Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Blacks and Jesus Are No-Shows at Memorial Day Service Aboard USS North Carolina

Under clear blue skies, with a brisk breeze causing flags to snap, martial music from a military brass band, and a crowd of patriots on board, the U.S.S. North Carolina hosted Memorial Day events in Wilmington, NC. It seemed so perfect. But something just wasn't right.

Large crowd intently watches Memorial Day proceedings on sun-washed deck of "Show Boat" on
Cape Fear River  (Photo Matt Born)

By Verne Strickland, Tuesday, May 28

The sun shone brilliantly, warming a respectful crowd on hand to celebrate and mourn those who died in battle so that freedom would live on in America. A military band kept the air alive with inspiring martial music, pomp and circumstance. Flags flew above us, snapping smartly in the brisk breeze. Speakers spoke, and a respectful gathering applauded with appreciation. It was, all in all, a solemn but grand occasion.

But -- I don't know. For me, I found some things missing that I thought should be there.

Black citizens, for one thing. If there was one black face on the ship's deck, or several, I didn't spot them. It was disappointing. The wars we fought through the years -- the Civil War, World War II, Korean War, Viet Nam War, the recent battles in the Gulf Region and others -- were not fought only for and by white Americans.

The costly conflicts also belonged to our African American citizens. They fought and died valiantly in many battles alongside their white countrymen in uniform. They contributed to victories. Some came home. Home, where their families and friends awaited. They were blessed by, and indebted to, those who lost their lives in combat. Some gesture of appreciation would have been expected. And welcomed.

Somehow I had believed that only by the color of our skin did we differ, and in almost everything else on this day, we felt the same sympathies, fostered the same loyalties, thrilled with the same pride in America, the greatest country in the world.

But maybe not. Certainly I was not aware of any such kinship aboard the U.S.S. North Carolina on Memorial Day 2013. And that baffles me, because, while we often are told that black people are excluded from some gatherings, every American -- regardless of race, color, creed, national origin or religious preference -- was invited to this wonderful event.

But for whatever reason or reasons, this time our African Americans were welcome to the party, but decided not to come. Maybe they just had other places to be. Baffling. But we missed them.

Now to Jesus Christ. I am a proud Christian American. I bow at His throne. I know I am saved by His sacrifice, resurrection, mercy and grace. While I am surely aware that the curious phrase "separation of Church and State" causes almost fanatical fervor, although it appears in no official document penned by our Founding Fathers, who are identified as largely Judeo-Christian, yet I am saddened that Christians should be singled out for pointed derision and exclusion by our liberal governments -- federal and state alike.

Of course, let me hasten to add that there are few people anywhere in the world who have been more cruelly persecuted than the Jewish people.

Still, my wife Durrene and I, seated on the deck of our proud battleship, later admitted that our spirits seemed to hang in mid-air as the lone prayer offered in the official invocation by Rabbi Paul Sidlovski, ended abruptly with one word we all understand -- "Amen". We agreed that -- to us -- it seemed that there had been no prayer at all. Call us creatures of habit, but we somehow feel that if there are no "Jesus" stamps on that prayer, it winds up in a dead letter box and goes nowhere. We miss our Lord in a prayer like that.

I know some of what our Jewish brothers and sisters believe and don't believe. So I don't need to be reminded that, whereas we Christians look forward joyously to the Second Coming of Christ, Jews still await the First Coming, so to speak. That chasm has not kept millions of U.S. Christian, however, from supporting Israel without reservation -- at the command of, well . . . Jesus Christ. Someday these and all other issues will be divinely resolved. 

And so, on a truly dazzling North Carolina afternoon, many of us in attendance missed some who should have been there -- blacks in the audience, and Jesus Christ in prayer.

Anyway, God bless America.