Sunday, September 23, 2007

Naming the Evil, Part 2: Bloggers Can Make a Difference

Evil draws men together.

~Aristotle, Rhetoric

This is the second (and final) part of a blog post begun on September 22nd.

On the Thursday following the weekend which we had chosen to preach the “naming” services, the county clergy association met to discuss the responses we had heard to words, “We live in an alcoholic, violent, and abusive community.” For the most part, those clergy who had preached a sermon on the subject reported no overt negative responses from their congregations. We observed a lot of affirmative nodding and words spoken to us by parishioners after the services such as “That has needed to be said for a very long time” and “We really do need to do something about the ________ around here.”

At St. John, I received uniformly positive verbal and non-verbal response. Even the two old Germans who frowned throughout the service always frown throughout a service. I believe that they, like my Uncle Otto who was born and grew up in Germany, has been taught that “if you smile in church, God will surely strike you dead.” Perhaps that was the manner used to control young German boys in church.

Following Sunday’s service, my wife, sons, and I drive the thirty or so miles to dine in Owensboro, Kentucky. There were always quite a few folks from our Indiana county dining there after worship services. I listened as I could and found quite a few folks discussing the sermons that had so recently heard preached. At a table near ours, two families that attended different churches had a conversation such as this:

Methodist: Pastor _________preached this really powerful sermon about the alcoholism and abuse in our community.

Catholic: That’s strange. Father______ had a homily on the same subject.

That evening, at home, I began receiving responses from non-parishioners. I had two telephone lines running into the parsonage: our private telephone number and the church’s number. About 10:00 p.m. I answered the church phone and received a verbal barrage of curses from a woman who sounded no only very drunk, but also, from the background noise, was in a bar. A second telephone call came about fifteen minutes later. This one had fewer curses, but I suspect, because of the background noise, came from the same bar.

When I went outside the next morning I found what I believe was another response to the sermon: the two street side tires of my car, which was parked on the street in front of the parsonage were flat. When I took them to be repaired it was found that both had been deeply cut.

Following those sermons, the community began coming together and working to make changes. One of the local policemen was replaced, not only because he routinely ignored the kids (some as young as 14) drinking outside the bard, but also because the city council learned that he was selling drugs to some of those same kids. The mayor of Cannelton, who was a member of my congregation, began action to reclaim the riverside of the flood wall from the motorcycle gang who had a large, old house by the river. It rather helped that the gang’s clubhouse caught on fired and the volunteer fire department couldn’t get close enough to it put out the fire because ammunition that was stored in the house kept exploding. I arranged for a presentation by a Louisville based program dealing with addicted adolescents to begin a program in the county. I also joined with the pastors of the American Baptist Church, the Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church to develop youth programs to give the kids “something to do” as alternatives to drinking and drugs. We also form a local chapter of the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse in the county.

I have spent the past two blog posts telling you that story so I can tell you this:

On September 27th 1,000s of bloggers from around the world are joining together in BlogCatalog's Blogging for a Great Cause Challenge to write blogs against abuse—any and all types of abuse. I am certain that some of the bloggers reading this blog plan to join in the effort. There may be other bloggers who plan not to post a blog against abuse either because they feel they don’t know what to write or that such a united blogging enterprise would have no effect.

Some of the clergy who joined in saying phrase “we live in an alcoholic, violent, and abusive community” had the same beliefs: they did not know what to preach or the believed it would do not good. But eventually they risked it, even if they did no more than say that phrase. And I witnessed the results of that Sunday, not just in the months following that Sunday, but in the next ten years in which I lived and pastored in that community.

In Aristotle’s quote above, the context indicates he is saying that evil draws people together to do evil. However, I believe that the opposition to evil can also draw people together. So, please, my dear bloggers, join with us on September 27th in naming the evil—abuse—and, at the very least, lesson some of the power abuse has in our world.



  1. Good cause... However, I have already named the evil in one of my comments: Walmart. LOL.

  2. I have been thinking about this and still don't know what to write. Can you give me a solid hint or suggestion, Nick?

    When does Smart Alex open for business? :-)

  3. I'll try to come up with something - probably on IAB instead of granny.

    The local paper is running a series on domestic violence and what's being done to combat it (never enough of course).

  4. That story had a happier ending than I expected when I read part 1.