I am desperately trying to sooth a despaired and troubled heart. What’s the source of my despair? The stuck record that is playing in my mind, repeating this question. How do we help our fellow citizens to understand that we cannot make sweeping changes and decisions in our society while being caught up in a blinding fog of emotional rage? We must first calm the rage. We must center. Here’s my centering process. I am Muslim. I once told a friend that and my friend’s immediate response was oh no, don’t say that! My reply was why not, wasn’t our country founded on the principle of freedom of choice? Please understand that I grew up in the church in a Christian community. I have not forgotten my Christian teachings. As a matter of fact, I’m going to share some of those teaching with you now. My favorite Christian song is How Great Thou Art, by Stuart K. Hine, 1953. If you do not know the words, look them up.
Next when seeking release from despair, I turned to the Concordance in the back of my Bible which I still own and read from time to time. No guidance was there for relieving despair, but it did offer guidance and strong suggestions for dealing with distress. I took that to mean that despair is not an option in a Christian or Muslim life. One must address distress in order to conquer despair and to eliminate both from our lives. Here are my chosen scriptures on dealing with “distress”
2Chronicles 15:4-7. 4…but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. 5 In those times it was not safe for anyone to go or come, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. 6 They were broken in pieces, nation against nation and city against city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. 7 But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.
Psalm 120:1-7. 1 In my distress I cry to the Lord, that he may answer me: 2”Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.” 3 What shall be given to you? And what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? 5 Woe is me, that I am an alien in Meshech, that I must live among the tents of Kedar. 6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. 7 I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.
Psalm 106:44-47. 44 Nevertheless he regarded their distress when he heard their cry. 45 For their sake he remembered his covenant, and showed compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 46 He caused them to be pitied by all who held them captive. 47 Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
For those of us who find the need to remind us that George Floyd was a man with less than an honorable reputation and that the officer Derek Chauvin was a policeman who fell from grace; please remember the following scriptures.
Luke 23:32-33. 32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 When they came to the place that is called the Skull, they crucified Jesus and there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
Luke 23:39-43. 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Let us remember here today that Christ died for George Floyd and for Officer Derek Chauvin.
I know, you must be asking yourself; what does all of this have to do with Forrest Homecoming? We have come here to honor our hero and even here, we cannot escape the insanity. Let me close with some details about General Nathan Bedford Forrest taken from The Memphis Daily Appeal—Saturday, August 8, 1868. Meeting of the Conservative Club of Colored Men of the Fourth Ward at Stillman Hall.
“Loud calls were made for Gen. Forrest, who appeared and made a forcible address, informing the colored men who were their best friends, and of the designs of the Radicals to plunge the country into a war of races. He informed them that the Southern man was the true friend of the black race, and if the scalawags got them into trouble the black man would have to do the fighting, while the scalawag ran away, as usual. He advised them not to be seduced into joining Loyal Leagues, or other secret societies, but to go to work and become industrious, and vote the Democratic ticket. When the white people become free, through the aid of the colored man, then, all would be at peace, and the Conservative man would protect them in all their rights. He would protect them, and every honest Southern man would do likewise. Gen. Forrest spoke about an hour, and was loudly applauded.”
Thus despair and distress have been conquered in my heart. I can now accept that there is much work to be done. That work is made possible through remembering the legacy of our ancestors. We do not have to get into shouting matches or become violent with each other. We simply need to reflect on the greatness of the history of our country. It is as simple as remembering to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Hopefully you are familiar the country artists, “Brooks and Dunn” and the song Believe. If not, please do this. Go to YouTube, search young blacks react to Brooks and Dunn’s Believe. My favorite responses were from the following two young people, “Super MomGo” and “The Joseph Davis” reactions.
Love and forgiveness are powerful tools, even in days like these.