Saturday, September 11, 2010

11 SEP 10: When the Disaster Came

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following items humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

If you've followed the commercials in the Georgia Governor's race, you realize voters have a clear choice this year. One man goes around the state apologizing for what he did. The other man hides what he did, and sees no reason to apologize for anything.

Republican party commercials claim Roy Barnes's four years as Georgia Governor were a "disaster." But this day reminds me of how Barnes responded to a national disaster - the 11 September attacks. In the wake of what happened nine years ago today, Senator Zell Miller called for nuclear bomb drops on Afghanistan. Come to think of it, that probably would have burned a few Qurans....

One week after the Tuesday of terror in 2001, Columbus city officials organized a noon-hour prayer service. It took place outdoors, on the Plaza Level of the Government Center. That couldn't happen now, because benches and boxes with trees cover a lot of that area. For some reason, Keep Columbus Beautiful didn't exchange that space for downtown parking room.

Then-Governor Roy Barnes came down from Atlanta for the Government Center event. Not only did Barnes give a short speech -- he also led a prayer. This was surprising to me. Elected officials never give the invocation at Columbus Council meetings - although two current candidates for mayor have the credentials to change that in a hurry.

Looking back, the moment struck me as an example of the "two Georgia" concept. Could Governor Roy Barnes get away with leading a prayer at such a public service in Atlanta? Wouldn't some civil liberties group file suit or stage a protest -- or demand he also speak to atheists, with a prayer to nothing in particular?

The event in 2001 was a reminder of the "Bible Belt" reputation Columbus has. When a time capsule was buried at the Millennium Clock downtown in 1999, a message from then-Mayor Bobby Peters included a Bible reference. Trouble is, that capsule apparently also contains batteries to fix the clock so it runs properly.

But anyway: before Republicans condemn everything Roy Barnes did as Georgia Governor, they should recall his prayer at the Government Center. It's something I don't think Sonny Perdue has done over the last eight years. City officials might say he's cursed Columbus more than blessed it.

Nine years after that prayer service, have people in Columbus forgotten 11 September? The city website shows NO special event today to mark "Patriot Day." The Civic Center will be busy, but with the annual Junior League Attic Sale. And when the big event at Columbus State University is a charity dodgeball tournament - well, the skyscrapers in New York couldn't move back then.

WTVM reports Fort Benning soldiers plan to mark Patriot Day by doing fix-up work at Reese Road Elementary School. That might upset a pastor I know, who says 11 September should NOT be about a "day of service" - not in a time of war. Is it too late for Shooters to organize a marksmanship contest?

So if you want to pray on this 11 September, you have two options. Find a congregation holding a weekly Sabbath worship service, or pray in private. Either way, I recommend praying for leaders to have God's wisdom in handling the fight - and for Jesus to come soon to end the fighting. Revelation 19 indicates He'll do it in a powerful way. And not even Fort Benning's finest will be able to win then.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We hope to clear our InBox of messages this weekend - starting with this one responding to our Labor Day topic....

Does your church, the United Church of God, actually have a gorgeous allee of trees as illustrated on their website, accessed through your blog, of course? If so, I would like to see it.

I love giving to beggars and I tell no one about it.

This reader raises a very good point about beggars. The Bible talks about giving to needy people in secret, without making an open display of it. We've pointed out here how some civic groups send news releases all over town, begging for media coverage of their giveaways [11 Dec 09]. In their case, the left hand DOES know what the right hand is doing - and shaking as many hands as possible.

I mention encounters with beggars here after the fact, not before. I've done it because the beggars often turn into fascinating or bizarre stories. I try to reveal whether their street-corner appeals are legitimate or not. They also offer a sense of how widespread panhandling is in Columbus - and last time I checked, being a "tramp" was still in the city code as a bad thing.

As for those row of trees - no, they are NOT at the place where the Columbus congregation meets. The association's home office set up the website -- and the Presiding Elder admits he has no idea where the home office found that picture. If you want to print it out and search for a matching pecan farm in Webster County, that's up to you.

BUT SERIOUSLY: As the funeral service for Heath Jackson neared Friday afternoon, Joseph Brannan of PMB Broadcasting gave us a call. He explained the row of radio station vans outside McMullen Funeral Home Thursday was arranged in coordination with Jackson's family. Brannan described it as an "honor guard," similar to what fire and police departments would do for fallen members of public safety.

Joseph Brannan noted Heath Jackson was on the air at WCGQ-FM, before moving to WBOJ-FM. So the radio vans indeed were a show of support. You can show support or sympathy for what Heath Jackson did by making a tax-deductible donation to "88.5 the Truth."

SCHEDULED SUNDAY: Is a local agency abusive in its handling of employees? We've heard from both sides of the issue....

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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