Tuesday, November 27, 2012
No time to celebrate
It seems the boy, who recently had moved to the Lake Highlands area with his family, went back to his old neighborhood to see some friends. Somehow he got tangled in a gangland style drug deal that went very wrong. He lost his life because of a bad decision and some bad timing.
The funeral slammed me emotionally. The boy had adjusted well to his new school. He made friends quickly. His grades were all good. He joined the football team, and was a key player. As I viewed his small body, I saw he was wearing his football jersey and a pair of wide receiver or defensive back gloves. They were pink, just like the gloves one of my grandsons asked me to get him for Christmas.
The funeral went about like all funerals among poor folks. The pastors assured us that this was a time for "celebration," faith and thanksgiving.
Now, I think I get the intent. I served as a pastor for almost 25 years. At times of grave loss, as this one, we want to lift up and not cast down. We want to encourage and not add to the burden of loss. I get that, believe me.
But, maybe that typical approach is no longer adequate or even appropriate with the lives of so many children on the line today.
Maybe it's time for a pastor to stand up and say, "Enough! Enough, Lord, enough!"
I mean, I wanted to stand up and shout, "We ain't gonna take this any more!"
Where is the leader who will dismiss the service after inviting everyone to gather in the fellowship hall for first of weekly community organizing meetings?
We've got work to do, folks! Our babies are being snuffed out while we sing more of the same old songs, and speak of God as if God needs our defense. Maybe God does. I certainly have a question or two of my own.
But, this is not about us or our faith or our traditions. This is no platform for a "spiritual performance." This is a place of tragedy reserved for pure, hard grief.
This is about life and death and justice and fairness and, and beautiful children being killed while we take our ease in thoughts of life after this one.
Sorry, but no one has dismissed us from our primary assignment: bringing the will of heaven to the earth, and that doesn't include 2-hour services that celebrate the death of a child.
There is nothing to celebrate in the death of a bright, beautiful, bewildered young boy like we laid to rest last Friday.
There is, however, much to ponder.
This kid was set up by a childhood dominated by poverty, confusion and little hope. Even when he broke out of a part of his trap, he didn't have all that he needed to make it. He was so young. But he had found something on the street that he didn't find in his options in the community as it existed for him. He certainly didn't find what he needed in the church. The holes destroyed him.
It's past time for adults to get together and force the change we need. That means parents, pastors, school leaders, politicians, policy makers, academics, business leaders and community gate keepers. It is time to make some changes. Everything comes into sharper focus when you are gazing in the casket of a 13-year-old child. Everything, including public policy and community reform.
The young man has gone on. His life is in the hands of God.
But our work is here and it is now. Forgive me, but I don't think we have the time right now to think much more about heaven and the "other side." Not with so much "hell" all around us, including other babies that likely will be sacrificed while we carry on with business as usual.
Celebrate the death of a 13-year-old baby?
Forgive me, but I just can't get there.