This Federal holiday has emerged as another opportunity to honor some matters about our nation that warrant our remembering. Since any holiday can get co-opted to become another chance to sell something—e.g., traditional Memorial Day mattress sales—I’d like to pre-empt that possibility by offering my personal observations about this special day.
What’s there to remember? Obviously, the truth that slavery does not end well. More than just illegal or immoral, the evil of human bondage destroys any notions of righteousness. Those enslaved—and those who enslave—are damaged by the false presumption that some of us are better than most of us. This attitude—self-idolatry—is offensive to God, as though we know best who is and who is not truly human, truly worthy of respect, truly beloved.
On Monday, I’ll put out our flag—marking what it means to be one nation under God. I’ll probably read or listen to a variety of commentators who will help me remember what I may have forgotten. I will dive deeper into my own attitudes and behaviors, looking for the places where slavery’s roots might still be trying to grow inside of me. I will quietly lament my possible disregard of others, my acceptance of subtle prejudices—seeds of slavery?—and my overlooking the continuing bondages that remain stubbornly entrenched in the American way of life.
Most importantly, I will remember the African Americans whom I have known over the decades of my life—leaders, colleagues and friends who have been examples of Christ-like living. Saints who forgave my ignorance and brought me beyond it. I will thank God for these individuals—their voices and faces and personalities will continue to reverberate in my memories.
Without all this, Juneteenth might just be another day to buy a mattress….
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