Generous Orthodoxy  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What God did and still is doing to overcome our sin

The New York Times today has an article about what has happened at Ole Miss since the violent events set off by the enrollment of the first black student, James Meredith. The final paragraphs of the article furnish a memorable illustration of 1) the pain of racial discrimination and 2) what God did and still is doing to overcome our sin.

One person who has experienced the university’s changes firsthand is Donald R. Cole, who entered as one of the few black freshmen in 1968. White male students blocked his path, and women waved Confederate flags at him. When he and many of the other black students on campus participated in a peaceful protest, Mr. Cole was arrested and then expelled.

Even today, the story sets off silent streams of tears, as he remembers having to tell his family and church, which had raised money to buy him school clothes, that he was no longer a student.

Mr. Cole returned to the university in the late 1970s to finish his doctorate, then again in 1992 as a mathematics professor. He is now the assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. For years, he refused to talk about his early experience with the university. He did not even tell his children what had happened.

But as professors from the African-American studies department and students began to learn what had happened to him, Dr. Cole’s resistance softened.

“I can remember when this began to turn around, and it just amazed me that the story wasn’t a shameful one,” he said. “That it could be recorded and someone would appreciate it. I just couldn’t get over that. It’s as if I went from villain to hero. I didn’t feel like a villain anymore.”


A version of this article appeared in print on September 24, 2008, on page A14 of the New York edition. It can be read online:

Click here for full article

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Economics and violence

The Berkshire Record (Mass.) reports on an area of New England where thousands of affluent people have second homes and enjoy the wonders of Tanglewood, fine restaurants, and beautiful mountain views. Largely unseen and silent, the full-time resident population suffers. Domestic violence is rising along with increasing financial despair. With the winter approaching, many people do not know how they will be able to pay for heat. Social workers in the county report that when the economy is precarious, violence in the home becomes much more common. Much of it happens out of sight, since people who suffer from violence very often do not report it. Often they do not feel entitled to protest, or they cannot imagine where they would go if they left the only home they have.

A chilling detail in the article gives some idea of what people are living with. People fearing violent attacks by family members are advised by counsellors to stay out of the bathroom, because the space is small and enclosed; and to stay away from the kitchen, because it has "hard surfaces and weapons." We have all seen movies of murders in kitchens, but in real life most of us think of the kitchen as homey and nurturing. All the more horrifying therefore that a woman should be afraid of her own kitchen.

Being aware of the hidden suffering that goes on all around us is surely a major aspect of Christian living. In these lean times, social service agencies are in greater need than ever of our support.