When Hate Arises, Silence is Tacit Approval: One Man’s Story

If you are neutral in situations of injustice,

you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Desmond Tutu

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Watching the election results 8 years ago (2008) with my smiling, 76-year old father, seeing the election of the first Black U.S. President together, was a day I remember very fondly. Watching last month’s Elections (2016), given the character, campaign behavior, and temperament (alone) of the man who won, I was quite disgusted.  A 180 degree difference in my emotional reaction to two Presidential elections.

Unbeknownst to me, a 55-year old African-American man (Greensboro NC), a white, Boston friend of mind was in Atlanta on business on November 8th. Thomas, a friend and classmate (Brown University), was clearly -based on our text message exchanges- as disgusted with the outcome as I was!  However, those at the Georgia bar beside him on Election Night were elated – and engaged in a hate-laden celebration. The story he later shared with me, 4 days after the Election, is one I felt I needed to share with others.


He watched the election results while he was having dinner at a hotel bar in Atlanta GA. He was sitting in a room filled with Trump enthusiasts who were getting increasingly drunk, loud, and hateful (words) as it became increasingly more apparent that the man they’d backed, not Hillary Rodham Clinton, would win. The loud men in the bar weren’t locals, but out of towners from places like Texas attending a conference.

Finally the guy sitting next to Thomas, who was tall and ‘built like a retired football lineman’ my friend said, crossed the line, saying racist and misogynist things he felt he could NOT tolerate.  Some of the man’s fiery rage he told me was directed at First Lady Michelle Obama.  By the way, the married father of two would never be mistaken for a football player . . . or a NBA player for that matter.

They got into a pretty heated verbal exchange when my friend could not remain silent any longer.  He told me:

He asked me where I was from and I told him Boston, where we judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin, their religion, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation.

In response to this he then yelled out “we have ourselves here a Yankee liberal”.  I ‘dressed him and all other Trump supporters down’ by calling them out for looking the other way on the hateful things which [the Republican nominee] had done; I rattled off a large number of hateful things that Trump had said or done. I told him my issue was less with Trump and more with his followers “like you” who now feel entitled to speak hatefully, as he had been doing for the previous 5 minutes.

Thomas was eventually able to end his verbal exchange with the ranting man without getting into a physical fight.

My friend went on to tell me later:

I had my chance to let off steam by calling out xenophobia, misogyny and racism. The hateful rhetoric then ceased.  I had made a bit of a scene so I went over and apologized, not for what I said, but apologized if I had caused her any problems with my making a scene.  The hotel manager pulled me aside . . . She said that she appreciated my calling him out and ending the hurt. The young black woman said that I represented her entire staff, who were all minorities except one white man.  Some of whom were in tears when the room of white Trump supporters started saying hateful things.

The hotel manager appreciated what he’d just done.  She actually gave Thomas a complimentary room upgrade to an executive suite.  Seems like, for this Good Samaritan, there was a better ‘room at the inn’ for his getting in the rowdy, hateful man’s face.

Frankly, I was impressed with what my friend chose to do that night. He risked getting hit or injured, or perhaps having to hit the man!  One of them could have left there ‘horizontal’ – for a trip to a hospital emergency room!  When I asked him about his motivations to do what he did, he stated:

While I will try my hardest to be respectful of Mr. Trump when he Is president, I will not listen in silence to hateful talk.  Silence is tacit approval”.

No doubting Thomas here!


He responded to a public situation he deemed to be intolerable.  Many I suspect would have kept their mouth shut or just left the bar altogether.  Sadly, hundreds of acts of hate have occurred in the 42 days since the Election. Thankfully the man I showcased in this post, just there eating dinner and watching TV in the Southern bar, chose to speak up – on behalf of the bar workers who were hearing the Trump enthusiasts that night.  My friend, in the presence of all of them, stood up to one of them directly – a loud, vulgar man running his big mouth.

  • My friend Thomas knew what was right and what he believed and didn’t hesitate to act on these beliefs. How would you have responded?
  • The twins of Love and Kindness can do a lot to offset Hate.
  • Sometimes people, be they morally-grounded people or abiding Christians, need to make split-second decisions to stand up against injustice. Some choose to speak up and assist; others choose to avoid. The words of Desmond Tutu, about the impact on justice of one’s neutrality, and the fearless Boston man whose story I’ve shared, “Silence is tacit approval”, are both powerful food for thought.  In the next post in this race relations series, more powerful words, from a gifted Episcopal Priest in the Boston MA area, will be featured. They speak to the role of one’s soul as a stronghold against hate and bigotry.

Greg Silverthorne

66 Assurance Way (12/20/16)


Photo credit: Via Tsuji/flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme (Poem, audio)


A Love Supreme

I will do all I can to be worthy of Thee O Lord.
It all has to do with it.
Thank you God.
Peace.
There is none other.
God is. It is so beautiful.
Thank you God. God is all.
Help us to resolve our fears and weaknesses.
Thank you God.
In You all things are possible.
We know. God made us so.
Keep your eye on God.
God is. He always was. He always will be.
No matter what…it is God.
He is gracious and merciful.
It is most important that I know Thee.
Words, sounds, speech, men, memory, thoughts,
fears and emotions – time – all related …
all made from one … all made in one.
Blessed be His name.
Thought waves – heat waves-all vibrations –
all paths lead to God. Thank you God.

His way … it is so lovely … it is gracious.
It is merciful – thank you God.
One thought can produce millions of vibrations
and they all go back to God … everything does.
Thank you God.
Have no fear … believe … thank you God.
The universe has many wonders. God is all. His way … it is so wonderful.
Thoughts – deeds – vibrations, etc.
They all go back to God and He cleanses all.
He is gracious and merciful…thank you God.
Glory to God … God is so alive.
God is.
God loves.
May I be acceptable in Thy sight.
We are all one in His grace.
The fact that we do exist is acknowledgement of Thee O Lord.
Thank you God.
God will wash away all our tears …
He always has …
He always will.
Seek Him everyday. In all ways seek God everyday.
Let us sing all songs to God
To whom all praise is due … praise God.
No road is an easy one, but they all
go back to God.
With all we share God.
It is all with God.
It is all with Thee.
Obey the Lord.
Blessed is He.
We are from one thing … the will of God … thank you God.
I have seen God – I have seen ungodly –
none can be greater – none can compare to God.
Thank you God.
He will remake us … He always has and He always will.
It is true – blessed be His name – thank you God.
God breathes through us so completely …
so gently we hardly feel it … yet,
it is our everything.
Thank you God.
ELATION-ELEGANCE-EXALTATION
All from God.
Thank you God. Amen.

JOHN COLTRANE – December, 1964


  • From the liner notes of the jazz musician’s classic, A Love Supreme (February 1965 release).

 

Under the Umbrella: You ain’t alone! (Christian Faith)

“I command you to move today.
Because of faith, I have a brand new day.
The sun will shine, and I will be okay.
That’s when I told the storm!”


  • In the aftermath of the 2016 Elections, this gospel gem came to mind.  I love this song!  The lyrics are excerpted below.
  • At a time when it seems a storm of hate (not love) is rampant in the USA, I know that the Heavenly Father is under the umbrella with every abiding Christian who faces (or is at risk of facing) hateful or violent acts and talk – because of their race, immigration status, or religion.  Where is the love?
  • When God speaks, be assured he will tell the current national storm of hate and bigotry we’re facing to go away.  The battle isn’t your’s, it’s the Lord’s!  

  • Meditate on the lyrics and audio of Greg O’Quin ‘n Joyful Noyze’s song, “I Told the Storm”; this YouTube has over 21 million views by the way (that’s not a typo).  Know, like the 3 Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace, you ain’t alone. God’s there too!
  • Pray everyday for a cease in the ugly storms we’ve faced all over this nation (since Trump won).  What are you telling the storm?

Even though your winds blow.
I want you to know.
You cause me no alarm.
Cause I’m safe in his arms.

I command you to move today.
Because of faith, I have a brand new day.
The sun will shine, and I will be okay.
That’s when I told the storm!

Death can’t shake me!
Jobs can’t make me!
Bills can’t break me!
Disease can’t shake me!
You can’t drown me!
Cause my God surrounds me!  
That’s what I told the storm?

Hate can’t shake you!

Racism can’t break you!

 66 Assurance Way


Harmony, not hate and ‘darkness’ (M.L. King)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil —
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars —
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968)
Strength To Love speech, 1963

 5332424980_cfecb39780Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson & Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964)


You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:43-45a (NASB)


Photo credit:

Signing of Civil Rights Act (7/2/64):  U.S. Embassy New Delhi/flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

8 Pillars of Living a ‘Godly Life’ (Scripture)

  • Faith
  • Goodness
  • Knowledge
  • Self-control
  • Perseverance
  • Godliness
  • Mutual affection
  • Love

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3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

(2 Peter 1 NIV)


Photo credit: Jerry Worster/flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Inner Strength through God’s Spirit (Scripture)

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I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.

Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.   And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 

Ephesians 3: 13 – 16 (NLT)


66 Assurance Way

 Photo Credit: Art4TheGlryOfGod/flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

‘A Love Supreme’ for God: John Coltrane’s Story

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is easily one of my favorite recordings of jazz music.  As noted in the Arun Rath story I quote below, it is his love for God that fueled this awesome 1964 recording by the talented jazz saxophonist.  It was released 50 years ago this year (February 1965).  How Coltrane got to the point of creating this classic album is reflected in his personal life.

  • Only 40 years old when he died in Long Island in 1967, today would have been the jazz musician’s 89th birthday.
  • He underwent a transformation in the months leading up to the December 1964 recording.  His new life view sparked his praise of God, including this 50-year old jazz masterpiece.

Personally, it took me a while to appreciate this album.   Like my spiritual growth, my taste in jazz music evolved over time; initially a Ronnie Laws (another saxophonist) lover, I grew to love the jazz expressions of John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, & McCoy Tyner.  Once I came to understand Coltrane’s music, it was hard to really appreciate Laws anymore.

  • Excerpts of two NPR stories on this classic jazz recording are offered below.

As I read Eric Westervelt’s post, I thought of the importance of knowing someone’s story.  How Coltrane (Sept. 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967) came to his respectful praise of God, and what that change meant, is a fascinating story.


A Love Supreme is Coltrane’s ultimate spiritual testament: The “love supreme” he describes is God’s love.


While A Love Supreme is a recognized musical masterpiece, it had enormous personal significance for Coltrane.  In the spring of 1957, his dependence on heroin and alcohol lost him one of the best jobs in jazz.   He was playing sax and touring with Miles Davis’ popular group when he became unreliable and strung out.   Alternately catatonic and brilliant, Coltrane’s behavior and playing became increasingly erratic.   Davis fired him after a live show that April.

Soon after, Coltrane resolved to clean up his act.   He would later write, in the 1964 liner notes to A Love Supreme, “In the year of 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening, which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.”

But Coltrane didn’t always stay the clean course.   As he also wrote in the album’s notes, “As time and events moved on, I entered into a phase which is contradictory to the pledge and away from the esteemed path.   But thankfully now, through the merciful hand of God, I do perceive and have been fully reinformed of his omnipotence.   It is truly a love supreme.” [Emphasis added]


Check out:

Greg Silverthorne, 9/21/15

66 Assurance Way