823)
O God our Father, whose Son forgave his enemies while he
was suffering shame and death: Strengthen those who suffer
for the sake of conscience; when they are accused, save them
from speaking in hate; when they are rejected, save them
from bitterness; when they are imprisoned, save them from
despair; and to us your servants, give grace to respect their
witness and to discern the truth, that our society may be
cleansed and strengthened. This we ask for the sake of Jesus
Christ, our merciful and righteous Judge. Amen.