Monday, June 24, 2019

Unsung Heroes of Selma: Rev. James Reeb and Jimmy Lee Jackson - Sermon from June 23, 2019

Editors Note: On Sunday, June 23 Rev Linda Hart Green was our guest minister and continued the sermon series Unsung Heroes. To provide context for the sermon, both the scripture reading and the modern reading from the service have been provided.  The scripture reading was Luke 6: 27-36 about love for our enemies - New Living Translation.   The modern reading  follows the scripture, followed by the text of the sermon.  

27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

Modern Reading

In 1965, Reverend James Reeb, a white Unitarian minister, was murdered in Selma, Alabama, at the height of the civil rights movement. Three men were tried and acquitted, but no one was ever held accountable. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered Reeb’s eulogy in Selma. Here’s part of what he said:

James Reeb was murdered by the indifference of every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. 

He was murdered by the irrelevancy of a church that will stand amid social evil and serve as a taillight rather than a headlight, an echo rather than a voice. 

He was murdered by the irresponsibility of every politician who has moved down the path of demagoguery, who has fed his constituents the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. 

He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff and law enforcement agent who practices lawlessness in the name of the law. 

He was murdered by the timidity of a federal government that can spend millions of dollars a day to keep troops in South Vietnam yet cannot protect the lives of its own citizens seeking constitutional rights. 

Yes, he was even murdered by the cowardice of every Negro who tacitly accepts the evil system of segregation, who stands on the sidelines in the midst of a mighty struggle for justice.

So in his death, James Reeb says something to each of us, black and white alike—says that we must substitute courage for caution, says to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered him but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murder. His death says to us that we must work passionately, unrelentingly, to make the American dream a reality, so he did not die in vain.


The sermon: 

Can you imagine a scene where the fate of your life depended on whether you turned right or left when you left a restaurant?  That is precisely what happened to Rev. James Reeb, age 38, married father of 4 on March 9, 1965 when he left the Walker Café in Selma, AL.

Civil rights workers from the north were unwelcomed in the small southern city. The people there had a reputation for being “angry and mean” to those working for voting rights. Nevertheless, this city has become a focal point in the struggle for justice for African Americans 100 years after the end of the Civil War.

Rev. Reeb and the two other Unitarian ministers with him had just finished dinner in one of the two integrated cafes in town before they went to an organizational meeting for an upcoming march. 

Just two days earlier, the disastrous Bloody Sunday massacre has occurred when other marchers attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their way from Selma to Birmingham. How many of you remember seeing coverage of Bloody Sunday on the news?  Dr. King was now organizing a second attempt at the march to Birmingham.

Rev. Jim Reeb left the pastorate to work in inner city Boston. Civil rights was his passion. He knew he had to join Dr. King.

The trio of pastors were not familiar with Selma. They had no idea that turning right instead of left on their way to Brown AME Chapel would be such a momentous choice. 

Their route took them past a notorious bar where liquored up and fired up segregationists were ranting about the media coverage of their city and about the people from the north coming to stir up trouble, in their view. Several well known bullies left the bar and followed the pastors, catching up to them. Jim Reeb was closest to the curb. The pastors knew not to make eye contact and kept walking fast. Suddenly a baseball bat came down on Jim Reeb’s head.

He fell to the ground and the other men started beating and kicking him and the other pastors. Jim died several days later after a convoluted and harrowing ambulance ride to Birmingham for treatment. 

Shortly thereafter, three men were arrested in connection with his attack and a fourth was suspected but not found. They went to trial in December of that year and were acquitted. No witnesses came forward to testify against them. Yet, there had been many witnesses to the attack. One witness many years later said, “I did not name no names. I tried to forget it. When you get bad stuff in your head, you just leave it alone.”  

After the trial, the argument made by the defense attorney was widely repeated and believed. Today we would say it “went viral.” He told the jury that the attack had happened but was not murder. Instead, people within the Civil Rights movement killed Jim or let him die so that they had a white martyr for their cause. No one wanted this trouble in Selma. Those folks had brought it on themselves.

I am indebted to a podcast series on NPR entitled “White Lies” for the stories for this sermon. Two journalists who are from Alabama went back to the area and spent 4 years trying to uncover the story behind the story and the reasons the murder went unsolved for so long. If you want to learn more about what the journalists uncovered and hear more first-person accounts, I encourage you to listen to the series. 

How did things get to this awful boiling point in March of 1965?  To understand that, we must now turn to the story of Jimmy Lee Jackson.

The fate of these two men who never met is inextricably tied.  Rev. Reeb was in Selma BECAUSE of what had happened to this 26-year-old military veteran and deacon in his church just weeks before.  Here is some background to help you get the bigger picture.

In the early 1960’s, voting rights activists ruled out trying to work in and around Selma because of opposition from whites and because the African Americans in the area were very afraid and did not believe change could come for them. Very slowly, young activists began to build trust among the younger members of the African American community like Jimmy Lee Jackson. They organized voting rights drives which were met with mass arrests. So many were arrested that there was no more room to detain people and they were all let go. Consciences were raised and hope for change built. They decided to march day and night. This was in February of 1965. On the first night march, Jimmy Lee left his church with the other marchers. 

The group was pushed back toward the church by local police and state troopers who beat the marchers. Jimmy Lee could not get back inside the church. He fled to a local café. Other marchers came too, including his grandfather. But the attackers followed them. While trying to protect his grandfather, he was beaten further then dragged and pinned against a wall. For absolute no reason, a state trooper fired at his abdomen at point blank range.

Jimmy Lee Jackson died of a massive infection 8 days later. At the time, no one was charged with his murder. 

45 years later in 2010, that the state trooper who shot him was finally brought to trial. He claimed self-defense. A plea deal was reached for second degree manslaughter. He spent only 5 months in jail.

Dr. King preached Jackson’s funeral sermon. He led a line of mourners over 1/4-mile-long as they processed 4 miles in the rain to the cemetery for his burial. His entire community mourned. But segregationists were so upset by the attention given this man by Dr. King that they shot up his tombstone. The bullet holes remain to this day. Harry can attest to that as he visited his grave on a Civil Rights Pilgrimage several years ago.

After Jimmy Lee’s death, young activists gathered to think about next steps. One young man remembered a Bible story he was told in his youth about Queen Esther going to the king to ask for mercy for her people. He convinced others that was what they had to do. They had to go to the seat of government in Birmingham and demand justice for their people. The idea for a march from Selma to Birmingham was born. The first march took place on March 7, 1965 which became known as Bloody Sunday. 

On that fateful day, police with clubs and teargas waited for the marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge. Among those beaten was the very young John Lewis, now Senator Lewis, who was at the head of the march. 

The authorities did not count on the fact that the national press and television would be there. Cameras rolled as the violence erupted and images flooded living rooms across the country. The next day Dr. King put out the call around the country for the faithful supporters to come to Selma to help. That was the call heard and responded to by James Reeb. Do you see now how without Jimmy Lee Jackson’s death and the resulting response, Rev. Reeb would not have come to Selma?  Without the sacrifice of both men, the voting rights act may not have gotten to the top of the pile on President Johnson’s desk who signed it into law. 

Activists both black and white lamented that it took the death of a white man from the north to get national attention. After all, the President and First Lady sent a bouquet of yellow roses to Rev. Reeb’s funeral. No such bouquet arrived for the funeral of Jimmy Lee Jackson. One activist said, “our lives are not worth the same in life or in death.” Another said,” Jimmy Lee Jackson was a man who will be missed by his family. He was a human being too.” And lastly, “There were many gains that came as a result of events in Selma. One of the tragedies was that white America was unable to feel the death of Jimmy Lee Jackson with the same intensity as that of Jim Reeb.”

Here we are, 54 years after those fateful events. Half a century. Friends, did the thought cross your mind as it did mine that not near enough has changed? That we have not learned from history? That we have lost ground in the struggle for justice for all? 

The two journalists who researched James Reeb’s murder case stated they undertook this work to try to give some closure to the family. Another reason was for the sake of history.They lamented that it may take another 100 years for real change to come. They concluded that the outing of wrongs done is a start in the rebuilding of society, a collective cleansing. It feels to me like the time has come for a collective cleansing far beyond the confines of the city of Selma. 

To get to the point where we as a nation are even open to the need for that cleansing, here are a few of my conclusions:

·       We need to listen very carefully because the dominant narrative is not necessarily the truth.

·       We need to trust our instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.     Long-held secrets are corrosive personally and societally. As one of my mentors succinctly put it, “Light and air are good for living things.”

·       We need to go over and above with love. This is one of the most difficult learnings from today’s gospel message to “love our enemies.” It is also one of the hardest to do. I fail miserably at it. 

When I hear of wrongdoing as in these men’s stories, I want to judge and point my finger. When I do, my energies go the wrong way. I am supposed to focus on doing my part which is to love mercy, to do justice and to walk humbly.  The forces that would see me defeated love it when I defeat myself.

·       You do your part too. You may never know how your actions make a difference in the larger story. 

·       But trust this: they will make a difference. 

When you stand on the side of love, when you speak up for the voiceless, when you lift the powerless, the sacred energies of the universe are there, flowing freely.

The dominant narrative, the secrets, the lies?

They will not last. The truth will last. 

As Dr. King said at James Reeb’s funeral:

“we must work passionately, unrelentingly to make the American dream a reality for all, so that these brave men did not die in vain.”  May it be so. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Unsung Heroes: Delores Huerta - Sermon from June 16, 2019

I remember a year or so ago, in a sermon about Cesar Chavez, I mentioned Dolores Huerta once, as co-founder of the United Farmworkers of America.  I feel terrible about that now,  because it was actually Huerta who first became interested in the plight of Mexican-American farm workers and risked her life to speak out and fight for justice for them.  But I wasn’t alone in my ignorance and arrogance. Huerta is barely even mentioned in history books, yet, she is one of the hardest-working, most devoted activists in America. Growing up in the 40s and 50s,  she was expected to fit into the box of wife and mother. And although she was a wife and a mother of 11 children, she had a need and a calling to do and be more.

In 1959, she became a community organizer and lobbyist, the only woman in this male environment. That’s where she met Cesar Chavez, who at first ignored her because she was a woman, but after witnessing her commitment, her knowledge, and her ability to get people to listen to her, joined with her to try to form the farmworkers in California into unions, so that they could bargain with the rich, powerful, and racist growers. Huerta said, “It’s ironic that none of us can live without food, yet farmworkers are the lowest paid workers on the planet.”

Her dream was for them to be able to share in the wealth they helped produce. In 1962, she and Chavez divided up the San-Joaquin valley, and with an army of volunteers, set up the first credit unions and cooperative stores for the workers. She joined a strike by Filipino farmworkers, and her presence there sent the message that it was acceptable and necessary for women to be on the picket line. In 1966, Huerta organized a march from Delano to Sacramento, where the marchers faced angry and sometimes violent crowds who accused them of agitating the local farmworkers who were “loyal to the growers and did not have any complaints about their treatment.” Shortly after reaching the capital city, she negotiated the first contract in history between growers and workers, getting drinking water and toilets in the fields.

When Robert Kennedy was running for President, he came to California and stood in solidarity with the protesters.  In a meeting with one of many anti-union sheriffs, Kennedy asked, “How can you arrest someone if they haven’t violated the law?” When the sheriff answered, “They are about to violate the law, that’s why,” Kennedy told him that he should read the constitution. Huerta was on the speakers’ podium with Kennedy moments before he was shot, which strengthened her commitment to non-violence in the movement.

Their greatest success came when they decided to call for a boycott of California table grapes which, Huerta said, “were produced in poverty and poison—DDT pesticide— for farmworkers.”  She lobbied for the boycott as far away as New York, where she reached out to African-American and Puerto Rican store owners, asking for support, and they took grapes out of their stores. Gloria Steinem became interested in the movement and urged her supporters to boycott the large grocery retailer A & P. At the height of the boycott, around 17 million people stopped eating grapes.And in 1970, after almost 5 years of boycotts, marches, and nonviolent resistance, the California Grape Growers association signed a collective bargaining agreement with the United Farmworkers union that affected over 10,000 workers. Asked to comment on the victory, Huerta said, “You have to have a total commitment. It’s not something you can just come in and leave. You have to stay and keep working in order to make a difference.” When she was 58 years old, Huerta was hit so hard with a police baton during a protest rally in San Francisco that she had to have her spleen removed. She was out of commission for a while, and when her children, who were taking care of her, asked what they could do for her, she said, “Boycott Safeway.”

After Chavez died in 1993, Huerta was pushed out of the union by its male leaders. But at age 89, she continues grass roots community organizing through the Dolores Huerta Foundation.  The United Farmworkers’ slogan is ,“Si, se Pueda,”,  “Yes, it can  be done” or “Yes we Can.”  Cesar Chavez is usually given credit for it, but when fellow community organizer President Obama  presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, he acknowledged that Huerta was the one who came up with the slogan and that he had appropriated it for his campaign.

Learning about the work of this brilliant, courageous woman and the justice she helped bring about for farmworkers reminded me of what Jennett said last week, that all movements for positive change overlap because they have the same basic values, the primary one being that we care so much about our people that we want true justice and full equality for all of them.

As we heard in the reading, Huerta considered her movement and its lack of respect to be similar to the Civil Rights movement. The march from Delano to Sacramento echoed the march from Selma to Montgomery the year before.  And when she needed help in getting people to boycott grapes in New York, it was the African American and Puerto Rican small grocers who supported her,  because they knew what she was going through. Even though she refused to be put into the box of wife and mother, when she knew she could do and be more, Huerta didn’t consider herself a feminist until she became friends with Gloria Steinem, who helped her see that the American system of patriarchy creates false divisions among women to keep them oppressed. Women of color rarely joined the feminist movement, because it was considered a white organization. Steinem taught her about feminism, and she taught Steinem about racism. I think the message here is that humans need other humans to support and participate in our respective fights for justice and equality. And by intentionally reaching across the aisle, we can learn from and help each other. As we said in our gathering prayer, Let us hear the plight of all who yearn for justice. Let us be in solidarity with them and join in their cause.


Our reading is by Dolores Huerta, community organizer and activist for the rights of Farm Workers, from the documentary, Delores.

I remember when I first read the Constitution of the United States in grammar school.  I always felt so proud of being an American.  I thought, We have all these rights. In a democracy, you make your demands, and then somebody will listen to you, and justice will prevail.

But I found out that when you do this in an economic situation, it doesn’t quite work like that.  Once we started making these kinds of demands, we had the same response that the black movement has had. Our people were killed.  The system doesn’t really want brown or black people to have an organization or to have any power. I found out that no matter what I did, that never changed.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Unsung Heroes of Pride - Sermon from June 9, 2019

A few weeks ago, when we talked about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, as a young attorney, working quietly but diligently behind the scenes for equal rights for women, Debbie suggested a sermon series about unsung heroes, especially women and people of color,  who helped change the world but were never given the proper credit for it. I am starting that series on this Pride weekend, with three unsung heroes of the Stonewall uprising, 50 years ago this month, which was the beginning of the modern gay rights movement, and has usually been portrayed as white and male. A little history: In 1969 the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, was owned, like most clubs in NYC, by the mafia. The police turned a blind eye to the selling of liquor without a license and underage drinking for a weekly payment from their owners. But if payment was late or missing, they raided them.  At Stonewall, in addition to a general shake down, they lined those dressed as women up against the wall, and took a few at a time to the bathroom for a check.  If their private parts didn’t match their outfit, they went to jail. The patrons endured this harassment and humiliation because the Stonewall was the only place that they could go and dance and meet people who were like them.

But on this particular night, they didn’t react as they had in the past. They decided not to comply with the police’s orders. So they were ushered outside, some in handcuffs, to be taken to jail, but the paddy wagons were late getting there. They began to shout that this was harassment. People on the street and coming out of other bars joined them, and the police, with riot gear and batons, started beating them. They fought back, with their hands and whatever else they could find. And an uprising began, which lasted for six days. Those days were so hectic, that there was not a lot of agreement about who did what when.  But documentarians have since interviewed participants and witnesses that give us with some of the details.

The three heroes I want to lift up were marginalized even among other gay people at the time, which is one reason we haven’t heard much about them.   

Storme’ DeLaverie was a butch lesbian and drag king. By her own account and those of eye witnesses, she was the first to fight back that night. She had been hit on the head with a police baton, and was bleeding badly when she yelled to the crowd, “Why don’t you guys do something? “and then decided to do it herself.

For years after Stonewall, Storme’ served as a volunteer guardian of the lesbian community patrolling bars in the village.  According to her obituary in the New York Times, “She roamed lower 7th and 8th avenues into her 80’s, checking in at lesbian bars, always on the lookout for what she called ugliness, any form of intolerance, bullying, or abuse.”

You might have heard of Sylvia Rivera, who was Latina and transgender, although, the word wasn’t in use during that time. She called herself a transvestite.  She was a regular at the Stonewall and participated in the uprising. Throughout her life, Sylvia suffered from racism, poverty, and homelessness,  But she took her pain and used it to show younger people that they were not alone. She cofounded the organization Star, which offered shelter and food and services to homeless gay youth.  Sylvia was booed at the 1973 Pride Parade, just 4 years after Stonewall, when she called out the middle-class white folks for forgetting that trans people helped pave the way for them.

Someone almost no one has heard of unless they saw the Netflix documentary about her,  is Marsha P. Johnson, who was likely the one that threw the first brick. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, and led the first gay pride march in 1970. She was also a model for Andy Warhol, a dancer, and a drag performer. When asked, she always said the P in her name was for “Pay it no mind, honey.” She loved and accepted everyone. In 1992, just a few months before Marsha’s body was found in the Hudson River, a case that was never properly investigated, which is what the documentary is about, a Stonewall memorial was erected on Christopher Street. She said this about it: “How many people have died for this little statue to be put in the park to recognize gay people? How many years does it take for people to see that we are all brothers and sisters?  How many years does it take for people to see that we are all in this together?”

Three women who didn’t fit in, who were mocked and shunned not just by straight people, but by members of their own community, risked their lives to say ‘No’ to the shameful treatment that people like them received. And, they spent the rest of their lives caring for and protecting others. In so many ways, we have made great progress in the years since Stonewall.

I was blown away at the attendance and support at yesterday’s parade and festival. Especially the young people walking with their significant others and seeing all of us cheering them on. Today, almost 70 percent of Americans support non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. We can be legally married.  I never thought that would happen in my lifetime. While the fundamentalist church has not wavered in its opinion of us, our denomination, the United Church of Christ, welcomes and even ordains us.

Here I am, pastor of a church in a very small town in a very conservative state.  Here so many of us are, accepted and loved and celebrated as equals. The struggle for full equality is not over.  It might not ever be. Transgender women of color are still being murdered, and their cases are not properly investigated. Gay teens are still killing themselves. We have more work to do. And we, here, are doing that work. We were the only church who marched yesterday. We have made it our mission to fight for justice and equality for everyone and to help make the world a better place for each other and for those who will come after us. And I am so grateful and so proud to be a part of it all.

Our modern reading is “Love Wins, a Jewish Pride Prayer” by Alden Solovy.
One day, the words ‘coming out’ will sound strange,
Oppression based on gender or orientation will be a memory,
History to honor and remember,
The pain of hiding, repressing, denying,
Honoring the triumphs of those who fought to be free,
Remembering the violence and vitriol that cost lives.

When love wins,
When love wins at long last,
‘Love your neighbor as yourself’
Will be as natural as breathing.
One day, love will win every heart,
Love will win every soul,
Fear will vanish like smoke,
And tenderness for all will fill our hearts.

Love wins. In the end, Love wins.
Man for man,
Woman for woman,
Woman for man,
Man for woman,
All genders,
All orientations,
All true expressions of heart.
Let this come speedily,
In our day,
A tribute to the many
And the diverse
Gifts from heaven.
A tribute to love deep and true,
Each of us for one another.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Working Together for Change - Sermon from Sunday June 2, 2019

(Editors note: The scripture reading for this Sunday was Jeremiah 22: 1-5. The prophet proclaims God’s orders when leaders abandon the covenant.  The sermon follows the text of the scripture reading: 

Go to the royal palace and deliver this message. Say, ‘Listen to what God says, O King of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne. You and your officials and all the people who go in and out of these palace gates. 

This is God’s message:  Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters.  Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the foreigners, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering. 

If you obey these commands, then kings who follow in the line of David will continue to go in and out of these palace gates mounted on horses and riding in chariots.  But if you don’t obey these commands, the palace will end up a heap of rubble.’)  

Since last week was the end of our “Movies with a Message” sermon series, and next week I want to do a Stonewall/Pride sermon for our first Pride Festival, I decided to use some of the songs Jane chose for the quintet for today’s message. The first is one is “The Canticle of the Turning,” which is composer and liturgist Rory Cooney’s musical rendition of “The Magnificat” or Mary’s Song, that she sings upon discovering she is pregnant with Jesus. It is a vision of hope for the future, that depends on changing the status quo and reversing policies that keep the poor oppressed.

The third verse says:

 “From the halls of power to the fortress tower,

 not a stone will be left on stone.

 Let the king beware for God’s justice

 tears every tyrant from their throne.

The hungry poor shall weep no more.

There are tables spread.

 Every mouth will be fed.”

And the chorus is:

“My heart shall sing of the day you bring.

 Let the fires of your justice burn.

 Wipe away all tears for the dawn draws near,

 and the world is about to turn.”

For the most part, our world and our people are better off than they were in Mary’s day. But some things haven’t changed. There are still tyrants and tyrannical policies everywhere, which have not just kept us from progressing forward, but have actually taken us backward. In our own country, women, minorities, and LGBT folks are losing rights that we once had.  Affordable health care and environmental protections are disappearing. Much of our world is currently turning the wrong way.

But just as in Mary’s time, oppressive policies from our government ignite passion and righteous anger in those of us who care about equality and justice, and we rise up and proclaim that going backward is not an option. The 2017 Women’s March, which we participated in, was the largest single-day protest in modern history. World-wide, over 7 million people marched to send a bold message that women’s rights are human rights. 

This protest spawned thousands of groups committed to the cause of human rights, who keep the momentum going and remind the rest of us that there is still work to do.

We’ve talked before about Rev. Dr. William Barber, whose national call for a moral revival continues to inspire people to show up at state houses and in Congress and the White House and speak truth to power. It was actually from Rev. Barber’s most recent Facebook post announcing a new national Moral Witness March ( that the UCC is also participating in) that I got today’s Jeremiah reading. He connects the prophet’s message to the struggles of our people, saying,

“God hears the cries of the people

who are suffering under harmful policies

that ignore the cries of the poor and sick,

children, women, immigrants, and refugees

 and even the cries of the lands torn up and polluted.

 It is time for us to go to the palace gates with a clarion call for change.”

The second song I chose expresses a similar theme, Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They are a- Changing.” The song uses reversals like Mary’s song and Jesus’ teachings do: “The loser now will be later to win, the first one now will later be last, and the present now will later be past.”  It is a warning to those who refuse to embrace the change that is coming, and a plea to lead, follow, or get out of the way:

“Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call.

 Don’t stand in the doorway.

 Don’t block up the hall.

 There’s a battle outside and it’s raging.

 It will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls,

 for the times they are a changing.”

This song was written for the baby boomer generation when we were young activists rebelling against the status quo. It was our anthem of commitment to changing the world for the better. But too many of us, when we got older, became the very things we were rebelling against. And, like our parents before us, we refuse to listen to the younger generation. I have heard so many negative comments about Millennials,that they are pampered, lazy, and out of touch with the real world, the same things the generation before the baby boomers said about us. And I gotta tell you, it makes me want to scream to hear Millennials defined in that way. Because my children are Millennials, and they and their spouses and their friends are leading the way in the fight for justice and equality. They were up front at the women’s march, with our then 2-year-old granddaughter wearing a t-shirt saying, “Smash the Patriarchy.” They actively support ‘March for our Lives’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Gay Pride’ and Immigrant’s Rights. They are passionate, and they amaze me with their knowledge of politics and policy. But they face so many obstacles from older people who would rather criticize them than listen to them.

 My 27-year-old daughter-in-law is the marketing director for the non-profit, “Central Atlanta Progress.” Her bosses are my age, and her co-workers are her age.  She said her boss can’t even fathom why she would want a flexible work schedule or to work from home occasionally. Because that’s not the way they did it.  They are an organization with ‘progress’ as part of their name that refuses to implement progressive policies for their employees.  Generation Z, which includes our own James, gets even worse criticism. The kids that started ‘March for our Lives,’ after surviving a massacre at their school, and who work passionately to promote common-sense gun control, have been called the cruelest names and mocked on social media by people my age in attempts to  discredit them.


We are all called to work for justice and equality, and we need to work together. The world is turning, and if we don’t turn with it, it will turn without us. We can start listening to and learning from each other, especially those who are younger than us, or we can be stubborn know-it-alls and get left behind while the world changes in front of us. 

The 15-year-old poet prophet, Mary of Nazareth, proclaimed, “Though I am small, you, O God work great things in me.”  

And the 23-year-old poet prophet, Bob Dylan, proclaimed, “Your old road is rapidly aging. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand.”

May we here continue to be an example for everyone who wants to see positive change in our world to join together with people of every age, gender, color, orientation, and expression to work for it. Because we are better together.

New Vision and Progressive Christianity

 New Vision is a Progressive church. That doesn’t mean that you must be progressive to be a member here. It mainly means that your pastor an...