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Random thoughts in light of recent events

By Mike Ruffin ’Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love’ (1 John 4:8). Legend has it that a relative of mine named Edmund Ruffin fired the first shot on Fort Sumter. I visited there last summer and there are exhibits that support the claim. So a Ruffin may have fired the shot that started the Civil War. I’m not ashamed. But I’m certainly not proud. Sometime during my boyhood, I was telling a friend how proud I was that our country had never lost a war. He said, ‘Well actually, Georgia was one of the Confederate states, so we lost the Civil War.’ This upset me, since all children think it’s possible to win all the time. So I asked my father if the South in fact lost the Civil War. He gave me that sideways look and said, ‘Yes, and be glad we did.’ Once a dear lady in a church I served placed a new headstone on the grave of her Confederate Army veteran grandfather. She told me she was going to hold a dedication service and asked me if I’d pray. So my Good Wife and I went to the cemetery at the appointed time. The program called for the saying of the pledge to the flag of the Confederate States of America before the saying of the pledge to the flag of the United States of America. My Good Wife asked me if I was going to say the pledge to the Confederate flag. I replied, ‘No, because I am not now, nor have I ever been, a citizen of the Confederate States of America.’ Neither has anyone else who is alive today. The first sermon by an African-American preacher I ever heard was in a Mercer University chapel service around 1977. I don’t remember his name, but I remember something he said. He was preaching on the text in Genesis 2 about God forming a man from the dust of the earth. He said, ‘It’s hard to understand how one speck of dust can think it’s better than another speck just because it’s a different hue.’ That made sense to me. It still does. General Robert E. Lee said this about putting up monuments after the Civil War: ‘I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.’ We should have heeded his advice. The ‘alt-right’ is all wrong. It’s a strange kind of Christianity that condones hate, much less honors and promotes it. Some of those white nationalists marching in Charlottesville on Saturday were probably raised in church. What on earth did they hear? Some of them probably went to church on the Sunday after they marched. What did their fellow parishioners say to them? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (using the words of the nineteenth century minister and philosopher Theodore Parker) famously said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Indeed it does. I am completely befuddled that any American can see swastikas on our streets and not be filled with indignation and sorrow. Heather Heyer cared deeply about people and tried to help the oppressed and disenfranchised. She was going to join those protesting against the Klan and Nazi marchers in Charlottesville when the car crashed into the crowd. She was killed. She was 32 years old. She is a hero. I understand dislike, irritation and misunderstanding. But I can’t understand hate. ’No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.’ (Nelson Mandela) ’All you need is love. Love is all you need.’ (John Lennon) Mike Ruffin was born and raised in Barnesville. He lives in Yatesville and works in Macon. He is an editor, writer, teacher, and preacher.

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