Saturday, September 5, 2009

Down at the Cross

By: Harold Michael Harvey

One day in August 1958, I came to the foot of the Cross. I do not remember the exact day. I was three months shy of eight years of life. I recall I had frolicked on the farm that day. My mom was home from Brooklyn, Philly or Youngstown, Ohio. I can’t remember where she had gone that summer to earn tuition money for college. She couldn’t earn enough doing domestic work in the south and would visit with her cousins in the north where the wages were higher. She was home and I had her for a week before she would depart again for the campus of Fort Valley State College in pursuit of a teacher’s degree.

But this Thursday’s frolicking was topped off with the fourth night of summer revival at the Mount Zion Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. Although the ruling board of the church had changed the denomination’s name to Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 1954, it was still for all practical intents and purposes the Colored Methodist Church in Crawford County, Georgia.

After the preacher had hooted and hollered, sweat and wiped his brow with a white handkerchief, the adults stood around and talked. I was exhausted, if not from the preaching, from the excitement of having my mom all week. I sat back onto a pew and drifted off to sleep.

The adults’ conversation had continued as they meandered outside and when the night had reached pitch black dark, they decided it was time to walk the five miles or more home while the moon still lit a pathway. Down U. S. Highway 80 they walked. Suddenly Mom realized I was not in tow. The group rushed back towards the church in the stillness of night.

Meanwhile, I had awakened in the darkness of the church. I could not see my hands before my eyes. I did not know where the door was. I sat. I cried. I prayed. Just as I had given my life over to Christ, the door was flung open and I rushed into my mom’s arms.

The next night the pastor opened the doors of the church for new membership. I walked down the aisle and gave my hand to the minister. I was followed by my brother Gerald, cousins Hilda and Larry and perhaps eight other young people. We were given “the right hand of fellowship” the following Sunday and thus began my journey with Christ.

In a few weeks school started and I was in the second grade. My teacher was Miss Colbert. I believe she had also been my mom’s second grade teacher. Some missionary group brought a passel of New Testaments (the King James Version) and distributed them in the classrooms. You could do that then. This was a year before God was chased out of the classroom. I held that little red book in my hands and opened the pages to a world of Elizabethan English that fascinated my youthful intellectual pallet. When it came time to read Macbeth, King Lear and Romeo and Juliette in senior English years later, it was a snap. I had been reading William Shakespeare since the second grade.

I was struck by the sermon on the Mount of Olive at an early age. It is the only recorded speech in the Bible where Christ talked to such a large group of people at once. In the parlance of our day, it would have been Christ’s defining moment. In it he blessed the downtrodden, the dispossessed, the sick, the weary, the widow and those who mourn. He encouraged the nation not to get caught up in the system of things, but to seek the kingdom of Heaven.

There are many today who profess with fervor to be followers of Christ. I have listened to their sermons while sitting in their congregations, in online chat rooms and on YouTube videos. These piped pipers of Christian virtue see an all rightness in wishing ill will on a political figure with whose policies they disagree. Somehow forgetting Paul’s letter to Titus.

Some of these policies were in place before this political figure was born. As previously stated God was chased out of the schools in 1959. Yet the Christian right saddles the president with this malaise. As they do with abortion. To the extent that abortion is legal in this nation, it was and remains the handiwork of the United States Supreme Court in its pivotal Roe V. Wade decision in 1973. The president was eleven and a half years of age that January morning when I heard of the decision while on my way to classes at Tuskegee Institute.

While in the great Smokey Mountains finishing work on my novel “Paper Puzzle” last summer, I attended a white church. Not that race has anything to do with it per se. I have acknowledged the individual love and support I received from them in the acknowledgment section of the novel. Yet what I learned last summer was that although we were reading the same book, interpretations of what Christ wished for the church were vastly different.

This difference was painfully obvious, at least to me, the lone black sheep in the flock, as the summer months wore on and it appeared likely the Democrats were going to nominate Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton. Without directing the congregation’s attention to Obama’s race, sermons and prayers at the Friday morning men’s fellowship were centered around stigmatizing the least of society and castigating any candidate who preached, these too should be treated equally under American governance. The twin evils these Christians maintained were homosexuality and abortion. These two were the most horrible in God’s sight. Anyone to the left of center on these two issues was going to hell in a handbasket and taking the nation along with them.

These are not bad people. They are good, salt of the earth, God fearing Christians. Yet the political order of their day was rapidly changing before their very eyes and a new calculus dictated a formula designed to protect the existing social order.

However, the Christ whose words I began reading in the second grade, did not malign, castigate, nor denigrate anyone. Neither did he weave the tax collectors, adulterers, murderers and thieves out of the equation of the Kingdom of God. He constantly wove them into his circle, even on the Cross, much to the consternation of his disciples.

Christ could do this because he knew far better than anyone else that the political system of things were of no consequence to his Father. A fact Judas failed to grasp. Judas continuously sought to politicize Christ and when he could not he sold the faith for thirty pieces of silver.

The Christ consciousness calls us to pray for those with whom we disagree. The command is not to pray that God do harm to them, but that they through the spirit will understand what “thus sayeth the Lord.”

This new wave of hatred and hostility for the president of the United States of America is fueled throughout America at the eleven o’clock hour on Sunday mornings. Small little messages, some intended, others not, that are calling the children of God to use the tools of the flesh in the name of the Spirit.

“Down at the Cross where my Savior died, down at the Cross where he took me in, singing Glory to his name.”

© September 4, 2009


Anonymous said...

great article.

Dennis Baswell

Anonymous said...

I think you were tame but I have not yet figured out how to approach this topic myself. :-) good article once again.

Juanita Chronowski

Anonymous said...

nice! I love it, and true. Paul said bless your enemies the same way we bless our friends. I believe in beracha.

Moses Koinange

Anonymous said...

You're an excellent writer. No doubt about that. :-)

Jacqueline Benjamin-Thomas

Anonymous said...

Love Mr. Harvey's posts!


Lee said...

Awesome, Michael. Keep writing, there is enlightment in your words, as always.

Ms. Lee P.

Anonymous said...

I just read your latest post on your journal--excellent!


Anonymous said...

Dr. Harvey,

Well done! However, the next time I'm in Atlanta, I'm taking you to the Church of Christ with me! Talk to you soon!

Nickalus T. Holt

Anonymous said...

Read your latest blog. Very well written.

Best part for me: "Christ . . . knew far better than anyone else that the political system of things were of no consequence to his Father."

I wish that there was some way to get the whole world to fully understand this point.

Dennis Gilman

Brian Taylor said...

Good writing Mike there is a big, big difference between Christianity and religion. Going to church and being a Christian are two entirely different matters.

Dori said...

You are an excellent writer :) I loved this post.

Anonymous said...

Michael, Wow. Excellent! You writing is always excellent, but you hit the nail on the head with this. I have family that attends such a church. Forget division of church and state...they preach it from the pulpit. I don't know why they don't get taxed...they need to stop pretending to be non-profit and not political. The other problem is that they don't read or listen to anything outside of the church. It is a very narrow view.
All the being said, some of my most memorable church moments were with my dear friend Richard at a store-front church in South Central L.A. That story is for another time.

Cherri Cabot

Paper Puzzle