Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day--It's Touching Time

As this Memorial Day approaches I remember a powerful scene that expresses what I feel about this day. It comes from a book by the Kentucky writer, Bobbie Ann Mason. The book is called In Country and told a Memorial Day story in very human terms. The central figure in the story was Sam who lived in this tiny town in western Kentucky. Sam was conceived while her Daddy was home on leave but died in Vietnam before Sam was born. All her life she heard stories about her Daddy, Dwayne and tales about the in Southeast Asia. Emmett, a good friend of the family was also in that war and kept telling Sam about her Daddy and what a hard time it was. He told about many soldiers he knew who never came home. He also told her about all the Vietnam veterans who were on the streets or were crippled in mind or body. Sam took it all in and kept fantasizing about a Daddy she wished she had known.

Emmett decided one day that it would be a good thing to take Sam and her grandmother, Mamaw to see the Vietnam Memorial. He wanted them to see her father’s name on the monument.  So one morning they got in Sam’s old car and drove to Washington. It took a long time. Mamaw brought a geranium to leave at the Memorial.  Finally they got to Washington, fought the traffic, and found the sign which read: Viet Nam Veterans Memorial and an arrow pointing the way. Parking was a real problem but they found a spot on a side street. They got out of the car and helped Mamaw up the path to see the Memorial.

And there it was. A black slab that just looked like it emerged from the ground. It was massive and held the names of the 58,000 men and women who had died in Vietnam.  That huge black slab was nothing like they thought. Name after name really told the story of those that had died in the war. People were everywhere. All ages. Some were kneeling and touching the Wall. Some brought notes and flowers. An old vet dressed in army fatigues held his hand over his mouth as he scanned the names. A woman wiped her face with a handkerchief.

Emmett, Sam and Mamaw found the directory that told where all the names were. They finally found Dwayne’s name and the direction to where his name was. They found the section where the name was to be but there were so many names. They keep looking and way up high they saw the name: Dwayne E. Hughes. They just stood there looking up. Emmett took the Geranium from MaMaw and knelt down and placed it at the base of the granite panel. Mamaw said, “Oh, I wish I could touch it.” So Sam rescued a ladder from some workmen nearby, opened it. Slowly they helped Mamaw up rung after rung. She found the name of her grandson. Ever so slowly she reached up and touches his name. The old woman ran her hand over his name etched in granite. She didn’t say a word. After a long time she said, “Hep me down.”

Then it was Sam’s turn. She climbed up and touched the name of the Daddy she never knew. When she backed down the ladder Mamaw clutched her arm and said, “Coming up on this wall of a sudden and seeing how black it was, it was so awful, but then I came down in it and saw that white carnation blooming out of that crack and it gave me hope. It made me know he’s watching over us.”

This ought to be a day for memories. Remembering all those that have died for us and for this country. Remembering all the brave soldiers of all the professions who have worked and dreamed and labored and lived and loved. We would be different people were it not for some soldier, some teacher, some Mamaw—some person whose name is not inscribed on anybody’s wall—but it etched on the wall of our hearts. None of them died in vain. Take a few moments and remember all the fallen. It is touching time—running our memories over the names and the faces of all those who have made a difference in our lives.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Oklahoma Tornado--Why?

"O God, Creator and good keeper of the world and author of human freedom, give us the courage necessary to live and to minister in the midst of so much suffering. Give us the maturity to manage our own lives and not to curse you in the midst of distress. Above all, O God, give us that keen awareness of your intimate presence with us, so that we can respond to joy or suffering, to good and to evil, in ways that glorify you, and write new chapters in the history of salvation. In the name of him whose title is Emmanuel, God with us,Amen."
           --W. Sibley Towner

For days now I have sat like many of you before the TV with my hand over my mouth. What can we possibly say to those 56,000 in Moore, Oklahoma? So many of their children dead, so many of their neighbors in hospitals. So many who stagger through the debris trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. Like Newtown at Christmas and Joplin, Missouri in 2011 and all the other crises—we now weep for our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma.  Once again the settledness of life has been torn up by its roots. And the stories just keep coming. A woman sorting through her wreckage looking for photographs of a Mother that died in 1947. The couple standing with a handful of splinters saying, “This is all that is left of our house.” The courage of those teachers who lay on top of their kids or huddled with them in closets to keep them safe. The farm that lost over 100 horses on Monday afternoon. All these and so many more are trying to find something familiar to hang on to when all they have known has been swept away. Over and over we ask why. Why? Job is the oldest book in the Bible and its theme deals with this question. When that long book is finished, most of the whys are left unanswered.  

What are we to do with the whys? Why Moore, Oklahoma? Have they suffered enough—this is their time around. Survivors say they are safe because their prayers were answered. Did those that did not make it pray? Hmm. Job's friends with reasons why Job was in such a mess. His sins must have been monstrous to have lost his family, his home, his health—everything. With friends like this who needs enemies. The finger pointing of retribution is one way of dealing with suffering. We have our blamers, too. From the safety of some air-conditioned room they preach judgment toward whatever groups they despise this week. God, they say, is trying to teach us a lesson that would force us to change our ways.* You don’t hear those sorting through the wreckage saying such words. They are much too busy trying to put their lives back together. Why would God punish these thousands of folk for the sins of some and leave the rest of us safe? Are we less sinful?  What kind of a monstrous God would this be? 

Standing before this river of pain some respond by saying we can do nothing but wring our hands in despair. The world, they say, is an unfriendly place. It is marked by fissures and potholes. If we live long enough, they tell us, surely the darkness will come to us all. This hand wringing is reflected in much of popular culture. Our films and books are filled with stories of a world entrenched with evil. Is life only a windowless room with no exit? Most of us have felt this hopelessness from time to time. Is our best response to suffering simply to wring our hands and shake our heads? 

There are is another reply to these whys. It is a faith response. We can turn our hands upward.  When a child died suddenly the mother asked her preacher, “Where was God when my child died?” The minister said quietly, “The same place God was when his son died.” In times of great pain we can reach upward. We can cry out to God. One third of all the Psalms in the Bible are Psalms of Lamentation. God’s people railed out their questions, their pain, and sometimes their rage to their God. Again and again they came back feeling they were heard and cared for. This is not a picture of a vengeful God but a God who hears and cares. We are not alone. The pray-ers and the non-prayers—the survivors and the dead—God is with us all.  

An outgrowth of such faith is do something positive. We can turn toward those in need. This is at the heart of the Judeo-Christian faith. We can care for those who have suffered terrible losses. We can send clothing and food to those left homeless. We can get out chain saws and cut away trees and bramble. We can give to worthy organizations. We can volunteer by spending time helping those whose names we do not know. We can badger state and national leaders until they respond as our government should. Isn’t this the real task of government—to care for its citizens? And we can make sure that after the headlines are over and the hard work of rebuilding is still to be done, we do not forget those in need. We learn again that the word neighbor transcends every barrier. We do what we can.  

Our actions will not undo the damage or bring back the dead. Life will be forever different for those touched by the events of this hurricane. The people of England found this to be true during the Second World War. Bombs fell on London for over 60 days. Much of that country was destroyed. Thousands were killed and survivors were left homeless.  Great gashes and craters were left where the bombs had fallen.  But the next spring those same craters were covered in flowers. Botanists reported that the bombs and their nitrates had unearthed bulbs, some hundreds of years old. Those flowers covered over much of what the damage had brought. 

What are we to do with our whys? We can point fingers or wring our hands. Or we can reach out in faith and do what needs to be done. Bertholt Brecht, the poet asks, “In the dark times will there also be singing?” That’s what we hope for those in Moore, Oklahoma and for us all.


*Michelle Bachmann speaking in Florida spoke of her understanding of what was happening in different places in the country: "I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going  to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Graduation Time--A Word to the Graduates

"Well son, I'll tell you
Life for me  ain't been no crystal      stair.  
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters, 
And boards torn up,
 And places with no carpet on the 
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you find it's kinder hard.
Don't you all now--For I'se still goin' honey
I'se still climbin'.
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair." 
   --Langston Hughes, "Mother to Son"

Bill Cosby spoke at a college graduation several years ago. He leaned over the podium and shouted to the graduates: “Don’t Go!” He brought down the house. But there was a truth there. It’s a scary time. Washington is in a mess. The unemployment lines are still too long. Many college graduates worry about how they’re going to pay back their college loans.  Jobs are scarce. And parents are politely asking: “Er, what are you going to do?” One fellow answered, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to get by on my allowance.” Many have no clue about their futures. It really would be comforting if the graduates could just stay where they are. Leaving is tough. Saying goodbye to friends. Leaving the security of the last four years—maybe more. Stepping out into the unknown is scary business any time.

I remember my high school graduation as if it were yesterday. (And it wasn’t!) We had on dark blue shantung robes with white stoles. I peeked into the gym which was filled to overflowing with parents, brothers, sisters and friends. The lights were dimmed except for the stage where we would sit. We lined up as we were instructed. And suddenly it was time for the festivities to start. The Band struck up “Pomp and Circumstance” a little wobbly. And the parade down the long aisle began. This was it. No more high school. We had finally graduated even though there were days when we wondered. There were some mean teachers and mean kids I was glad I never had to see again. But as I started down the long aisle my cheeks were wet. Tears came into my eyes. Even after all these years I still remember the feeling on that dark evening in my high school in Columbus, Georgia. Despite it all I didn’t want to leave. I had grown accustomed to those hallways, those classrooms, the cafeteria, the classes and friends and even the girl friend I did not get.

What happened after that night was hard to explain. I left home that fall and it was never the same again. I discovered that what I knew was not even the tip of a very big iceberg.  There was a world out there I did not know even existed. It wasn’t all moonlight and roses. There were dark days and incredible disappointments from time to time. But what I really discovered was that the world was a whole lot bigger than I ever imagined. More than one summer I spent on the third-shift of a non-air-conditioned cotton mill working with living people. After those summers I escaped and worked out West and the following summer at a camp near New York City. My tiny little world was expanding fast and furious. There were books to discover and friends I made that are with me to this day. Somewhere back there I discovered what I thought I wanted to do with the rest of my life. And looking back I learned that many of those first hunches proved right.

History tells me that every generation faces the kind of challenges that high school and college graduates face today. We’re not much different than them. We can spend all our time mistrusting and second-guessing ourselves.  We can get down in the mouth and stay negative and bitter for the rest of our lives. We’ve all had days like that. 

Most of us will not win American Idol or Miss America or the Heisman trophy. So what. Life stretches out before us and certainly the unknown is scary. If we ever talked to our parents about these things we find they had a hard time when they stood where we now stand. They experienced incredible heartbreak and wrong turns. But most of them came though and found that in the hard places they developed strength they never thought they had.

 But the temptation for all of us is to never leave. You see them hanging around the fraternity house twenty years after they have graduated. They’re still cheerleading, fighting old battles that they should have shed long ago. They corner others that come back on alumni weekend and drunkenly mutter over and over: “It was great back there, wasn’t it.” They never left. They got stuck.

But the good news is that we really can leave. And we just might discover lessons no American idol winner or Miss America may not know. We can all make a difference. We can influence more lives than we think. We can learn the hard lesson of forgiving ourselves for all those times we stumbled and fell. Arthur Miller wrote in one of his plays, “There comes a time when we all have to take ourselves in our own arms.” I guess that’s what I hope for all of us. In work and play and love we will find that saying goodbye is very hard.  But there is a more powerful truth: saying hello to a yet unknown may be the best thing we ever do. And that’s why we have to go.

(This article appeared in The Greenville News (SC) May 27, 2013)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost as Fire

One word sticks out in the Pentecost passage. Guess what it is. Not breath or wind. Not even leaping over barrier after barrier. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Gentiles, women, the uncircumcised and all those unlike us. That’s not what stands out in this passage.  The prominent word here is fire. Tongues of fire came down upon each and every one of them. And so today, on the birthday of the church I am thinking of the spirit as fire. What is God trying to say to us through this symbol of fire?


Fire represents light. Before the days of electricity fire was the only light they had. Torches were lit to guide their ways. Some of us have heard grandmothers and grandfathers tell of sitting by an old oil lamp or reading by candlelight. It wasn't easy--but it was better than darkness.

When John Henry Newman went through a terrible time of depression he wrote this hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light." And we can be grateful today that God's light still illumines our way through the darkness of our lives.

Lyndon Johnson’s biographer tells the story that when Mr. Johnson was a young congressman he worked hard to bring electricity to the rural areas of Pedernales County in his home district. Many of the dirt farmers had never seen electric lights or appliances before; they weren’t even sure they wanted them and had to be persuaded that Johnson was not trying to inflict some invention of the devil on them. Besides that, this business would cost money. Eventually the poles were erected and the light wires strung along them, and then the wires were run from the poles to the little farmhouses, where, in most instances, they were connected to sockets with bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. No one was sure when the power would be turned on. Then one day without warning the electricity flowed through t lines and all the lights came on. One family was coming back home on the dirt road in their automobile. It was almost dark. As they approached their house and saw the lights they thought their house was on fire. Then, as they got closer, they saw it was on the miracle of the lights. Like children, they all got out and danced through the house. And life never would be the same again for old farmers that to get up and three and four to mile and then take it to town before it would spoil. Women who had to haul water from a stream or a well and wash clothes on a rub-board by hand and iron them on an iron heated on the old wood stove. Life would never be as it was before.

We say this about the coming of the spirit. That fire represented light that would change things forever. And we have yet to unpack this wonderful idea that when the spirit comes it transforms everything much more than electricity could ever do. Luke quotes Acts in that section about the spirit: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy.”(Acts 2. 17-18a) Sight brings in-sight. And my hope  is that the Spirit will open eyes and hearts until we begin to dream dreams and see visions  in ways we never, ever dreamed. And that’s what God always does for the faithful church. The fire that God brings is like the light. And in that light we can find the way.  


Fire not only provides light but it also provides warmth. You can freeze to death without some kind of heat source. When the power went off in 1993 and our community was without heat for eight days--the first half-day was fun. Off from work. Building fires. Couldn't get out and go anywhere. But after a day or so the wood got low, and we got tired of smelling candle wax and damp wood smoked--but it was so cold at night. I remember well the day the electricity came on--I was outside on my front porch and a whoop went up all over the neighborhood. Warmth is a wonderful thing.

The ministry of hospitality is one of the most important ministries the church has. Not just to be cordial when people come in, but also to continue that hospitality after they have joined. They asked Jesus: "Lord, when did we see you?" And do remember what he said: "I was a stranger and you took me in." And when the church anywhere turns their back on those that come--they will not see the face of Jesus.


The spirit is like fire because it purifies. In those little house churches scattered across that part of the known world--they were as human as people in this room. People talk about getting back to the early church. I'm not to see we really want to go there? Remember Corinth? Laodecia? Sardis? Pergamum? They fussed and fought as if they were 21st century Christians.

And the spirit came on Pentecost Sunday and began to purify their motives and their behavior or at least made them a little more honest. It didn't happen all at once. It never does. Most growth that matters comes slowly and sometimes painfully.

Fire purifies. We are tested. Remember those words from the Messiah: "He shall be like a refiner's fire." Paul says to the Corinthians the fire will test you to see what kind of what you really do. (I Cor. 3.13) When Christians were dying at the hands of Rome and follower after follower had just fallen away. I Peter says that you will be tested by fire. (I Peter 1.7) The Spirit, then will use these painful, painful times to test us one and all. Now don't misunderstand me--God doesn't send the fire. But when it comes we find out what we are made of. And I have been moved terribly through the years by the courage and faith of men and women and sometimes young people who found themselves in terribly hard places and found the way. That's what the spirit does--it will lead us through whatever hard, hard things we face. In Exile, Isaiah wrote to his friends these comforting words: "When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall nor consume you." Why? Read the next verse: "For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."(Is. 43.2-3a) So whatever happens we need not fear--the fire may purify--but God's spirit will not let it consume us.


The spirit is like fire because it is passionate. Elton Trueblood wrote a book several years ago called The Incendiary Fellowship. It was about a people on fire for God.

What gave those early believers such passion? The spirit of God turned them inside out. And they were a passionate group of believers.

Where did we ever get the idea that Playboy has a monopoly on passion? Where did we get the idea that Playboy was passionate? Poor old Hugh Hefner, staggering around in his pajamas, three twenty-two year olds trailing behind him. He's had his face-lifts and I am sure tummy tucks--and in his pocket surely there must be a vial of viagara. Is that passion? No. It is pathetic.
Passion makes us believe that what God is doing in the world today is a wonderful thing. It takes little depressed lifeless disciples and gives them hearts that burn. And what every church needs are people who are passionate about the cause of Jesus. Not some program. Not some kind of worship—traditional or contemporary. Why you can find better entertainment on Saturday night. We are not in the entertainment business. The passion of God changes us and makes us believe when the water runs the wrong way. The passion of God keeps us giving and worshipping and loving one another even on the days when it is hardest. 

One of the histories of the missionary movement told of a missionary's commentary on the work in a very hard place. This is the way she wrote it I hope it can be said of all of us someday: "Long before we came they gathered sticks and built a fire--we kept it burning." No wonder they chose the flame and fire as symbol for Pentecost. Someone else gathered sticks and built the fire here…and now it is our time on stage. Will we keep the fire burning? Will we keep the fire burning? I hope we will…oh, I hope we will. For the folks that open their hearts to the Spirit of God will always do just that.   

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When Drugs Sneak Into A Family

Every once in a while I pick up a book and strange things happen to me on the inside. I find myself moved. I discover information I was totally ignorant of.  I weep for the particular sadness this book footnotes again and again. I closed the last page and began to see this parcel of the world just a little different.

David Sheff has written a splendid book about his family’s journey through their son’s addiction. His son Nic was brilliant in so many ways. He was given the best education one could have. He was a varsity athlete and an honors student. He was adored by his younger brother and sister. Though his mother and father divorced while he was still young—both parents loved Nic fiercely.

Nic became addicted the crystal meth and the whole family was turned inside out. Meth, one of the most addictive of the drugs, changed Nick and his family in terrible ways. After meth took hold of their son he lied repeatedly, stole money from his eight-year-old brother and his parents and lived on the streets. The father recounts the pain of sending his son to rehab after rehab. Nothing ever seemed to work. His father, a journalist researched every avenue trying to find help for his son. The book tells what happens to people addicted to meth. The father tells what the devastations that Nic experienced changed their family forever.

 Chillingly the father wrote: “When Nick was growing up, I thought I would be content with whatever choices he hade in his life...Now I live with the knowledge that, never mind the most modest definition of a normal or healthy life, my son may not make it to twenty-one.

We have all been touched by drug and alcohol addiction. Hardly a church anywhere does not have someone out there in the pews on Sunday who lives either with their own addiction or the burden of some child they have not been able to help. What they need is what we all need—compassion and understanding. These parents and relatives live with guilt and shame and face painful situations they can do little about. Read this book if you would like to learn more about some of the kids down your street on in your school or even upstairs in a bedroom in your house. There are few answers in this book—but the questions this father raises are questions we all must live and struggle with as members of the human family. We still have much work to do.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jason Collins and Mother's Day

 As I read about NBA star basketball player, Jason Collins announcing that he was gay it reminded me of a story a friend of mine told of going to a championship football game. As the game progressed, a man sitting in front of him got all fired up and started yelling. "Break the quarterback's leg! Wring his neck! Knock him out of the game!" A little lady sitting beside my friend tapped the screamer on the shoulder. He turned around. She simply said: "That's my boy you're talking about." The enthusiastic fan suddenly became very quiet. He saw the quarterback through different eyes, He still cheered for his team to win--but that tap on the shoulder helped him to see at least one player on the opposing team as some Mother's son.

The world is filled with a whole multitude of some mother's sons and daughters. They live in Afghanistan and ghettos and behind prison walls and across the street. They are on death row and occupy great seats of power and influence. Many play on our sports’ teams. Behind every name they were once somebody's little boy or girl.

This age of ours tends to demonize practically everyone at one time or another. We especially target those who disagree with us. We aim in all directions: The President, Israelis or Palestinians--those who are in the other political party. This is the age of the snarl and the write-off. Who cares about the feelings of the poor, the aged, the gays, the little unknown kids from Pakistan, the little child in Florida that got lost in the bureaucratic system? Nobody missed her for a year. If we can put distance between us and call these others "them"--anger, rage and hate come easier.

But the word, mother has the capacity to change every enemy. The outsiders we call "they"--really are somebody's boy or girl. On this Mother's Day as we remember our own mothers it might be good to think of all those other mothers out there and the heartbreak they must feel about the daily rage directed at their children .

Good mothers help their little ones grow up to be fulfilled human beings. What happens in those early months help form a strong foundation of security and trust for the rest of their lives. But a fuller understanding of the
word mother could also enable us reach across the opposing sides and differences. In treating even those with whom we disagree fairly, something good begins to shine through our lives. Mothers can teach us that we can cheer for our own team without hating the other side.

When the writer, Henry James was saying goodbye to his young nephew Billy, he said something the boy never forgot. James told him: "There are three things important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind." Some evening when we are tired and some telemarketer is on the other end of the line maybe our response should be a little different. Who knows who they are? Surely they must hate what they do, randomly calling people who do not want what they sell and hear terrible things said to them. This may be a second job that helps someone eke out a living. Who knows? Perhaps even in our saying no we might remember that somebody's child is on the other end of the line. We don't have to be cruel or mean in our response.

Maybe the words, somebody's child on this special day will help us recover a common decency that will enable us to treat all with care, respect and dignity. Even  basket ball players like Jason Collins. Of all the gifts we might give mothers this year, perhaps we should forgo the perfume, the corsages, the talcum powder and the scarves. Perhaps a greater gift might be to treat with respect and kindness all those we meet. After all, they really are somebody's child. What responsible mother would not be proud of such a gift?

(This article was published in The Greenville News (SC) , May 12, 2013)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bangladesh and the Private Sector

"I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one."
                --John 17.15

It’s been a week now since that eight story building collapsed in Bangladesh. As of today we know that over 600 were crushed under the rubble of that disaster. This does not count the countless number—like our own Boston—who will be wounded or crippled for the rest of their lives. We’re told that even though the building and been inspected just days before and declared unsafe—nothing was done to close the doors and send the hundreds of workers home.

The ugly facts are beginning to emerge. The New York Times has reported that there are 4,000 garment factories in that country. There are 3.8 million garment workers and more than $18 billion dollars in apparel exports from Bangladesh just this past year. We also learned that just six months before a fire in one of their factories killed 112 people. Safety conditions were ignored as they are in too many of these plants.

Most of us wear clothing that were made in sweatshops like these in country after country. I went back to my closet and riffled through shirts and sweaters and even suits. Almost nothing I touched was made in this country. The average worker in this crumbled factory was paying its workers $40.00 a month. Defenders of these manufacturing concerns say that without that pittance of a salary most of those who worked would go hungry. Better hungry than dead.

We keep hearing this litany at home about the wonders of the private sector. Just turn them loose, free us from all these cursed regulations and our economy would flourish. Have we forgotten the struggles of workers in our own country to achieve some kind of decent working conditions, some kind of minimum wage that would be more than a pittance?

I know the whole issue is complicated and I am far from being an economist. But I do know if we drowned the government in that bathtub that Grover Norquist keeps talking about we would be in bad trouble. Who says that big business will look after the common good? We know that many of our regulations and codes are ridiculous. But if we are honest we also know that without some restrictions what happened in faraway Bangladesh could come back to this country. Have we already forgotten our housing crisis which is still with us?

I do not know the answer to the aching pain in Bangladesh and the other thousands of sweatshops that keep our goods at reasonable prices. I do know that we could turn away from all those that will not follow safety rules that protect workers. Businesses like the Gap and Disney and Walmart and almost every other company buys their goods from these places where regulation is almost nonexistent. Maybe these 600 dead will be a wake-up call.

So when you see some politician talk about the private sector—remember Bangladesh and all our brothers and sisters there are as important as the children we send off to school every morning. Greed may kill us yet.  Who knows? But maybe, just maybe we will open our eyes and hearts long enough to change some of our selfish ways.

I remembered that moving stature of Jesus in the Garden in Gethsemani Monastery in Kentucky as I read these stories that have come to us from Bangladesh. That sculptured piece honors an American martyr, Jonathan Daniels of Boston who was shot down in Alabama in the sixties because of civil rights. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world have mercy on us all.