Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lest we forget: a choice

Our lilac tree is in bloom. It is always a time of remembrance. It is when the lilacs were in bloom that the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln passed through Fort Wayne. It is not that remembrance, however, that I have in mind, no, in heart.

I was Dr. Robert Leslie’s teaching assistant at the Pacific School of Religion; one of the duties was to take seminarians in pastoral care to various facilities in the Berkeley area. Bob had spent four years in the South Pacific as a chaplain and continued in a training role with the military chaplaincy. All of us were draft exempt.

So it was that I was standing at a desk – the remembrance is sharp, as some of you will know – in an exercise room of the Oakland Naval Hospital. At the exercise bars was a marine, a real six footer. He was standing on one leg, the other off at the hip. He was trying not to look at the seminarians, and they were trying not to look at him. He was wearing only sh0rts. His body was literally covered with little black splotches.

To remember him is not post traumatic stuff, no anxiety even with the intensity of the experience. It is painful to remember, but it would be even more painful to forget. It is no flashback; it is a remembrance of choice. I know so many coming back felt rejected; I have wondered, not infrequently, what happened to him.

If this blog, and the book to come, mean anything, it is not a call for sympathy but for a compassion that marks the joining of the human race, of facing Paul’s outreach to both Jew and gentile. It is a call for us to all become more human, remembering all who suffer and continue to suffer, Japanese, German, Mexicans, marine and “cong,” Muslim and Christian.

What I think the Apostle Paul had learned, as he walked the walk while talking and writing the talk, is that to be “in Christ” is to truly love one another even as God has loved us through Jesus Christ. Love even our fellow Americans.

If you know somebody who is hurting, I hope you will log off the blogging and reach for the telephone: reach out, reach out, “in Christ.”

(One additional way you may want to consider is to put your favorite blog and send it out to everyone on your contact list; they may want to do it as well. So far, there are hits on The Apostle Paul and Post-traumatic Stress from ten countries beyond the United States: there a reaching out.)

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