June 6, 1944, is remembered for D-Day and the invasion of France. That day marked the convergence of two hemispheres, the battle of two lifestyles, and a clash between two kinds of men. It was a triumph from years of experience, building up an army, planning and preparation. The bold attack was also an attempt to end a huge conflict. Ultimately it succeeded because of the individual soldiers’ conviction in combat. This was a deciding moment in our history. The memorable conflict was the beginning of the end of the whole war.
Sixty-one years later to the day, June 6, 2005, another clash…. of hemispheres, lifestyles and men… the theater of war was a sidewalk and passionate words were the ammunition of the day. The megaphone seemed as loud as the cannons on Omaha beach. The army was a collection of people with hearts filled with a desire to end something they believed to be wrong. Personal convictions clashed while fighting for what they felt was right. From the broad brush strokes of protesting signs, loud voices and a disruption of life, there were two men in combat.
These were two cultures fighting for control, batting over issues, separated by an ocean of confusion. This was an invasion as well, an invasion of territory. It was a beachhead seeking control of someone’s life that appeared to be hanging in the lurch.
It was as though one nation was against another, similar to our “D-Day” battle. These two men were not communicating with each other. It almost appeared as one was speaking French and the other English. They really didn’t know what the other was like other than the issues that each of them thought to be so significant that a battle surfaced as a fulcrum in the balance of these two worlds.
It seems that most battles have always been about shifts in culture or between people who perceive cultural changes will negatively impact their very foundation of life. This battle wasn’t any different.
A new beginning! A fresh start. It was the very first day one group had been in their new building. The vision of a new place to work was so fresh in their mind when they had arrived early that morning. They were excited to be there and enjoy the culmination of a plan they had seen come to fruition. About an hour after the Director had arrived he heard his name loudly announced over a megaphone as though someone would soon crash into his private space. In his mind, the plan was to quietly move into the new facility. John Smid! Where are you John? He didn’t even want to place the name of the organization on a sign out front when they moved in so as to not draw attention to their presence. In his words John just “wanted to be a neighbor” not an issue. With the quiet joy violently interrupted he felt embarrassed by the public display and fearful that the neighbors would become upset by the interruption of their lives too. This was a conservative older neighborhood after all.
Down on the street in front of a large church like campus was a stream of people. Holding colorful flags and signs with passionate expressions they moved with strong conviction that something had gone terribly wrong. One man holding a video camera seemed to be organizing them as he recorded their every move. The camera man was wearing a head scarf and looked like he was on the fringe considering the mid-southern culture. He seemed to believe that the event needed to be recorded and was making sure that occurred.
In 1944 the invasion was one of bombs, guns, army troupes marching into the world of many private citizens as well. But there was a battle to be fought and won! Each side wanted desperately to win the war. As boats landed and army men combed onto the beach, it was similar that fateful morning outside the church as people parked their cars to join into the battle.
John, the visionary desirous of a fresh start, shuddered with confusion and questions. “Why were all of these people here? What do they want with me?” He had no idea as to what had inspired them to gather for such a passionate show of conviction. The shock of what he was faced with upset his entire world that day almost as though a bomb had gone off right in the middle of the building.
They were yelling out a young man’s name from the street. They were saying things like; “We’re here for you” “You’re not alone”. It was extremely odd all the way around. It was as though someone needed to be rescued from some terrible impending harm!
“There are protestors outside!”
Unprepared for this attack, inside the building another army was scurrying around in an attempt to find out more about what was happening on the street. The phones began to ring from news stations, the national media, and emails started to come in like a flood. Much like in 1944 when radios reported the break out of D-day, the internet ran hot with reactions to the events on the street corner in 2005.
What could have possibly been that important? What kind of things were going on that would cause an entire nation, the world even, to respond to the American conflict of June 6, 2005?
Freedom. It was a battle over freedom. Freedom to do what? Or Freedom from what? The battle in 1944 was about freedom as well. The man with the signature head scarf wanted freedom for the young man inside. The leader of the other army also wanted to defend young man’s freedom. So, what were they fighting about? Didn’t they want the same thing for him, and others?
These men were very invested in their views of freedom. The crowd wanted to fight for the young man’s rights to live as he sees fit. They perceived that the folks under the steeple were brain washing, controlling and holding individuals captive.
But the youth focused on here were only 16 and 17 years old! Their parents had brought them here desiring to help them. They thought they might have been harmful to themselves if they continued down a path of social or relational connections they believed to be wrong. John was there to help too. He believed in freedom to choose as well. But, he also believed that in order to make healthy choices in life these young people needed to experience some things that might help them make those choices.
Morgan Fox was the man with the camera in hand and wore the head scarf. He appeared to be directing the crowd. He and John had never met. They had never had a conversation, nor had they ever been in the same room at the same time. The relationship gap was huge. There had been no communication between them to listen, to hear or understand what was really happening that day. The streets ran wild with honking cars and trucks, cameras, newsmen, and protestors. The driveways to the church were crowded with people who had gathered along with Morgan. They truly believed a young man’s life was in danger. The intensity was huge and no one had any clarity about what was at the root of all of the mayhem.
The young teens were in a daytime program that was scheduled to meet for two weeks. A decision was made that day that the street people would return with the cameras in hand each morning and evening while the young teen would come and leave from the building each day. That information came into the building and more reactions surfaced. What do we do now? How can we manage this outcry for social justice? We love these kids and know there is hope for their freedom.
Morgan and the crowd believed they were right too. Certainly they believed they could help this young man find freedom from oppression of religion. We believed we could help him to know the freedom we had found from hormones and lusts that had gotten to a place of harmfulness. The tug of war was huge for the rights of this young man in the building.
It was a battle over homosexuality. The rights and wrongs of this issue have drawn culture wars for years. These two men were on two sides of the fence in passionate response to the same issue. Their definitions of freedom were dramatically different; or were they? They didn’t know the answer to that question because they had never talked. They had never heard each other’s hearts. They had never communicated.