September 03, 2005

A Complete Rewrite

"These look like pictures from Somalia, not a city in the United States..." Upon hearing those words, spoken yesterday by a TV news anchor, I knew that I had to do what I've only done once before in 8 years of ordained ministry: throw away my completed sermon, and write a new one addressing a current tragedy.

The one time before was after the Columbine High School shootings. I didn't have to do a rewrite for 9/11; that event happened on a Tuesday morning, and I wasn't very far along on my sermon preparation anyway. It's true that the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi at the very beginning of the week, and of course I planned to mention it in worship, especially during our time of prayer, but it wasn't until I heard those words and saw the pictures that accompanied them that I knew a complete rewrite was necessary.

It did indeed look like a picture from Somalia or some other tragedy-stricken African country. And the reason is that nearly all those grief-stricken faces belonged to poor African-Americans. Hurricane Katrina wasn't just some terrible natural disaster, though it was that. It was also the revealing of a often hidden but ongoing national disaster, the tragedy of the division between classes and races in this country.

I read the comments of LeonWynter who noted that "Last Sunday's official evacuation loked like nothing more than the start of a very long weekend: people with available credit, mostly white, stuck in traffic." But the pictures that we're seeing now led him to compare Hurricane Katrina to the sinking of the Titanic: those left behind are the third-class passengers, who were kept below while the first-class passengers were allowed to evacuate. Of course, no one told them to stay in danger-prone areas of the Gulf Coast, but where would they go? How would they get there?

The divisions of class and race are still present, and I, like much of America, have kept my eyes closed. Well, they're open now, and I'm writing a new sermon.


Lorna said...

new words and new heart. God is at work - touching our wallets too.

thank you for this post

[rhymes with kerouac] said...

Amen to that. It's always the poor that pay the hardest price, isn't it?

Would you consider posting the sermon online?