Can We Keep Our Children Safe? (2 Samuel 18)
By Dr. H. Beecher Hicks, Jr.
The Black Church has played a major a role in the struggle for justice in America. They have been haven, passageway, rallying place, center of learning, and a foundation of strength for African American communities dealing with slavery, subjugation hatred and violence for hundreds of years. In the 21st century, the Black Church continues in those traditions. Most especially it surrounds families with support as children move through school, by interrupting the school to prison pipeline created by the over monitoring and over policing children of color.
Just a few days ago I worshipped at The American Church in Paris, France, a healthy church whose worship was engaging and rich. The guest preacher for the morning quickly gained our attention: All Lives Matter! An engaging subject, to be sure, a subject that brought to mind the struggle for justice among African Americans, frequently jailed if not murdered all because of wearing a "hoodie" or most recently confined for failing to signal when changing lanes.
The graphic signs of protest as well as the preacher's sermon raised the proper standard: All lives matter. Preachers must preach it. Politicians must learn it. Parents must teach it. All lives matter whether black or white, red or yellow, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, all lives matter. Only by a standard of inescapable inclusion and respect, and grace will any of us be safe. Such lack of inclusion and respect can kill. Such lack of inclusion and respect can break the hearts of the living. Such lack of inclusion and respect can, dare I say, break the heart of God.
What happens when the heart of God is broken?
What happens when, in spite of our best efforts, we are overcome by human frailty, we are assaulted by the reality of the sins of humankind, and it appears there is nothing we can do that will overcome the tragic pain of our fractured lives? Such are the questions that come upon us when we read of the tortured life of King David, the pain and agony of his personal sin, and the tragedy that befell the life of Absalom, his beloved son.
It only takes a moment of reading Samuel's second writing to learn the names of the characters of this ancient-day reality drama. They are familiar personas: Bathsheba, Nathan, Tamar, Absalom and Amnon, the rapist. Their story that reads like a something from the Real Housewives or Iyanla Fix My Life. David had a daughter named Tamar. Tamar's half brother was Amnon. Amnon raped Tamar. Absalom was determined to have Amnon killed. Absalom lived in exile for three years. Soon Absalom, with a strong military force of his own, decided to overthrow David and claim the throne as his own.
One interpreter suggests that Absalom was "buried like a dog in a pit in a lonely woo."
But Absalom was David's son, as well, and he mourned for his son without ceasing. Even in the heat of battle, David's question could be heard: "Is the young man safe? (2 Samuel 18:32)"
The strange irony of our lives is that our children are not safe. Like Absalom, our children are caught in battles that more frequently than not lead to destruction and death. Such battles lead to a culture of imprisonment as highlighted by the President's recent visit to El Reno Correctional Institute. These battles spur a culture that enslaves our children and makes human traffic of our girls, and subsequently imperils a generation by a strange licensure of the narcotics of this life that promise to bring death and not life.
Come, let us ask the question. Is the young man safe? Is the young woman safe? Are our children safe? The answer is a resounding "No!" Perhaps, however, there is a more cogent question. To what extent does the nature of our faith affect the future of our children? Have we come to the point where our children have no faith because there are no models of faith that are sufficient to shape their lives?
The question is not whether our children will have faith but will our faith (produce, be pregnant enough to) have children? Our children are a reflection of the input of their parents. The behavior of our children is learned. Intolerance is learned. Bigotry is learned. Hatred is learned. Racism is learned. And in the end one must remember that Absalom killed his own brother and conspired against his own father. Sadly, when David asked his question it was already too late.
What happens when the heart of God is broken?
The heart of the whole nation was broken that Friday afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina when nine persons were eulogized following their death in Bible Study. The President of the United States was summoned to bring words of comfort to a stunned nation The sum of it all was neither the rich music nor the President's flowing oratory. It all had to do with a child and God's heart.
At the end of the worship the President made his way to speak briefly to the grief stricken family. A photographer caught the moment when the youngest daughter of the late Rev. Clementa Pinkney, Malana, stretched both arms as wide as she possibly could to receive the President's embrace. It was, by every measure, a hug from the heart of God. We all need that kind of hug. It is only by the embrace of the Eternal that we shall be safe!
_ The black church plays an important role in supporting education. _
Bible Study Questions
What strikes you most about the story of Absalom-Tamar-Amnon?
What situations can strain parent-child relationships?
Discuss the meaning of the phrase "all lives matter."
4. Describe the last time you hugged someone or someone hugged you in a life-affirming manner.
For Further Reading
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess, by Michelle Alexander
Sacred Conversations on Race--- http://uccny.org/ministries/sacred-conversations-on-race/
Preaching Through A Storm, by Dr. H. Beecher Hicks, Jr.
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