First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. - Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963
Those words, penned more than 50 years ago, tend to make most of us uncomfortable; woe to us if they do not. But consider these even stronger words from Jesus, two millennia earlier:
I know your works. You are neither cold with apathy nor hot with passion. It would be better if you were one or the other, but you are neither. So because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. You claim, ‘I am rich, I have accumulated riches, and I need nothing’; but you do not realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked. - Revelation 3:15-17, The Voice
The beginning of hope for any of us is the acceptance and confession of the truth of our condition. "The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one," says the character Will McAvoy in the series Newsroom. (I'm posting the clip below; please be warned there is some profanity.)
I have always been humbly indebted to the people in chemical addiction recovery whom I have been blessed to work with over the years, who are masters at keeping it simple: the H.O.W. of recovery (from anything, I submit) is Honesty, Openness & Willingness. These words represent the first three of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first Step is one of admission that the problem we face is too big for us; the second that we would be open to help from a power greater than ourselves; the third that we would be willing to turn our lives over to God "as we understand Him." Millions have testified to the effectiveness of following these Steps, but not alone. It is in community that the Steps are effective, a truth that is currently very challenging in an era of social distancing. Yet people continue to find ways to connect, encourage and support one another in these difficult days.
At St. Andrew's House, we greatly miss providing the sacred space for folks to connect. The Lodge is far too quiet. Yet it seems to be sitting in contemplation, perhaps providing a necessary pause, so that we might hear God speaking in the silence. These are painful times; to be sure. Hopefully, they are times of birth pangs to a new way of life together.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
―C.S. Lewis,The Problem of Pain
May we be roused, lukewarm no longer. Admitting that we have been asleep is the very first step.