Monday, November 22, 2004

Beautiful Confessions of a Closet Racist

I was privileged this past Sunday to play bass at my church with a combined group made up of the choir from Salem and the choir from Mount Olive Baptist Church from inner city Knoxville. Mount Olive is a black church, and they came to Halls! I was amazed, literally amazed at how God worked through this meeting, and I think He blew some doors off our hinges. There was a lot of unspoken controversy and consternation about these two churches having a joint service, especially at Salem (in Halls). Halls has always been a white community, almost strictly. There is a growing Mexican population, and a small Asian population, but the kids from these families have never been in schools until recently. And now there are just a few at Halls elementary and the other two elementary schools that feed into Halls Middle. The reason is because of the high level of silent but heavy racism in Halls. I can't truly say that I'm not a part of it either. I do my best not to hate people, but racism isn't just hating someone. It's seeing them differently because they are of a different race. And I think there's a little bit of it in all of us. God bless the people who wear theirs like a garment, instead of hiding it and pretending it doesn't exist like I do. Father Freeman told a story about living in a town where the Ku Klux Klan was going to march. He spoke of thinking that something must be done to make a show of opposition to such a hateful group of people. He thought of organizing a group to stand on the streets with signs to show that they (his group) didn't approve. This is sort of like shouting in the face of an obnoxious person to tell them they shouldn't be obnoxious. God showed him though, that indeed he was a racist too. He didn't burn crosses or carry signs, but he still saw people of a different color differently. That's racism, and he said that he was ashamed. And I grasp the outer edge of understanding this shame. Not because I am a racist, but because while old men who are somewhat reminiscent of civil war relics march and shout openly in the street with their sins on parade, I hide my racism deep under the surface of a grand facade of piety. I bear the pretense of a hero and the heart of a coward. This is to my shame and not my glory.

So, the folks from Mt Olive were a little reluctant to come into the heart of Halls, and there were (unfortuneately) people from Salem who didn't come to church this past Sunday night because they were not open-hearted to the idea of black people coming to a white church. But we rediscovered the idea (all of us) Sunday night, of the beauty of the true church, the broken, piecemeal, mosaical bride whose body belongs to Jesus. I got to play bass with the combined choirs and the last time I remember having that much fun playing music was when everyone sat around at the cafe after hours and sang Long December by the Counting Crows. But this was even a hundred times better! I hope this isn't just a one-firework-show. I really feel that it's the beginning of something huge like I've never seen before.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Sickness is always a fun thing, especially when you've got a lot to do. So here I am, at dang-near three in the morning, when I should be working on my instrumentation project(s), and I'm writing on my blog. Procrastination is the layman's art, and I'm Picasso. I went to sing at the Tennessee Baptist Convention today in Sevierville, despite the lack of vocal ability, due to nasal and sinus things that I wouldn't even begin to discuss with you even if you're not eating, thank you. I think I picked up this particular microorganism from Jared. No, I was not there to sing by myself, I was with the Carson Newman Mass Choir, and it was quite an enjoyable experience.

Andy and I were on the way back on 66, and we got behind a Panera Bread truck, which caused us to somehow make a spontaneous U-turn to head back to Gatlinburg to visit Panera Bread. Pavlov would be proud. So we go back to Gatlinburg to get coffee and assorted accompaniments from Panera, which, after parking for $5 and walking through the cold for a couple blocks, we found to be closed since 8pm on Tuesdays. Tourist towns in the off-season. So then, sick with amoebas in various forms (Andy's sick too), we began to stalk the deserted strip for coffee. We finally came upon the Donut Friar, a place that has been open since time began. The guy running the late shift has a granddaughter at Carson Newman that my fiancee knows. Six degrees of separation will take you to anyone in the world. So we had coffee and a couple donuts (that's the southern spelling) and wrote song lyrics. Then we trudged back up the strip with freshly warmed/caffeinated throats and headed for Shoney's. This is what you might call the Mayberry form of clubbing. So with I in my tux, and Andy in his Sunday-morning wear, we made a fairly odd couple. Enough to draw stares and remarks about whether I had just gotten married. By the way, you can get a $69 drive-thru special at some of these chapels, for the elope-ist in you. We had two more cups of coffee at Shoney's and ended up talking about denominations with a Polish waiter named Kamil. We didn't necessarily overcome the language barrier, but there was some sort of communication going on. I felt like witnessing to him right there, but I didn't. Here again, my fear conquers me. Frank Sinatra in the cd player sang us back to Jefferson City, where I long for much-needed rest that I'm probably not going to get. If I hadn't been sick, this would've been a great night. But I prayed that God would take away some of Katrina's pain and give it to me. Leave it to me to be chivalrous and then not get it when the consequences pile up. I'm glad my Father still hears my prayers though, and loves me enough to answer them. I have to thank him for this sickness, even though I want him to take it away. Pray for me with this illness. I'm going to fill my body with zinc pills. Goodnight, don't let the Santa Claus bite!

Monday, November 01, 2004


Saturday was the most relaxing day that I've had in about as long as I can remember. Kat and I went to a retreat that our church's youth group did. It's the Fall Retreat to Camp Carson (now Carson Springs) that they go on every year about this time. Usually, I'm having to do something like music or having to orchestrate something. This year, however, I didn't have to do Jack Squat. I've met Jack Squat, he lives in a little brick house outside Lenoir, NC, just in the shadow of Hibrighten Mountain. He grows tomatoes for his neighbors and his grand-nieces come to visit him every other weekend. He's an awesome guy. You should look him up.

Anyways, Kat and I went to Carson Springs. We got there at about 11:30 in the morning after a night of extra sleep. We walked in to the end of the morning worship service to hear T-Bone (or Tony, whatever you know him by - he did Fuge last year at Charleston, I think) talking with the group. Then Todd Wishart (a wonderfully talented guy that I was privileged to play with at First Baptist Bearden) got up to do the music. After the service, I stayed for the meeting of the leaders, simply because I felt like I should be there. Then I went to help Kevin and Jamison set up for rec. We set up and threw frisbees and footballs till the group got there. After rec, I simply wandered around, ending up in the woods on a park bench next to a creek. I spent a few hours there, reading Dostoevsky and sleeping and watching the leaves cascade down to the ground. Then I went to eat dinner and read my bible. I wandered out into the lobby of the conference center, where the tail end of To Kill a Mockingbird was playing on the television. Then Kat and I left to go to my parents' house. I can't think of much more to tell you, I only wish I could tell you that in person to make it sound more interesting and less hurried. But I must away to class now. Throw leaves at people and roll down hills.