Monday, June 4, 2007
He said, "This is the real world, buddy, Toughen up your ass or it'll break." I said, "I'm not your 'buddy,' buddy, And your real world is a fake." --The Waterboys, "Let it Happen" I had one of those formative life experiences last fall. It happened the Tuesday afternoon I decided I was never going back to Argyle Bible Church. The previous Sunday I had listened to the pastor of the church deliver a venomous sermon against the "evils" of the Emerging Church. The particulars of the sermon don't matter all that much, nor do the particulars of the Emerging Church. What doesn't matter, however, is that the sermon was delivered out of ignorance and built on assumptions made accordingly. It also matters that I happened to know at least as much about the subject as he did and happened to disagree with him. That was the purpose of my Tuesday visit. I wanted to discuss the matter and try to figure out where he came from and if he would appreciate the opinion of someone who had knowledge on the matter and saw things differently. Long story short, not only did my visit not change anything, his unwillingness to offer me charity about my viewpoint or even listen to me led me to decide that I had no reason to ever return to his church. I was reminded of that event today because of something that happened on the way in to work today. For a brief period I found myself sitting idly in traffic behind a beat up Ford pickup truck with a Confederate flag bumper sticker and one of those, "The South will rise again," sort of slogans. How I found myself in suburban Chicago in the year 2007 looking at a pro-Confederacy bumper sticker confounds me. How anyone can be pro-Confederacy boggles the mind. The Civil War, you see, was a war justified by a lie used to prop up a dying way of life. The War Between the States was fought, primarily, over slavery and anyone who says something different is either misled or trying to mislead. By the time the South decided to secede from the Union they were in an untenable position. The North had a larger population by several orders of magnitude, significantly more industrial might, thousands more miles of railroad and a much more unified attitude about how to do things. Secession and rebellion were, for the southern way of life, a move of last resort, not a play from strength. Parliamentary actions in Congress were methodically wearing away at the legality of the institution. The population of the North was swelling while that of the South was shrinking, meaning the South had lost control of the House of Representatives. No new states were going to come in to the country as pro-slavery in the forseeable future, while anti-slavery states were a given from the various territories, so the South was about to lose control of the Senate, too. Economically speaking, industry, not agriculture was where the real money was. Moreover, the sweep of history itself was firmly against the South. The British Empire had made slavery illegal and was considering actively combating the slave trade on the high seas. The Civil War was a lost cause from the beginning, fought by people too stubborn to admit it and afraid of what it would take to move in to the new world order formed by the nascent Industrial Revolution. The North, of course, won the war. Over the past 142 years the world has moved on and institutionalized slavery as an economic prop has taken its rightful place as a shameful national memory it best or something to be relegated to the hidden, dusty, shemful corners of the world at worst. Those who still somehow think that the South both can and will rise live in a world that's more fantasy than reality and has been for its entire existence. In fact, the thing I've tended to notice is that the beat-up, ancient Ford pickup with the Confederate flag bumper sticker is the normal type of vehicle for such propaganda. I've never seen a picture of a brand-new Mercedes or Cadillac Escalade sporting a Confederate flag. It might be stereotyping, but it seems to me that the stereotype in this situation is probably apropros. Those who fought and still wish to fight the Civil War do so because they can't handle reality. The world has passed them by and left them impoverished, so they search for something to blame and a greater cause to attach themselves to. Ignorance begets fear, which in turn begets a fantasy world in which this old, lost cause again has power and strength. My brief run-in with a Confederate sympathizer reminded me of the hatred the pastor had for anything that could possibly come out of the new movement in the church. At the time I couldn't help but think that the hatred was born of fear. Now I'm even more convinced of that fact.