Sentimentality? …Enough is Enough!


James Baldwin–author and civil rights activist– holds our feet to the fire in his essay “Everybody’s Protest Novel”. He speaks to us today even though he wrote his essay in 1949. In critiquing the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Baldwin shines a light into the medieval morality plays that bookend so much of our lives creating a world of alternatives between “heaven and the flames.” The protagonist Miss Ophelia–embodying Mrs. Stowe’s own voice-cries out in terrible earnestness (yet glibly) against the abuses of slavery: “This is perfectly horribly! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.” Baldwin then challenges us as only reformers can:

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a very bad novel, having, in its self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality, much in common with Little Women. Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”

Watching and listening to the student marchers all across this country last weekend provided a definition of anything but sentimental. These were not the wet eyes of the sentimentalist. Nor did we hear the “bleeding heart’ of the liberal or the principled rhetoric of the “religious right”. Instead we heard the deep cries of the Spirit shouting out through these young people: “Enough is Enough!”

This plaintive reminds me of the cry of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which translates as “My God, my God, why have you so forsaken me?”  In quoting Psalm 22, Jesus draws upon the prophetic tradition calling God to redeem the world. Now I recognize that much of the leadership of the ‘Enough is Enough’ Movement do not necessarily identify as Christians and yet their voices are authentic biblical voices because they have moved past any notion of fake or dishonest emotion to the raw stage of human grief. They are tapping into the prophetic tradition. In some ways, this grief is what we are called to experience this week during the Holy Week. I encourage you to take Baldwin’s prophetic admonishment to heart. Whereas sentimentality can be a layer of armor or protection against the vagaries of life (so that we still feel in control!), we are called to humble ourselves knowing that we are dependent upon the creative power of Yahweh to make all things new.  Through our real tears and anguished cries we call out to God inviting God’s resurrection power.  This week let us be like the woman who come to the tomb with tears streaming down their faces, only to realize that the stone has been rolled away. The tomb is empty. Let us live authentically. Let us search for the Risen One! And then and only then will we move our hearts from prophetic grief to prophetic faith knowing that God is Enough!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Matthew Davis

Thursday Night at 6:30 for an “Agape Meal” in Preston Hall

Good Friday–Sanctuary Open All-Day for Prayer

Easter Sunday:  7 AM at Big River Beach and 11 AM in Sanctuary




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