It is on Easter that believers find the promise of hope, the promise of eternal life.
The old Victorian and Edwardian era cemeteries of The South make frequent appearances on this site and its accompanying social media accounts. The statuary, the inscriptions, even the trees and shrubs had symbolic meaning that pointed to that hope of redemption, of eternal life.
Faith is as indigenous to The South as the soil itself. For centuries, the inhabitants of this land have placed their deceased loved ones in the soil just as they did the seeds, with a similar hope and a promise for the future. Just as Christ died, was planted in the Earth, and sprung forth with life for those who believe on his name, we carry in our hearts the promise that the cemeteries are not the end, but the beginning of Life.
And so on Easter, as we fill our day with the symbols that point us toward the hope that we have in Christ, may we hold tight to the promise of eternal life, of a reunion with those who have gone before us, of the ultimate defeat of the last enemy, which is Death, and an eternity of peace and glory. We may not find the living among the dead but we can be encouraged that among the dead we are reminded of the promise of eternal life.
By Sam Burnham
This weekend I was able to attend two parts of a weekend long storytelling convention. It's an old tradition, 240 years to be exact, so long as you believe the claims of the organizers of a fibbing competition.
This was the second year I have been able to attend portions of this event. It is put on by the Ridge & Valley Storytelling Guild, of which I am ever so slightly affiliated. My friend Terrell Shaw, with whom I find common ground on many things as long as none of them are political, spearheads this effort every year and, as with most everything he organizes, it is delightful.
One of the great Southern traditions is storytelling. Centuries before European settlers found their way to the region, inhabitants of The South were gathered around the fire, telling stories. The legends, the myths, the truths, they all combined in different mixtures of the ingredients to form oral traditions that would be passed down from generation to generation. Creation myths, tales of great hunts and harvests, explanations of the colors of sun and sky, the boasts of family members long gone. Storytelling was more than entertainment. It transferred their society, their entire understanding of the world, from the mouth of the elders to the ears of the heirs. In such a system, not only are the stories themselves important, but the ability to tell them is essential to pass on as well. For if a generation has to knowledge but not the means of transfer, the knowledge is dead.
That tradition did not change with the arrival of the Europeans. Though many of the stories were written down and are even now turned into movies and television shows, a story given live by a talented teller gives you the opportunity to connect with the tale. There's a human component that makes it somehow more real. It elevates the experience to an almost spiritual level as it takes us back to roots that we have forgotten - the days when movies, television, and even books were but vestiges of a yet to be experienced age.
One of the greatest components of the weekend is the Debby Brown YoungTales Story Competition. Named for an incredible storyteller, gone too soon, this contest features tellers under the age of 17. At this point the pride of a dad comes in as my own son participated in this contest. He told a great story and made a great showing and has no need to be ashamed for not winning as these kids are a credit to their craft. I was amazed at the quality of the tales and the way they were told. They weren't good storytellers for their age. They were good storytellers, period. It's a credit to the work of Terrell Shaw and the Ridge & Valley Tellers and their work in our area schools to share this craft with the youngsters.
The other portion of the weekend I attended was the finale. Those in attendance were treated with reprises of the stories given by the winners of the Big Fibbers as well as the YoungTales competitions. And then the guest star of the weekend, Georgia storyteller, Andy Offutt Irwin, regaled us with a number of stories that were brilliantly tied together to flow as one. It was a mini-epic (work with me here) about members of his family that left people grateful to be Southern and over 40. That's not to say that foreigners or youngsters weren't amused, as they obviously were, but he really drew out pieces of our memory that we may have forgotten, the names were different but he was telling stories that we had seen acted out by our parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. He connected with the audience so profoundly that we didn't hear the story, we experienced it. It was worth far more than the price of admission.
Storytelling is alive and well. Chances are, there's an opportunity to experience it near you soon. If you've never sat and took in a story from a live teller and allowed them to immerse you in their tale, do it. It is part of who you are, a part of your past that you may have lost contact with. But once you have allowed it to reconnect, you'll wonder where it has been all your life.
Vote or Be?
By Sam Burnham
This election is driving me crazy.
I've been a political junkie all my life. Even as a adolescent, I had a love for elections. I followed candidates, listened to their speeches, considered their ideas. I remember sitting during the allotted time during my civics class reading through Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report learning about current events and how they played out in the press. I remember the red sweeping across the map as the results of 1984 showed Ronald Reagan squeezing Mondale-Ferraro into Minnesota and the District of Columbia and holding them there. I remember working election night as a high school journalism intern at a local TV station covering the 1992 election and realizing that for the first time in my political awareness a Democrat would be in the White House. And I remember always wishing that I could vote. I wanted to play a role, not just follow along in the news.
So you can probably understand my utter disappointment as I watch the process this year wishing once again that I could play a role and not just follow along in the news. I have taken to ABG in the past in order to offer an official endorsement, for whatever that is worth, and to list my reasons why I made that endorsement. That may happen yet this year but not today.
Instead, I'd like to offer a different type of endorsement. I believe I've communicated my conservatism here on more than one occasion. But I also refuse to be counted among the Republicans and this election cycle is a perfect example of why. The level of discourse, the lack of a strong candidate that represents my views, and the overall juvenile tone have me looking at the Republican primary with very little enthusiasm.
There are several hot button issues that I want to hit on because I think the only way that our society, as we know it, is going to survive is if conservatives take on a holistic approach to the philosophy they claim to espouse. I'm going to do it in a way to point out the difference between policy and principle, between law and lifestyle.
I can't think of a better place to start than with religion. Conservatives are quick to point out that there is no designated "separation" of church and state and, for the most part, I agree. I think there should not be laws neither requiring nor disallowing the practice of a particular religion or denomination but the "separation" goes too far in policies and court rulings today.
However, this is not our problem in society today. The problem is that we are fighting too hard to get our religious freedom in the public arena but we are not doing enough to exercise that freedom on private terms. We beg for prayer in school but we neglect prayer in the home. We scream for the Ten Commandments to be placed at the courthouse but we don't follow them at our houses. Until faith, a cornerstone of conservatism, permeates the personal lives of the conservative electorate, it will never be a major force in American society.
Being Pro-life is a major stance among conservatives. We often equate that to standing against abortion and that is certainly part of it. But we need to be molding a society that removes abortion from the equation, not because we passed a law against it but because we addressed the core issues at the heart of unwanted pregnancies. Raising children to become responsible people who deal with each other with wisdom and also with a respect for the well being of others would go a long way in reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies. And it's very easy to point a finger at the role of the media in the sexualization of our modern culture, it also has something to do with the acceptance of that media by the first role models our kids will have, us, their parents.
One more for now. As conservatives, we fight and claw every two years with the mantra that we are going to make government smaller, address economic issues such as the national debt, tax reform, and reign in spending. Sometimes we win elections, sometimes we lose. But a few things never happen: the government never gets smaller, the budget never gets balanced, the debt clock never slows down, taxes never get fairer, and spending never decreases. Oh, and we never quit supporting the party that is lying to us.
With that, I'd like to give this challenge. For those of us who consider ourselves conservative, are we content to merely vote conservative? Or are we going to commit ourselves to be conservative? Is our philosophy something that points us in the column of a particular political party in the voting booth or is it something that influences how we live our everyday lives?
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire