Every 72 Minutes

Every 72 minutes a veteran chooses to end his/her life by suicide.

This statistic – from a recent Department of Veteran Affairs Report entitled, “Suicide Among Veterans and Other Americans” – reveals that the pace of self-destruction is particularly high for veterans fresh from America’s most recent conflicts in the Middle East.

The Bible tells us murder is wrong, but what does it say about suicide?

“Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

“You shall not kill.” (Exodus 20:13)

“And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on his sword, and died with him.” (1 Samuel 31:5)

These verses tell us that we should respect our bodies.  We are God’s creations, and we shouldn’t die before our time or forsake God’s will for the length of our lives just because things are tough.

However, the statistics tell the tragic story of how tough things really are.  Veterans are killing themselves at three times the rate of civilians.

What is even more troubling is that our young male veterans –  in their 20s – are dying at four times the rate of their civilian peers.  Equally disturbing, are the numbers for female veterans – who are 2.4 times more likely to choose suicide than their civilian counterparts.

As Christians, what can we do to cub these deaths, and what should we do to save these brave Americans who fought for our freedom?

Here are some suggestions:

Prayer:The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

We should take the issue of veteran suicide into our prayer life.  I am pleased to take part in a prayer call on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:30 AM (EDT), 5:30 AM (CDT).  Join by calling the toll free number 641-715-3580, access code: 548874.  I will be on the line praying for our returning male and female heroes.

Fellowship:Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

As a Country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years.  As the public, we have not.  A total of about 2.5 million Americans – roughly three-quarters of 1 percent – served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post 9/11 years; many of them served more than one tour.

Our collective neglect of returning soldiers – in employment, in healthcare, and in recognition of their service – have left many of them feeling isolated, and ripe for suicidal thoughts and actions.

As Christians, we must do more than lip service to our veterans.  We must go out of way to hire them, and bring them into our churches with specific programs of outreach.        

Advocate: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16).

The American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military, except take its cry for help seriously.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is tasked with the health care of our veterans.  The agency’s mammoth bureaucracy, second only to the Pentagon, has been slow to embrace new ideas.  Chief among these ideas is to manage the urge of our soldiers to commit suicide, and not just to treat the underlying illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder or severe depression.

As Christians, we must resist the “hook, line and sinker” adoption of conservative doctrine, which led to rejection of funding for these programs on the guise that it would cause expansion of government.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), is the leading advocacy group for the 9/11 generation of military veterans.

The IAVA lobbying efforts have successfully secured increased funding for the VA.  This helps the agency to be able to tailor programs to the individual veteran.  This designer approach has been extremely effective in reducing suicide, according to Craig Bryan, head of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah.

With fewer and fewer of us going to war, that puts more strain on those in uniform to have repeated tours.

Therefore, we see more and more of these veterans returning home with their families to face the brunt of it.  We Christians, as well as all Americans, would be wise to heed the advice of Abraham Lincoln as he concluded his second inaugural address.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

We must find ways to heal the pain and sorrow of war because every 72 minutes another veteran commits suicide.

Protest in Your Contests

Lynching is the extrajudicial killing of a person, without a trial or due process.   

An examination of more than 100 lynchings by the Southern Poverty Law Center reveals these common traits:

  1. The people doing the lynchings were in fear of their lives by the persons being executed.
  2. The persons being lynched were unarmed.
  3. Lynchings occur when the alleged transgressors fail to comply with the orders of those in authority.
  4. Lynchings were public affairs seen by many people.
  5. The bodies of the lynched victims were left at the scene of the killings for many hours.
  6. Those who performed these extrajudicial killings were rarely arrested, or charged for their actions.

An analysis of police shootings of unarmed Black Men reveals these common traits:

  1. The officers firing the fatal shots claimed to be in fear of their lives.
  2. The persons shot were unarmed.
  3. The second most common reason given by officers for the shootings were the fact that the alleged transgressors failed to comply with the orders given by the officers.
  4. Often the shootings happened in public, were captured by video, and were later seen by many people.
  5. The bodies of the shooting victims were often left at the scene of the killings for many hours.
  6. Those who performed these extrajudicial killings were rarely arrested, or charged for their actions.

Am I saying that lynchings, and the shootings of unarmed Black Males are the same thing?  I will let you be the judge. 

Lynchings, which were widespread in the United States, especially in the south, did not stop because of the passage of a federal law.  In fact, to this day there is no federal law against lynchings.  

Rather, lynchings stopped when the potential victims of lynchings protested by convincing Whites – who knew all along that lynchings were murder –  to summon the courage to stop it!

Jesus was the ultimate protester:

Jesus protested when he stormed the temple overturning the tables of the money changers while proclaiming, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”  (John 2:16, New Living Translation)

Jesus exercised a non-violent protest when the disciples deserted and betrayed Him. He exercised a non-violent protest when the officials arrested Him, when the soldiers mocked, spit on, and beat Him.  He exercised a non-violent protest when He hung on the cross from the sixth to the ninth hour, and died.  Jesus became a victorious protester when He arose again three days later.

Jesus is a protester, and He is calling on you and me to also protest.

Acts 5:27-32 is about the Apostles becoming protesters for Christ.

Peter and the other apostles had been hauled before the religious leaders of the day. The high priest, leading the inquisition, reminds Peter that he and the others were given strict orders for the Apostles not to preach the Gospel.  Their teachings had exposed the religious leaders’ extrajudicial killing of the unarmed Jesus on the cross.

To these charges Peter replies in verse 29, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”  He went on to explain how they were witnesses to Jesus’s death on the cross and His being raised from the dead.  Because of this witness, the Holy Spirit required them to speak about it.

Jesus is a protester, and He is calling on you and me to also be a protester.

If you believe that the shootings of these unarmed Black Men by the police is wrong, then you and I as Christians have a duty, as displayed by Colin Kaepernick, to protest in our contests.

The historical perspective of this nation reveals that change does not happen without protest, and the protests that are most effective are economic in nature.

  • The Boston Tea Party was an economic protest
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott was an economic protest
  • The Lunch Counter Sit-Ins were economic protests

Nothing is bigger in America than the National Football League (NFL).  According to the Sports Nation’s Website, the league earned $7.24 billion in revenue in 2015, with each of the 32 teams receiving $226.4 million as part of the split.

More Than 2/3 (68 percent) of NFL Players are African-American.  From age 21 to 37, these young Black Males are the same ages as many of the unarmed Black Men who succumb to the extrajudicial killings by police.

If Black Lives truly matter, then the positive economic impact that those lives influence, such as: the salaries that they can earn, the goods that they can buy, and the money that others make because of them, also matters!

Sadly, many people see Black Men only as thugs, useless, and dangerous.

Make no mistake, policing is difficult, demanding and dangerous.  I am getting reports while I write this post, that two officers have been killed in Palm Springs, California.   

Make no mistake, police in this country or smart, resourceful and professional.  Just a few weeks ago, police in New York arrested suspects within 24 hours after a bombing in the city.

Make no mistake, the shootings of unarmed Black Men must end!  I am confident that our police with their experience and expertise can change.

However, that change will not happen without protest – economic protest!     

Therefore, I propose we protest in the following way.  Yes, an economic protest in each of our contests.

Thursday, November 17th is the start of week 11 in the NFL.  The action starts with the Saints playing the Panthers at the Mercedes- Benz Superdome, in New Orleans.

I propose that all Black NFL Players, in a show of economic protest, refuse to play that weekend.

Think of what could happen; it has the potential to shut the league down! Do you think that would force people to pay attention?  Would it lead to pressure from citizens, businesses, and the public for the police to change?

However, in a show of support, those of us who are not NFL Players must also protest in our various contests.  Therefore, those of us who can do it –  without getting fired, or jeopardizing the health and safety of the public – should use a vacation day, and not report to work on Wednesday, November 16, 2016.

We should use that day to be in service to the community, similar to what is done in many communities in observance of the Martin Luther King Holiday. At noon on that day, we should gather in public – standing with a raised fist, or bowing on one knee – in solidarity as the Star Spangled Banner, the anthem of our movement plays.

If we are truly serious about the power of protest, now is the time to show our collective agency.  Then we can take our place in the next chapter in truly making America, “the land of the free and the home of the Brave.”   

My fellow faith blogger, Steven Mattson put it best when he wrote, “Christianity isn’t political power, military might, safety, wealth, control, fame, or comfort — it’s about emulating Jesus.”

Jesus protested for causes that were just, for people who had been wronged, and for the world the way it should be.  Jesus’ earthly life left us an example of what He wants us to do until He comes again.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (KJV).

Jesus illustrated the power of protest, and in order to live a life pleasing to Christ we are sometimes called to protest in our contests.

Saying Goodbye To My Old Friend Ted

Later today after twenty years, the Atlanta Braves will play their final game at Turner Field.

The Braves will open the 2017 season in Sun Trust Park located in Cobb County.

Baseball is one of the passions of my life, and that passion extends to the place where my team plays.

Ballparks take on personalities.  Places like Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and ball yards all around the country have a charm – a magical, special place in the hearts of their fans.

So is the case with Turner Field, a new park by baseball standards.  However, the place is so special to the fans, that they christened it “The Ted.” In honor of Ted Turner, the formal Braves owner.

And so now, it’s time to say goodbye to my old friend, Ted.   

I say goodbye to my baseball palace where

  • 11 National League Division Series were played
  • 4 National League Championship Series were contested
  • The historic first National League Wild Card Game was played
  • The 2000 All Star Game was held and
  • The Braves played the Yankees in the 1999 World Series

I say goodbye to my baseball playground of twenty years, where:

  • I saw over 60 games
  • I shared the joy of baseball with my son, and
  • I celebrated my 50th birthday!

A month ago I attended my final game at The Ted.  I got there early – taking in the sights, sounds and smells of my baseball heaven.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

In that time of baseball reflection, my thoughts turned to the Lord and the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-9:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Therefore, It is time to say goodbye to my old friend Ted. 

And yes, Turner Field and the property around it will be reinvented as residential housing, retail shops and a football field for Georgia State University.

However, after the final out on Sunday, the season will be over and The Ted will no longer be the home of the Braves.

So I say to Ted the same words that I hope will be said to you and me one day, “Well done my good and faithful servant… well done.”

Read more of my blogs @ www.marbenbland.com