Thursday, May 25, 2006


Right now at Greater Atlanta Christian School the sun is setting on the Class of 2006. Parents, friends, family, and faculty are seated in the quadrangle looking up to the second floor of the Zenobia Tye Lyles Media Center watching robes of red walk on the candlelit balcony.

David Fincher just gave his eight minute speech telling one joke, the names of the colleges and universities the ‘06ers will be attending, and the millions of dollars worth of the scholarships these high achieving kids have earned. He gave a few tidbits of sage advice and in one of the great traditions of GACS, begun by Jesse Long, ceased his thoughtful address to allow the focus to be on the students.

A few moments before Dr. Fincher waxed eloquently, Sandy Spiceland, wearing a black suit and a red wrist corsage, spoke into the microphone loudly and clearly reading the dozens of achievements of Allison Turner.

Now I am starting to cry.

I always knew Allison would be valedictorian. I looked forward to listening to her speech and telling her to speak VERY slowly after all of the years in debate encouraging her to speak SO quickly.

Knowing Allison, I imagine every word well spoken and meaningful.

I believe Judge Turner would allow no objections to my testimony on this.

I miss seeing a turning point in a life lived with such curiosity, intensity, and competence. I miss the seeing the turning point in a life so reflective on things spiritual and ethical. I miss seeing the turning point in a girl so willing to work, to love and to laugh.

I miss Allison Turner and Lisa Warren the dozens of others students like them who have blessed me. It's such a joy to see such wonderful kids, growing, sharing, serving and learning together.

I miss Jenny Runkel and Melaney Cost and all the senior sponsors making graduation activities come together. I miss handing out honor cords and shawls.

I miss setting up the candles and roses on the balcony with Donna Strickland and thinking of nice ways to keep folks from saving seats too early. After all, even Jesse and Marilyn Long don’t save seats early.

I miss hearing the majestic sound of the music filling the sky through Mike Garner's amazing system.

Truthfully, I could get weepy over the dollars of scholarships in the speech.

Now it's dark, the candles are glowing and the caps are flying in the air.

A small civilization is ending.

Someone in the class through whom the light of Christ has shown is offering a benediction.

So I’ll offer mine.
In the words of Paul
“May the God of peace make you holy through and through. May you be kept in soul and mind and body in spotless integrity until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is utterly faithful and he will finish what you have set out to do.”


The rage shown by Dennis Hastert and Nancy Pelosi may seem overblown to some. Today’s Washington Post editorial says as much. Disturbed enough by the unprecedented seizing of records from the office of Representative William Jefferson to do something jointly, the two have gotten the attention of President Bush. According to the Associated Press, the President has ordered that documents seized from the congressman’ s office be sealed for 45 days in an attempt to calm the tempest.

The President acknowledges the concerns of the House leaders, but has certainly not admitted that any mistakes or missteps were made by the administration.

The Post reasoned that a search warrant and subsequent seizing of records was all done appropriately.

After all, items seized had been subpoenaed months ago.

Isn’t this an odd bunch to be hard on folks who are slow about handing over evidence to investigators?

And isn’t it mind-boggling that this administration now bearing intense criticism from James Dobson, 11 retired generals who served in Iraq, 40 Nobel Laureates, and David Frum of the National Review, has even provoked Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert to cooperate?

I heard today that the Dixie Chicks have recanted their apology offered to President Bush for disrespecting the Office of the President.

I wonder how many the Chicks would roil if they said today what they said in 2003?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


"FBI checking reporters' phone records"

According today's Christian Science Monitor, the FBI "acknowledged that it was seeking reporters' phone records to investigate leaks about secret prisons in Europe and warrantless wiretapping."

Up until today, I believed that the President's warrantless wiretapping activities would not work against them in the eyes of many average Americans. The response among my students, middle to upper middle class white Christian conservatives for the most part, reflect the I am not doing anything wrong, therefore I am not concerned about privacy; the President is keeping us safe by surveillance, so I don't mind.

There seems to be a belief among people I meet that the President and his men can be trusted to work for our security and are not violating rights.

This story today may tip the balance. Not that a large white middle class Christian minority will be overly bothered at first. Many seem to think having secret prisons in Europe to torture U.S. prisoners is necessary to our national security and telling on the government for doing this was wrong.

However, the freedom of the press to tell what the government is doing in an open democratic society is a basic right.

This may a turning point.

If the mainstream American press becomes convinced that this administration will violate all known standards to press its agenda to and prosecute members of the press, the administration may have to fight an uphill battle from the cub reporter to the evening anchor. It may be the Walter Cronkite moment.

I think this, and then I rethink. In the days that Cronkite turned against the war in Vietnam and the support of ordinary Americans turned away from the war, there was no Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. There was no powerful alternative to the networks or mainstream press.

It may be now that conservative talk radio has such a strong hold on the thinking of many Americans, a wholesale rejection of this administration--this regime--by the mainstream press would lack the ability to influence the supporters of the administration.

So, we will see. We will hear.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi and former chairman of the National Republican Party, stands to distinguish himself as “the first governor in U.S. history to refuse to pardon a man he has publicly proclaimed as innocent." I could hardly believe my eyes as I read this tonight on The New York Times website. The report quotes Barbour’s spokesman, 'The governor hasn't pardoned anyone, whether they be alive or deceased.''

Trumped-up charges of selling $25.00 worth of stolen chicken feed landed Clyde Kennard in jail for seven years. The NYT story explained the only witness against Kennard in the chicken feed case recanted his testimony.

What lies beneath the chicken feed is the story of Clyde Kennard’s offense of trying to enter the University of Southern Mississippi in the late 50s.

So what lies beneath Haley Barbour’s thinking in this case?

The Governor of Mississippi, of all places, must be responsive to the calls of justice.

My experience on Wednesday, May 3 at the University of Memphis intensifies my concern for this matter. Jerry Mitchell, reporter for the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi, spoke of his experiences in uncovering evidence leading to 20 convictions of Klansmen and others involved in civil rights era murders. I left inspired not simply because of the justice done in these cases, but in Mitchell’s unequivocal witness to the power, grace, and redemption of God in these affairs.

In government class today at the private Christian school where I teach in Memphis, I challenged my students to see themselves as able to work for justice and to be witness to the grace of God in any number of fields. I told them about Jerry Mitchell the journalist.

Two weeks ago we listened to voice of John Kamm who, while president of the Hong Kong Chamber of Congress, began speaking truth to power in China regarding oppression of religious persons. NPR reports that scores of political prisoners have been released.

Thursday we read about the Governor of Montana, Brian Schwietzer ending the “silence—and for some families, the shame” connected to the convictions of their parents and grandparents on charges of sedition during War War. He posthumously pardoned 75 men and women this week.

A journalist, a businessman, and a governor. All in secular jobs. All acting in the spirit of the prophets and of Christ.

I baited my students, “Why should politicians and others bother with these acts? Why not let the dead be dead?”

One 17 year-old boy suggested it would increase the legitimacy of the government if leaders took steps to right wrongs. Another young man said it could change generations of those families who might always be sad, silent, or cynical.

I mentioned hearing Jerry Mitchell’s voice on a Memphis radio interview Wednesday quoting Solomon, “When justice is done, it is a joy.”

From the mouth of babes-Justice creates legitimacy for the generations.
Justice, says the sage, fosters joy.

Barbour's distinction among America's governors and his alliance with Mississippi's governors-none of whom have given a posthumous pardon-begs the insight of children, the wisdom of Solomon.