Life in the Small Town: Confederate Flags, Swastika’s, the KKK, & Mobile Meth-Labs

Within 6-weeks of moving to a small town, the local paper ran an article where a national leader of Ku Klux Klan was quoted as saying, “We have a strong and active group in Centerville, IN.”

Prior to moving, we had heard over and over that our town is a “small, safe, quiet, Christian, conservative town.”

What we had not heard is that the town is “above average” when it comes to racism. And, that’s just not a good thing.

If we truly are a “Christian” community, we would understand that there is no room for racism. And, yet, the signs of racism abound.

The number of Confederate flags in this small town is overwhelming. Folks have their flags proudly flying in their front yards and the back of their trucks. Confederate flag hats, t-shirts, license plates, and bumper stickers are seen on an all-too-regular basis. Several friends visiting for the first time have commented, “We drove through town a bit. We saw a lot of Confederate flags.”

I’m convinced that all the flags that have been taken down in the south have made their way to Wayne County, IN.

Of course, some will say, “It’s not a racist symbol. It’s about southern pride!”

Just because it’s not racist to you does not mean it’s not racist. And, listen, you live in Indiana…so, the whole southern pride thing is lost!

Yesterday, I was out for a walk and it appears that some of our racist, neo-Nazi teenagers (yes, this is an assumption) received some spray paint for Christmas. The nice walking trail by the local park has several swastika’s painted on it. So, on Monday, I’ll call the town office and encourage them to deal with the swastika’s.

In addition to the racism, there has been an increase in the amount of drug use and drug related crimes. This month, a mobile meth lab was discovered right across the street from the church. Some of said, “Well, the paper listed all the folks arrested as being from out of town. They were all from Muncie and Richmond.” My response is, “Yes, but they were at a house in Centerville, which indicates that maybe there is some meth-related business happening right here.”

But, we’re a “small, safe, quiet, Christian, conservative community”, right?

To be honest, I don’t often speak out about the blatant signs of racism in our community out of fear. I don’t really want to wake up to a cross burning on the lawn or vandalism to my vehicle or feel threatened when I walk into the local watering hole.

But, it’s time to overcome the fear and speak out against what is wrong and speak up for what is right. There is this righteous indignation that wells up within me whenever I see these symbols of racism canvasing our community. The time for silence is over.

There is no room for racism in the Church. If we truly are a Christian community, we need to find our voice to speak out against those actions and groups that are perpetuating racism in our community.

The rise in drug use and drug-related crimes in our area indicate that people are looking for a “quick fix”. Folks are struggling and turn to something that can, at least for a moment, relieve some of the pain. People are struggling with addiction and the Church needs to rise up and respond. We shouldn’t be leading efforts to get these folks out of our community. We should be leading efforts to offer hope, to offer rehabilitation, to offer support, to demonstrate the love, grace, mercy, and redemption found in Jesus.

In some ways, our town has been a “small, safe, quiet, Christian, conservative” town. However, that is rapidly changing. We need to open our eyes to the changes. We need to be more proactive than reactive. We need to be a light shining in the darkness. We need to be a source of hope to the hopeless. We need to be a voice for the voiceless.

 

Is That What You’re Wearing?

Have you ever worried about what to wear to church?

Now, many of my friends who are not part of the church-going crowd will answer with a resounding “No!” And, they will probably wonder why anyone would ever worry about what to wear to a church gathering.

However, I’m pretty sure others will answer with a “Yes!”

Too often, we put a great deal of time and energy into selecting the perfect outfit. We desire our clothes to “honor God” (whatever that means?). We want to be modest, yet comfortable. We want to be clean and presentable. But, maybe all of that is just hogwash?

John Wesley,  in “Advice to the People Called Methodists” shared some thoughts on how we should dress. Wesley suggested that our dress be  “cheap, not expensive; far cheaper than others in your circumstances wear, or than you would wear if you knew not God.”

He also encourages modesty and suggests that our clothing should be “grave, not gay, airy, showy; not in the point of the fashion.”

He also had something to say about our accessories:  “Wear no gold . . . no pearls or precious stones; use no curling of hair, or costly apparel, how grave soever. I advise those who are able to receive this saying, buy no velvets, no silks, no fine linen, no superfluities, no mere ornaments, though ever so much in fashion. Wear nothing, though you have it already, which is of a glaring colour, or which is any kind gay, glistening, or showy; nothing made in the very height of fashion, nothing apt to attract the eyes of by-standers.”

He also discouraged the wearing of necklaces, ear-rings, finger rings, and extravagant lace and advises men against “coloured waist-coats, shining stockings, glittering or costly buckles or buttons” and any other “expensive perukes.”

John Wesley wraps up his thoughts on attire with this: “Let our seriousness ‘shine before men,’ not our dress. Let all who see us know that we are not of this world. Let our adorning be that which fadeth not away; even righteousness and true holiness.” 

Within our church culture, we have somehow gotten to the point where we equate the way someone dresses with their spiritual maturity. It’s pretty ridiculous, if you truly think about it. Or we suggest that the way we dress either “honors” or “dishonors God”.

Now, I believe that we should pay attention to the idea of modesty when it comes to dressing on a daily basis (not just for church).

I believe the church should be a place where people feel comfortable to “come as you are”. For some, that means we wear suits or dresses. For others, it might mean dirty jeans and a t-shirt. The important thing is, are we wearing clothes?

Could it be that our cultural standards on church attire actually exclude or discourage others from participating? I meet people on a regular basis whose “Sunday best” would not meet our unwritten expectations for church attire. Could our unwritten dress codes create a roadblock for others?

“God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.” ~1 Samuel 16:7