Friday, July 3, 2020

What if? Mandates are Given for All of the People!

Mandates are given and laws made for the welfare of all the people.
What if only ½ the people stopped at stoplights and stop signs and one could choose whether to do so or not?
What if only ½ the people were required to not smoke in a building open to the public?
What if only ½ the people in a car wore seatbelts and the car crashed?
What if only ½ the people were required to go through airport security and people were free to decide if they wanted to or not?
What if our president or governor refused to mandate or set an example?
What if only some people wear masks in a pandemic?  (Oh, that’s the case, isn’t it?)
Please add you own “What ifs” in reply. . .

Saturday, June 27, 2020

New U.S. Citizens Welcomed in Iowa

"Now, I wish to speak to you as United States citizens, which you now are,” said U.S. Sr. District Judge Robert Pratt in Iowa this week as he welcomed ninety-eight people from thirty-three countries, such as Burundi, Vietnam and Cameroon. (The ceremony was held outdoors in a parking lot this year.)
Pratt said: You may hear voices in this land say that there is only one true American religion. Do not believe it. As an American, you may freely and openly be a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim, or you may adhere to any other religion, or you may be an agnostic or an atheist.
You may hear voices in this land say that there is only one true American way to think and believe about political matters, economic matters and social matters. Do not believe it. As an American, you may freely and openly adhere to political, economic and social views on the right, on the left, or anywhere in between.
You may hear voices in this land say that there is only one true American set of values. Do not believe it. As an American, you may openly hold beliefs and values greatly different from those of others — even if those of others are shared by many and yours are shared by few.
Simply stated, there is no single American way to think or believe. Indeed, conformity of thought and belief would be contrary to the underlying principles of this great nation.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

We Tear Apart Prejudices

(Last of six excerpts from an article I wrote in 1964)
We begin prayerfully, explaining, sharing, upbuilding. We begin everywhere racism sneaks in an ugly word, doubt and fear. We begin everywhere growing Christians open their hearts and minds.
We tear apart prejudices, fallacy by fallacy. We talk. We write. We help. Yes, we march. And when the time for marching slows, with eyes wide open, seeing this world and its people in the Creator’s will, trusting in Christ unafraid, we will continue to let God’s love conquer sin in whatever way God opens to us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Church as a Redemptive Community

Church as a Redemptive Community
(Fifth of six excerpts from an article I wrote in 1964)

As a Church we begin each week in repentance, and then having worshipped as the Body of Christ, we begin to be the Church, functioning as a redemptive community. . . to make the Body One.  Love is not easy, but it does not count costs. Tokenism, “middle-of-the roadism,” gradualism, and calculated love have no place. Wisdom does.

We begin each day, not fearing “What might happen”: “We might offend,” “Some might leave the church,” “The Negroes [African Americans] might take over,” “The value of my home might go down.” We begin each day, not despairing: “The White community might not accept me,” “There’s no hope, why ask for trouble?” “Things will never be better.”  

We begin in the most real pessimism, knowing how sinful our hearts are, which no program of social justice, no national tragedy will cure.  And yet we begin with the most real optimism, trusting confidently that Christ has conquered sin and Satan, and the power of the Holy Spirit in the “Sleeping Giant” of the Church can indeed do more than we could possibly dream.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

We are Freed from Building Barriers

We Respond to Racism Because We Are Freed from Building Barriers (Fourth of six excerpts from an article I wrote in 1964)

We don’t respond to the present racial crisis because it is in the news, nor because of America’s image abroad, nor even because “democracy must be preserved.”

We don’t respond out of Christian “responsibility.” We respond as new creatures, freed from the bondage of having to provide for ourselves, having to be somebody, having to judge other people, having to pride ourselves on our accomplishment, having to love only paternalistically.

We are freed to accept people as people, to spend ourselves in love feeding on the means of Grace, so that our old selfishness may be defeated each day. In repentance of our attitudes and words which have built barriers, each day we begin anew to love people as God loves.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Love is Never Easy

Love is Never Easy (Third of six excerpts from an article I wrote in 1964)
The Christian’s answer to racism will stem from the will of God. And this answer is unmistakably clear—not easy, but clear. Love is never easy.
God created all people to be God’s creation. God created variety to exist together in harmony. God created the personalities of people to live together in love. God saved us through the boundless love of Jesus Christ to be a new creation, that the barriers of pride, hate, fear, unconcern, and sin that separate us from God and each other might be forever gone. God recreated us through the cross to worship and to live together NOW.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Racism has been Laid Bare Before Us

God’s Will – Clear but Not Easy (Second of six excerpts from an article I wrote in 1964)

The issue of racism has been laid bare before us. Often, we have been so afraid to become involved in social problems for fear that our Lutheranism might be misunderstood, disarranged, theologically distorted, that we have stifled church members, disabling their love and thus disarming the heart of our theology.

We ARE involved. The immensity of articles, books, speeches, while seemingly making research on racism easier, only shows us clearly the complexity of the problem. Now our task, with all the repentant and redeemed wisdom we have, is to study, to work, and to love.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

God’s Will – Clear But Not Easy (First of 6 excerpts from an article I wrote in 1964)
There is a time for keeping silent, a time for speaking, and a time for acting. And there is a time when keeping silent speaks and acts. Our eyes, ears, mind, and tongues have been saturated with the topic of race relations.

Ignoring the subject no longer works. At this time our silence speaks. Too often it says, “I am afraid!” Afraid of what? Insecurity, discomfort socially and economically? We can no longer escape into silent inactivity because silent inactivity shouts “unconcern.”
God’s message of love for us is clear. As Christ’s death and resurrection fill us with new life, so too God’s power to be Christ’s action in this world means our love must permeate the world. As real as Jesus’ incarnation, so real must be our action of faith and love. It must dare to take on flesh.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

When Will We Ever Learn? Juneteenth and the Tulsa Massacre

Friday is Juneteenth, (June 19). “Freedom Day,” celebrates the day a Union army general read federal orders in Galveston, proclaiming that all enslaved persons in Texas were now free. The Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them 2 ½ years earlier. Enforcement had been slow and inconsistent. Finally, all slaves in the United States were free. Will African Americans ever be totally free? Will legislation always be slow? We must act now so that all people can be truly free.
The Tulsa race massacre was, May 31-June 1, 1921. It was the single worst event of racial violence in U.S. history. Mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses. More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals and as many as 6,000 black residents were interned at large facilities. How many were killed? We may never know because bodies were put into unmarked, probably mass graves. A private airplane bombed and destroyed more than 35 square blocks of what at that time was the wealthiest black community in the United States. Before 9/11, before Pearl Harbor, the first time an aircraft bombed the U.S. was 99 years ago in Tulsa. Ten thousand “Negroes” were left homeless.
Black and white residents were silent for decades about the terror and violence. If a black person spoke or wrote about it, he or she would be lynched. The massacre was largely omitted from local, state, and national histories.  Finally, a commission to study the massacre began 75 years later. The Commission's final report, published in 2001, said that the city had conspired with the mob of white citizens against black citizens. Will we now learn about systemic racism? Will justice always be delayed? Listen!  We must learn.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sixty Years of Ministry: White Supremacy Continues

In marking the 60th anniversary of my consecration as a deaconess (June 6, 1960), I reflect on my first call to a congregation in St. Louis. I was well accepted, liked. However, people said Norma had one problem: “She likes Negroes!” I began my call to public ministry a few months before John F. Kennedy was elected president. I was serving during the March on Washington August 28, 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech.
 Three weeks later white supremacists bombed a Baptist church in Birmingham, killing 4 Sunday School girls and injuring 22 people. Burton and I joined a protest demonstration in St. Louis. It so happened that members from my congregation saw a picture of me marching and brought a complaint. When the Voters’ Assembly met to decide if I should be fired, I was not allowed to be present because women then could not vote in that church.
Fast forward to my diaconal ministry of being a community organizer in Detroit during the “riot”—we called it a “rebellion,” the bloodiest of “The Long Hot Summer” of 1967. It began as a confrontation between black residents and the Detroit Police Department. Nearly 2,000 U.S. Army paratroopers were deployed, adding to 800 Michigan state police and 9,000 members of the National Guard, to “quell the violence.”  After MLK’s assassination in 1968, protests returned in Detroit. Nearly 200 cities experienced arson and sniper fire. It was Holy Week.
Pres. Lyndon Johnson had just released the “Kerner Report” investigating the 1967 “riots,” which stated: “What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget. . .” The causes named were poverty, lack of housing, lack of economic opportunities and discrimination in the job market. “White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
Saturday I marked the 60th anniversary of my consecration by being with deaconess sisters, via Zoom: a number in the Twin Cities, and others from all over Minnesota, the N.D. border, Wisconsin and northern Iowa. Diaconal ministry is a call for prophetic service. Sunday, Trinity Lutheran Church here in Mason City, via on-line streaming—included my anniversary in the announcements and prayers: “Dr. Everist was later ordained and taught for 41 years at Yale Divinity School and Wartburg Theological Seminary. She worked for social justice as a community organizer in the inner cities of Detroit and New Haven, CT. She served parishes in St. Louis and in New Haven and Hamden, CT. Her formation as a deaconess has shaped her entire career as a pastor, professor, author and servant leader.”
Sixty years later: the issues are in front of us today. We are all involved and called to activate change. As Pastor Gerrietts this morning prayed, “Continue to strengthen her, and each of us, to be bold in our proclamation of the Gospel.” Our calling is now—and urgent!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

I'm Watching! Protests Need to Continue

I’ve been watching. We are tempted to seek merely a “return to calm.”  Fewer fires, charges filed, less need for the National Guard.  However, from my perspective of having lived in the midst of the Detroit Riots (We said “rebellions.”) of ’67 and ’68, “quiet again” does not mean justice achieved. I’m pleased Ferguson elected a black woman mayor, and this Iowa congressional district said “No” to representation by a man steeped in racism and white nationalism. But this is just a chance for a new beginning.
            For sixty years Burton and I have been working for Social Justice. The work is hard and long. So, I’m watching! Perhaps Trump’s call to use The Insurrection Act is merely a threat. But ’68 came after ’67. Might we yet see the U.S. military descend on streets across the nation? Charges brought, but will convictions result? Police department reform policies pledged, but will municipalities follow through? And so much more.
            Racial inequality is deep; dare we hope for equal justice? White supremacy reigns. COVID-19 continues. Can we imagine a truly whole and healthy pluralistic society? We will need to work long and hard—together. I’m watching.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Beaches, Bars and Cemeteries

Beaches and Bars! Media show pictures of both crowded; we are concerned that people will not social distance, causing a rise in numbers of COVID-19 cases this long weekend. I have not heard that people are concerned about crowds at cemeteries. Today people mostly think of the final weekend in May as the unofficial beginning of the summer season, a time to have fun.
Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, started after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate dead. In Charleston, S.C., 257 Union soldiers died in prison there and were buried in unmarked graves. The town’s black residents organized a day in May during which they landscaped a burial ground to properly honor the soldiers. For decades May 31 was a time to visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of deceased family members and a solemn day of remembrance for those having served in the armed forces.
In 1950 Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a Proclamation calling for Americans to observe Memorial Day as a day of Prayer for Permanent Peace. In 1968 Memorial Day was established as the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend. The day became an official federal holiday in 197l.
          And now, in 2020? With the movement to “open up” the country, gathering outside in large gatherings is very tempting. But what about the cemeteries?  I have seen images of new space for hundreds of graves being dug daily in Brazil for victims of the pandemic. They are unmarked graves crowded together. How do we commemorate—remember together—the millions who are dying globally? How do we with courage and compassion resolve to pray and work for national and world-wide health and peace?