Sunday, November 17, 2013


On the occasion of the front page of the Chattanooga Times Free-Press displaying the photos of 32 Black men arrested in a major drug sweep to break up gangs and the trade in crack cocaine.


It is sorrow
A sadness for the badness
32 Black men and their facing
Front, on the first page
Gathered, swept,
Rounded not up but down.

Facing not merely the camera
Where our eyes see them
As no longer simply a name
But an accompanied face,
Each a story, and the
Imminent possibility of
A great cumulative loss
To us, for themselves,
For our future.

They are men
Responsible for their own
They are accountable.
Yet their collective loss
Hurts and haunts us all.

We lament for their victims;
The dead, the wounded,
The crippled, the intimidated,
The seduced, the addicted,
The impoverished.

We lament the children
They have produced
But whom they will not raise.

We lament the women,
Mothers, lovers, daughters,
Who if they see them
Will see them in places
Far, with spaces separated;
Bars, glass, and wire.

We lament the whole
Sorry story repeated
Once again in fatherless boys.
We lament the communities
Without their talents,
Initiative, leadership, and juice
They gave to crime;
Now stored away doing time.

We lament the schools
They condemn to children
Who know no discipline
And will nothing know.
No one at home to call them
Higher, No aspiration
For family, career, or meaning.

We lament the prisons
Full of others just like them.
We lament the system
That gives them longer years
And fewer tears than white boys.

We lament the system
That chooses one drug worse than another
We lament the profiling
The stops, the frisks.
We lament the
Racism that will
Accept that front page as
Inevitable but not

We lament the politicians
Who will not stand for
Families, who reward
Immorals but not marriage,
The judges who never say
“No” to a divorce.

We lament the churches
Who will not send or stay
But leave the places
Where these men are from,
That could have mentored,
That could have shaped
That might have warned,
That should have loved.

Years in prison may protect us
But it will not heal us,
Nor change those we send away.
Growing old may slow them down,
But we should weep for our collective loss,
And we should wonder if the cycle
Will come around again.

Let us weep for our children
Let us weep for our loss
Let us see empty spaces
Which these mugged faces
Will leave us
As they leave us
And in our weeping
May we find resolve
That our city will stop
Losing what could have been.

 Randy Nabors

17 November, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


    All things are being put under the feet of Jesus.  In the flow of human history I wonder how that works out, I am wondering how we as the followers of Jesus make an impact in the world culturally?  I am wondering about things like transformation and renewal.
       As I travel around I sometimes read the vision statement of congregations that proclaim they are to be about the renewal of the city and of all things.   Then I look at the decay of culture, the degeneration of morals in our own society, and I wonder what good we have done.  I wonder what good we can do, about the temporal and material nature of our passing upon the earth, about how those who come after us may not, and often do not, continue the good we have tried to do, the justice we have tried to enact, the beauty we have tried to create.
    I realize that my own sins have contributed to this decay, this retrograde action upon the good work done before me.  Yet I have hope, as I realize that what God asks of me is not to attempt eternal transformation or eternal renewal but that which concerns my own space and time, my own impact upon the issues of justice, in acts of mercy to the poor, in the rebuilding of streets with dwellings, of bringing beauty for ashes.
    I believe that all acts of righteousness have eternal value and thus eternal effect.  Even if the cup of cold water that I give in Jesus name may be smacked out of the hand of the prophet to whom I extend it by some oppressive tyranny the act had meaning because God sees all things, and he remembers.  I also believe that what some call "proximate justice" is significant because cultures do change, economics change, politics change, neighborhoods change, relationships change, nations change even though those changes are temporal and material. We strive to make those changes positive by the revelation of God as to what goodness, justice, and love really are. What I am saying is that those changes are eternally significant, not because they create the Kingdom of God or bring it to earth, but because they reveal it, in terms of the righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit that is experienced during that momentatry reflection of the true Camelot.
    This means that my country matters, my local government matters, my police force matters, my school system matters, my neighborhood matters.  My act of being a neighbor, and being a citizen are arenas in which I reveal the glory of God in the good works that I and my family and my congregation and all of us as the people of God do.  Yes, in history positive change has often been swept away by the next regime of evil, or the next invasion of wickedness, political entitity or army; yet they mattered while they were here.
    Protecting the boundaries of the widow, caring for the fatherless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, protecting the innocent from the slaughter are God given responsibilities and they make a difference to the people involved, and to the culture involved.  One's eschatalogical view may dismiss such activities as fairly meaningless in the light of the coming apocalypse, in light of an expected tribulation, but I do not see that being consistent with the importance Scripture puts upon our responsibility to do good while we are here. 
    Some believers live in periods of tremendous persecution, in periods of poverty, oppression, war, and suffering.  There may seem to be no hope that life upon earth can have any joy or any meaning and thus the hope of heaven, the cry "return oh Lord!" seems not only right but the only thing for which one can aspire.  Statements from some affluent church that they want to transform culture may thus seem like a joke.
      I believe in heaven, and I believe Jesus will return.  I believe in the necessity of people to see beyond the temporal and live for the eternal and to place their hope in things above because death is real and life is fleeting.  Yet I also believe God made human life the arena of importance, and how I treat the slave, the sexually trafficked, the unjustly imprisoned, the slaughtered unborn baby, the swindeled impoverished debtor to the payday loan company, the desperate single parent mom, the unloved child means something to God.  I also believe that when we mobilize our congregations, our Christians to do something about it, sometimes we win.  Sometimes we change the situation on the ground.  Our purpose, and our value is not that we be permanently triumphant in everything but consistently faithful in obedience, relevant as salt that keeps its savor.
   The situation was changed for me when the Deacons brought groceries to our house in the projects.  We would later learn that man lives not by bread alone, but that was not the time for that particular lesson.  The lesson for that time was love and mercy and it began to transform our lives, and our hope was renewed, and one family was eventually brought out of poverty, and institutions were yet to be built to stand, advocate, and fight for justice.   This was not for nothing simply because "its all gonna burn."  It has eternal value, and temporal too.  To those who say we cannot renew anything, nor transform anything, nor redeem anything I must say are as wrong as those who think we can change everything by the power of our own hands.  I know these cities may one day turn to dust, but I hope to make them liveable while we are here, as I long for the city whose builder and maker is God.