We hope you have been getting the feel of this space from Haley Castille’s pieces in this section--that is meant to be a place to explore spiritual, metaphysical, and dare I say religious issues in a maybe what can we do about it in this life context. For example, search for Haley on our www.bhamweekly.com website.
It is a worldly/spiritual slant the Weekly experimented with a little a few years ago but the old editor couldn’t sustain under the circumstances that have already been explained. But now we are free to create it anew and others are free to follow. I had two influences that gave me the impetus for such an avenue for a Birmingham alternative paper. One was the fantastic Lenten Lunch lecture series at the Church of the Advent where scholars come from around the world every year to take a passage of scripture and illumine its spirit by unfolding it in both its historical and contemporary contexts. And you got to enjoy a lunch by Zoe Cassimus afterwards. Not many people know that this was the origin of the very successful Zoe’s chain, and that is a story of creation and inspiration in itself. I have taken Jewish, Muslim, and even atheist friends who have enjoyed it (the lunch and the lecture).
In a similar vein, the Advent will be hosting the Mockingbird Conference, October 28-29.
The second influence was my unorthodox Sunday school class at my otherwise staid church in Athens, Georgia.
In that class we also normally read a Bible passage and without any other frame of reference start to deconstruct it. And in the university community, by the time the genetic engineers and the literary critics are through, we have drawn a lot of discussion out of the text that they never taught in vacation bible school. And I had just graduated from law school and, heaven forbid, started to see vestigial signs of modern jurisprudence in the scriptures that later became the basis for Law and Religion lectures at UAB.
Lately, in Athens, we have been discussing the book Jesus, by Marcus Borg, who emphasizes historical as well as metaphorical contexts of the Gospels. And then, of course, I met Haley at the Pepper Place market and started talking about her stories of faith in the face of adversity. Her husband was struggling against injuries and a slower speed in the 40 to make a career in the NFL, and I had just experienced two gigantic Judas betrayals, one business and one personal. So together we are forging ahead to overcome those dirty devils.
Last week, two lives ended that changed our world and should still spark considerable related discussion, Steve Jobs of Apple fame and the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, who made his mark right here in Birmingham.
Steve Jobs gave us the MacIntosh, made billions of dollars, got hideously sick, and died young. Plenty for reflection.
And Jobs was no one-trick wonder. When the music industry was crashing and record labels were suing high school cheerleaders for downloading on Napster, Jobs came along with iTunes and revolutionized the music industry with thousands of unsigned artists added to a searchable library that is now the largest music retailer in the world.
Not to mention your iPhone. But I think Jobs should be appreciated not for his contributions to the GDP but for the acts of pure creation. He did not take concepts that were already lying there and just guss them up. He brought the story of Genesis alive by following in the image with acts of pure creation. That is fodder for Inspire.
Remember he came up with his personal computer concepts in the context of a world of programming geeks who had three-key abstract commands to do something as simple as, say, open a document. You 20somethings probably can’t imagine not being able to click your mouse to open a file or drag an icon.
Shuttlesworth also imagined a different world, but much more with a view to change the oppressive, but accepted and established one that existed. And he literally suffered through bombings and beatings to do it. His church was bombed. His house was bombed. He was beaten with chains when he tried to enroll his daughter at Phillips High School. Shuttlesworth absorbed the blows that opened the way to MLK’s eloquence.
And Birmingham was the crucible in which Shuttlesworth’s fiery faith and imagination made such an indelible impression on the so-called real world.
And maybe the best measure is how his death last week was treated outside this city: From the Washington Post:
The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, 89, one of the bravest and most dynamic leaders of the civil rights movement, who survived bombings, beatings and dozens of arrests in his efforts to end segregation in Birmingham, Ala., and throughout the South, died Oct. 5 at a Birmingham hospital...
“I think God created Fred Shuttlesworth to take on people like Bull Connor,” the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who helped found the SCLC with King and Rev. Shuttlesworth, said Wednesday. “He was one of the most courageous men that I have ever known. I don’t know of anyone else that could have led the movement in Birmingham.”
Washington Post photo gallery King, Abernathy, and Shuttlesworth in Birmingham.
From the New York Times Where Dr. King could deliver thunderous oratory and move audiences by his reasoned convictions and faith, Mr. Shuttlesworth was fiery, whether preaching in the pulpit or standing up to Bull Connor, who dueled with him for years in street protests and boycotts leading up to their historic 1963 showdown.
Diane McWhorter, the author of “Carry Me Home,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2001 book about the struggle in Birmingham, wrote in an e-mail that Mr. Shuttlesworth was known among some civil rights activists as “the Wild Man from Birmingham.”...
In one instance, on Christmas night 1956, he survived an attack in which six sticks of dynamite were detonated outside his parsonage bedroom as he lay in bed. “The wall and the floor were blown out,” Ms. McWhorter wrote, “and the mattress heaved into the air, supporting Shuttlesworth like a magic carpet.”
When he tried to enroll his children in an all-white school in 1957, Klansmen attacked him with bicycle chains and brass knuckles. When a doctor treating his head wounds marveled that he had not suffered a concussion, Mr. Shuttlesworth famously replied, “Doctor, the Lord knew I lived in a hard town, so he gave me a hard head.” ...
In 2009, in a wheelchair, he was front and center among other dignitaries in an audience of about 6,000 at the city’s Boutwell Auditorium to watch a live broadcast as the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, was sworn in.
He had encountered Mr. Obama, then a senator from Illinois, two years earlier, along with former President Bill Clinton, during a commemoration in Selma of the Selmato-Montgomery voting rights marches. As a crowd crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where demonstrators were beaten and teargassed on “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965, Mr. Obama pushed Mr. Shuttlesworth’s wheelchair.
From USA Today
The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the civil rights icon hailed in his native Alabama as a “black Moses,” died Wednesday. He was 89...
“They were trying to blow me into heaven,” Shuttlesworth, who spent most of his adult life in Cincinnati, said of those who violently opposed him in Birmingham and throughout the South. “But God wanted me on Earth.”
One writer in the Staunton, Virginia News Leader, prompted by the proximity in time of their deaths, directly linked Jobs and Shuttlesworths’ contributions to the country we live in today.
The coverage of Mr. Jobs’ death has, I think, led to a general good feeling about the country and our ability to accomplish great things. The beginning of the end of American apartheid was a great thing.
Remembering those events is disquieting. Our general good requires that we take a moment, experience those feelings and honor a great man.