Religion

The preferred narrative may not be positive, happy or genuine

Willie Charles Belvin stands behind the counter of Anthony’s 1-Stop. From here he can make a key, extend a hearty welcome and serve customers a “chip dog.” A “chip dog” is a steamed hotdog in a bun, covered with chipped pieces of Boston butt in a sweet barbecue sauce.
Willie Charles Belvin stands behind the counter of Anthony’s 1-Stop. From here he can make a key, extend a hearty welcome and serve customers a “chip dog.” A “chip dog” is a steamed hotdog in a bun, covered with chipped pieces of Boston butt in a sweet barbecue sauce.

And Crown Thy Good….*

King Ahab asked King Jehoshaphat “Is there not another prophet by whom we might inquire of the Lord?” “Yes, but I hate him. He never says want I want to hear.”

I Kings 22:7, 8 (Paraphrased)

Willie serves a “chip dog” with a beautiful smile, a positive spirit, laughter, presence and hospitality. Simple food, in the presence of a good, authentic spirit, is one of my favorite things. Willie operates out of Anthony’s 1-Stop Grocery and Laundry. Nothing fancy. Unpretentious. It is what it is.

A grocery and laundry seem an odd combination. Especially when food is cooking inside and a smoker is oak-coating ribs and Boston butts outside. (Washed clothes would smell like barbeque, wouldn’t they?)

The look is iconic. The American flag is anchored in a cement planter painted red, white and blue atop a brick pilaster. A drop cloth was not used when the base was painted blue. An old Mountain Dew sign is backed by a sapphire blue, cloudless fall sky. I love this country!

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American flag stuck in a red, white and blue cement planter outside Anthony’s 1-Stop Grocery and Laundry. Jarred Hammet

I like positive people. I like being around positive people. I like being around happy people. I like being around genuine people.

I want to be positive, happy and genuine. I want to be with people like that. Even introverts, if they have to be with people, want to be with positive, happy and genuine people.

It would appear that Willie believes America is truly great. That she is the land of opportunity. Who knows what injustices Willie has experienced. What prejudices and barriers. If so, he doesn’t seem to be angry or pretending. Willie is African-American.

I think back to the late Lonzy Edwards and his frustration about the lack of real, ongoing conversations about race. Conversations that make way for change. I feel the lawyer and preacher on my shoulder. He is asking me why I like Willie. He is waiting for me to say why I like Willie more than I like a Black Lives Matter protester bashing in a windshield or setting a car on fire. And I admit it – Willie fits in more with my preferred narrative about race, the South and America.

My college taught me that to be a real liberal, we needed to allow other voices and have serious conversations with our preferred narratives. To be sensitive to the subtle, yet profound power of a preferred narrative. To realize how hard it is to come to a different reading of the landscape. To be suspicious of gathering “facts” that bolster only my version of the narrative.

In Scripture, a prophet tells the king exactly what the king wants to hear. Micaiah agrees with the “yes men.” Micaiah tells Jehoshaphat that he will be victorious in war. Even the usually negative voice concurs. But. But, King Ahab presses Micaiah on the preferred narrative. Only then does a truthful conversation take place. “Go to battle and be defeated.” Prophet Zedekiah, with the props of his false narrative still on his head, slaps Micaiah. “How dare you claim to have a word of prophecy, to speak against the kings! How dare you go against the nations!”

In any dyad relationship, we see things from our perspective, our narrative. In a triad, a different perspective comes in and we hope the third person sides with us. (And even when they don’t, well, they are just both wrong.) Micaiah disrupts the “everything will be fine” dyad.

It is Veterans Day. A day when we celebrate the ultimate sacrifice. It is a day ripe for preferred narratives and red, white and blue planters. To be a serious believer, a religious person, a Christian, however, we need to let Rev. Edwards sit on our shoulder and ask Micaiah a second time for the real story. Real discussion. And then we have decisions to make.

God bless America and those who sacrificed for freedom – freedom for all.

Jarred Hammet is a Presbyterian minister living in Macon. Contact him at jarred.hammet@gmail.com.

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