Help My Son, and (Perhaps) Win an Awesome Painting by my Wife

Happy Family

A family photo from Thanksgiving 2013.
Caleb is on the far left with his finger in his nose.

My oldest son, Caleb, was born with some disabilities. The most significant of these is his visual impairment. Caleb can read large print, and make his way around a computer quite well. (He can type way faster then me, but I admit that’s not a terribly impressive feat.) Though Caleb has faced more physical challenges than most throughout his life, by hard work, faith, and perseverance he has often managed to surpass everyone’s expectations.

Mollie remembers teaching Caleb the routine task of learning to tie his shoes when he was a toddler. For Caleb (and Mollie) this became a character building experience. It took over a year. This has proved to be somewhat predictive of how Caleb’s life would be as he grew older – things that others take for granted are much harder, but usually not impossible, for him.

We generally haven’t tried to hold Caleb back from anything he’s wanted to do. In high school, Caleb’s favorite teacher happened to coach track, so Caleb decided he wanted to go out for the track team. When he told me this, I was concerned that he would only frustrate and embarrass himself. (In addition to being blind, Caleb has mild cerebral palsy on his right side, which affects his coordination.) I privately spoke to the coaches to see if they really thought it would be a good idea for Caleb to “compete” on the track team, and to be sure they understood this would mean more work for them as coaches. They assured me that they would watch Caleb’s back.

Once track season was in full swing, I went to a track meet where Caleb was slotted to run in the 800 meter race. I watched with very mixed emotions as the gun went off and Caleb was left behind; farther behind than he could’ve known. It was the best he could do to simply stay in his own running lane. At one point he strayed off the track, and a teammate ran over and helped to guide him back onto the track. By that point, the race was already over for everyone else. As a dad, I listened for the crowd’s response, expecting to hear snickering.

Instead something beautiful happened.

As the crowd realized what was going on, both sides spontaneously began to cheer him on. A huge smile broke out on Caleb’s face. As he approached the finish line, cartoonishly late, people were standing up, clapping, and cheering. For Caleb the event was not about winning. It was about being on the team and finishing the race.

I want to publicly thank Coach Heyrman and Coach Q for going the extra mile with Caleb during his Loveland High School years.

Mom to the Rescue
This brings me to today. Caleb is trying to run a different sort of race, and I’m hoping the crowd will support him again. Caleb is now 28 years old. He could live off of government aid programs for the rest of his life and play computer games all day. However, he hopes to be independent and get a job to support himself. After graduating high school, he spent two years at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. Since then, he has been a student at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado. It has been predictably difficult for him, and he has had to maintain a light course-load. One year he was on academic probation after getting some bad counsel and taking physics and calculus in the same semester. (Had it been me, I would also have ended up on probation!) He’s had to modify his hopes of majoring in Forestry three times in order to find an emphasis with requirements he can actually fulfill.

During the last academic year, Caleb’s Vocational Rehabilitation caseworker on campus quit and was replaced by someone new. This happens fairly frequently as the Voc Rehab caseload is very heavy and there is a high caseworker turnover rate. Caleb made contact with the new person, but despite his best efforts, she missed the deadline for submitting his paperwork on time. Consequently, Caleb cannot afford to attend school this fall, his senior year. (His last three years were also his senior year, but he is scheduled to finish this coming year.) He is simply trying to finish school.

Unfortunately, this comes at a bad time for Mollie and me. So what we’re doing, since we can’t help him much financially, is this: Mom has come to the rescue! Mollie has set up a crowd-funding campaign. Everyone who contributes 25$ or more to the campaign will be entered in a drawing to win one of her paintings – one entry for every $25. It’s a very cool semi-abstract painting from her Jacob’s Ladder series, entitled, “All About the Ladder.” (I’m kind of bummed that she’s letting it go, because its one of my favs. See the painting below.) Having said that, I realize that people are primarily contributing to help Caleb. But it wouldn’t hurt to win some nice art as well, right?

We’re getting very close! There are only a few days left in the campaign. We send our heartfelt thanks for those of you who choose to lend support. Here is THE LINK for those who are interested:

"All About the Ladder" water media, 3 x 3 ft, gallery wrapped, by Mollie Walker Freeman - listed at $2200

“All About the Ladder”
water media, 3 x 3 ft, gallery wrapped,
by Mollie Walker Freeman – listed at $1950

 

 

 

My Stint as a Political Cartoonist

This week I’m posting one of my old comic strips from 1993, since this one seemed relevant to my previous post on religious liberty.

I’m generally uncomfortable posting most of my strips now for the same reason that I “got out of politics” over a decade ago: because politics is so divisive. I’m much more interested in building bridges, and in focusing on the spiritual aspect of life, because I believe that’s what ultimately matters. But I thought the strip below was fair, pretty innocuous, and good-natured. In my opinion, it’s just describing the water in which we’re all swimming, (or perhaps drowning.)

Freedom-Church and State

Yes, I guess I can say I was a cartoonist for a while. I worked for a free, alternative newspaper for a few years, called KC Jones – the Newspaper of Politics & Polemics. I had picked up the paper one day in a restaurant, and, to my surprise, found that I agreed with its editorial perspective. However, the paper was butt-ugly and as visually dense as the enchanted forest. I looked up the owner, and he immediately hired me to start doing covers. Eventually I asked if I could do a comic strip as well.

The owner, Rich Nadler, ran the paper out of a dumpy little office in Kansa City, MO. Rich was a brilliant, prolific, politically conservative Jew who never actually graduated high school. Long before I met him, he was in the progressive rock band, Pavlov’s Dog. (I think he played violin. The band was successful enough to have a Wiki page.) The rest of the staff included a bright, atheist Libertarian, Rod McBride, who was capable of monologuing for long periods of time. I also remember a very young, ridiculously good-looking, goth-looking dude (before being goth was a thing.) He was called Spit, apparently because he would spit on his audience during his musical performances. I suppose I rounded out the staff by being the born-again, pony-tailed artist Jesus freak.

I used the pen name, Elvis Lackey. My strip coincided with the Clinton presidency.

A few words about the above comic strip
Here is my simple understanding: Conservatives are often referred to as “anti-government” by liberals. This is dishonest political rhetoric. Such a label would more accurately describe an anarchist. But the topic of the proper role of government in America is an interesting one. I believe that sincere conservatives and liberals ultimately want the same things; we just have different understandings of how to get there. I believe the means we choose of reaching our goals has to do with our fundamental beliefs about human nature.

Why are so many Bible believing people politically conservative? Because fundamentally, we believe human nature has been corrupted. It follows, then, that human beings generally can’t be trusted with power. History bears witness. America’s founders believed this as well, and therefore they set up a separation of powers; three branches of government to keep each other in check. Monarchies, dictatorships, and theocracies do not have a separation of powers.

Those of us who agree with the reasoning for separating the branches of government are generally also enthused about something the Founders called self-government. Therefore, conservatives who favor constitutional government are not anti-government. Rather, we favor limited government, and self-government. We favor a free arena of competing ideas based on a foundation of inalienable rights endowed by our Creator, as opposed to rights given by government.

The concept of limited and self-government can only work if the people govern themselves. Religion has traditionally served the role of promoting good character and self-restraint in the general population. In believing this, religious conservatives believe that they are in agreement with America’s Founding Fathers, whose political philosophy remains as relevant as ever. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other – John Adams

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty – John Adams

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters – Benjamin Franklin

None of this is to say that “non-religious people” are somehow not welcome here, or that a materialist atheist cannot be a virtuous person. The point is that religion has traditionally served the public order. Whatever means they individually choose today, religious or otherwise, the people must govern themselves or else the government will necessarily step in to maintain order. When the people order themselves, then there is no reason for government overreach or intrusion, and a free and pluralistic society can thrive. Since government necessarily equals force and compulsion, freedom depends on keeping government limited.

Paradoxically, then, the worldview that holds a distrustful view of human nature turns out to provide the maximum amount of freedom for the individual.

Why do liberals believe that human beings can be trusted with governmental power?
I have no idea.

Religious Freedom & Hobby Lobby: Who Is Imposing What on Whom?

Hobby Lobby Religious Freedom
Hobby Lobby is a privately owned, for-profit, arts and crafts business that has always provided contraceptive coverage in its insurance plan for employees. It continues to do so. However, the owners of Hobby Lobby objected to ACA (Obamacare) requirements that they cover four contraceptive options which may act as abortifacients. Complying in this manner would violate the owners’ sanctity-of-human-life beliefs, which are rooted in their biblical worldview. Hobby Lobby initially was denied a preliminary injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. When Hobby Lobby was eventually granted a preliminary injunction, the government appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Without the Supreme Court’s recent intervention, Hobby Lobby would’ve been subject to fines of $1.3 million per freaking day.

On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court announced its decision that the US government cannot force Hobby Lobby to pay for contraceptive coverage that violates the owners’ sincerely held religious beliefs. The Court ruled in accordance with the bi-partisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. This was primarily a religious freedom case, not a contraception case.

The Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision brought into the spotlight a reality that will not be going away anytime soon: In “secular” American culture, there is going to be an inevitable clash with religious freedom around the issues of abortion and human sexuality, because, embarrassing as it is to secularists, America is still the most religious developed nation in the world. Secular and religious worldviews will continue to collide.

I’ve argued here that the best we can hope for in America is freedom and pluralism. Creating a homogenous utopia always comes at too high a price. We must all put on our big boy pants and accept that we’re not all going to agree with each other, even on life’s most fundamental issues. Issues like the sanctity of human life and human sexuality. It’s okay if we disagree, so long as we respectfully allow other viewpoints to co-exist alongside ours. The deal-breaker is when either the Right OR the Left attempts to use government to force compliance on such fundamental issues. Everyone is free to ignore the Church. None of us are free to ignore the State, and everyone must recognize that government necessarily always entails force. This is what the Hobby Lobby case was about.

It’s simply not a question of whether you think you are right, or whether you think your view is the most fair and compassionate, or whether you think your political opponents arguments are stupid or misinformed. I’m pretty sure we all think something like that, or else we would change our opinions. The point is that we must never allow one side to take the step of violating by force, the civil rights and autonomy of those with whom it disagrees. The Supreme Court essentially ruled that this was, in effect, what the Obama administration (Sebelius/Burwell) was attempting to do in the case of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties.

In their decision, the Justices referred to the *Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Court ruled that the US Government could find a less restrictive means of accomplishing its interest in the matter, which is precisely what the RFRA requires. In the midst of all the hysterical, vitriolic, and often flat out dishonest media reaction I’ve heard around the Hobby Lobby decision, I heard precious little reference to the RFRA. I thought it would be helpful to address some typical objections in light of the RFRA:

Objection: Hobby Lobby is forcing their religious views on women…denying women access to birth control coverage…waging a war on women…carrying out a thinly disguised anti-woman agenda…imposing something on women…hating women, etc.

Such statements, honestly, are baffling to me. The only party having something forcibly imposed on it in this situation was Hobby Lobby. The choices were: abandon your reasonable foundational beliefs, or else pay $1.3 million a day until you either comply or go out of business.

In America, when an employer and an employee wish to enter into a consensual, contractual agreement, each party agrees to provide something for the other. If the prospective employee doesn’t like the benefit package for whatever reason, she is free to walk away. An Employer refusing to pay for something is not the same thing as banning it, or denying access to it.

I couldn’t find the numbers on this, but I’m pretty sure that if there were ever a business that caters mostly to women, it’s Hobby Lobby. From what I can see, their workforce is mostly women as well. I would be very surprised to learn that the Green family hates women. Until I see some rational reason to believe they do, I’m going to assume they are grateful to women for making their business a success.

Objection: What’s next, if “religious” people can pick and choose which laws they want to obey? Now anyone will be able to use “religious freedom” as a pretext for not obeying the law…Pandora’s box…minefield, etc.

The RFRA squarely addresses this concern. It begins:

The framers of the Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution…”

However, the RFRA was designed to strike a balance between this inalienable right of the people and the interests of government. The law states that, in general, “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,” but then it provides an exception:

Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person-

  • is in the furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
  • is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
    (See the RFRA in its entirety here.)

So, if a person’s religion requires them to not pay taxes, or to own slaves, or to conduct weekly human sacrifices, the Court will almost certainly find that government is justified in burdening those religious practices. (Here’s a great article on the RFRA)

Senator Ted Kennedy, together with Senator Orrin Hatch, led the bipartisan passage of the RFRA in the Senate (97-3.) The House unanimously passed it. Kennedy claimed that, under the RFRA, “not every free exercise claim will prevail.” The RFRA does not predetermine the outcome of any religious liberty claim.

Objection: The 4 contraceptives in question are not abortifacients.

1) Depending upon how one defines pregnancy, they may indeed act as abortifacients. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties chose to err on the side of not being a party to ending a developing human life, as is their right.

2) This objection is irrelevant anyway. Even if a company were religiously opposed to covering any birth control whatsoever, (which is not true of HL,) the RFRA still requires the government to “strike a sensible balance between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.”

 Objection: With this decision, America is heading toward a Christian theocracy…the end of the world as we know it…back to the Inquisition, etc…

 A guy seriously tried to argue this with me.

No. Just because the Supreme Court recognized that it’s illegal for a liberal administration to use governmental power to force conservatives to behave like liberals does not mean we are heading toward a theocracy. It means we’re heading back toward freedom. Anyway, it’s also unconstitutional for the American government to have a state church, so no, there will be no theocracy. Plus nobody wants one. Especially Christians. My guess is that such hysterical statements stem from the Left’s tendency to conflate Christianity and Islam.

And speaking of not understanding religion…

 In her dissent, Ruth Bader Ginsburg made this statement: “Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations.”

 With all due respect, she’s wrong. Her statement is certainly not true of the many faith-based universities, hospitals, and national and international relief organizations which shape the world we live in. One could even argue that her statement isn’t even true of many churches! Religious belief, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, provides a motivating, transcendent basis for valuing, loving, and helping all human beings, regardless of distinction. Such organizations do not screen refugees, earthquake victims, and starving people to make sure they “subscribe to the same religious faith” before serving them. In fact many “religious organizations” intentionally seek out people groups of other faiths to do good to them.

 Her statement mirrors the Obama administrations arbitrary (and incorrect) definitions of what religious organizations are, and what they do. Administration attorneys have been arguing in court that religious people give up any claim to a right of religious liberty when they choose to start a for-profit company.

Think about that.

Can the free market not sort most of this out? Do we really need the heel of government coercing people of faith to abandon their fundamental beliefs before they can incorporate a business? As if a secularist worldview is somehow less biased than a religious worldview. And anyway, is it really a good idea to keep people who may be religiously motivated to not be self-focused, cut-throat, money-grabbing dirt bags out of the business world?

Bigotry is bigotry. Just because it’s liberal bigotry doesn’t make it good bigotry.
‘Just sayin.’

I’m reading between the lines just a bit here, but I’m getting the impression from the Left that it is content to let “religious people” exist, so long as they stay out of the public square, outside of government, outside of the sphere of public influence, and squirreled away in their own churches. In fact the “new atheism” explicitly encourages this.

If I may close by putting this idea into perspective, let’s make some comparisons:

Many Islamic nations claim to have “religious freedom.” This means they allow Christians to live among them, so long as they do not build (or repair) churches, “make converts,” or criticize Islam. Should a Muslim decide to “convert to Christianity,” the consequences can be quite severe for everyone involved.

Similarly, China, an atheist state, claims to have “religious freedom.” Christian churches are allowed to exist, but only if they are registered with and controlled by the government. They must stay out of the public square and outside of government. The assumption is that religion will eventually die out as the public becomes more enlightened.

I’d be interested in hearing from someone on the American Left as to how the Left’s perspective on religious liberty is substantially different from that of China, or even from theocratic Islamic nations. In your answer, please tell me why you feel more threatened by the (non-compulsory) Church, than by the (compulsory) State. I’m genuinely curious.

Announcing My New Publishing Company

kids story books - the Cocky Rooster

Watercolor illlustration from the author’s upcoming children’s story, The Cocky Rooster.

This week I want to share with you my excitement over my new business adventure. I’m about to launch Big Picture Publishing, an online children’s storybook company. In this early stage I am the author, illustrator, designer, marketer, owner, & janitor of the company.

In 2006 I authored, illustrated, and self-published my first children’s book. Naomi’s Gift, a Christmas storybook, achieved moderate local success and won an award. However, I went into debt to produce it, and eventually got stuck from a marketing and distribution standpoint. As much as I enjoyed writing and illustrating books for kids, the industry seemed too difficult for a self-published guy like myself to break into.

Books for kids - Naomi's GiftI have since come to believe that technological advances are changing the picture, making it possible for a little fish like me to survive in the big book-publishing-pond. Because now, via the internet, you can directly access what I’m offering. My entire business will be conducted online – books will be offered both in an ebook format, and also as ink and paper books printed “on demand” by a third party.

“Hey – I have a great idea for a kid’s book!”
It’s surprising to me how many people I meet who have a kids’ book idea they would like to see published. Eventually I intend to offer books from other authors, but until everything is well underway I need to keep things simple. Since I have several books already written, some of which have been waiting for years to see the light of day, I’m beginning with these titles. Since I already have the writing, design, and illustration skill set to create a high quality children’s book, this is where I must begin.

I also look forward to eventually adding audio and interactivity to the ebooks, but this is beyond my ability and resources at this time. For now I must settle for simple, beautifully illustrated, great stories that are affordable for parents (and affordable for me to produce!)

Mission Statement
Big Picture Publishing has a specific mission and target audience:

Our mission is to help parents instill, reinforce, and normalize a biblical worldview in their children.

To clarify, this is not to say that the stories will all be “religious.” Since a biblical worldview encompasses all of life, I don’t see the point of dividing life up into religious and non-religious categories. Therefore our “non-religious” stories will always be completely in line with our mission, beliefs, and  values. Every book, whether an original new story, a Bible story, or a retelling of a public domain favorite such as the Emperor’s New Clothes, will be designed to reinforce truths and spiritual realities revealed in the Bible.

We fully intend to produce books that will engage and entertain kids, but we intend to go way beyond mere entertainment. We’re going for the heart. As a parent who loves Jesus, you know that your kids are bombarded daily by voices hostile to your worldview. Today, via electronic media, this can even happen within the sanctuary of your own home. However, one aspect of culture that you can control as a parent is the books you read to your children. Big Picture Publishing hopes to be a source you can trust.

I’ve emphasized parents here, but I want to be sure to say that if you are a grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, caretaker, or friend of a child under 9, please DO become a part of this community! A beautifully illustrated storybook can be a great gift idea as well – a gift that can contribute to a child’s spiritual formation.

kids story books by Big Picture Publishing

Illustration from The Cocky Rooster – Soon to be released! Sign up below to receive notification!

I have something for you
Key to the success of this endeavor will be building a list of thousands of interested parents and other lovers of children. In this initial stage I’m calling on my interested social media friends and blog followers to jump-start me by visiting my website and signing up in the blue box. Signing up does not obligate you to purchase anything – it simply makes it possible for me to notify you of quarterly new book releases.

When you sign up, I will immediately send you my free ebooklet about the importance of stories in parenting. In this ebooklet I share some ideas that inspired and energized me as a young parent years ago. In fact, these same ideas were the impetus for me to launch this project. I think you will be inspired and encouraged as well.

I thank you for your support – I am quite enthused over this project! I am honored to have the opportunity to support parents and families by providing tools that will edify their children. In a world that’s getting crazier every day, may God give you wisdom in helping the little ones you love to navigate the course of life.

Please do visit the website for more info: www.bigpicturepublishing.com  – and don’t forget to sign up to receive your free ebooklet!
(Fyi – you will not be fully subscribed until you also click on the follow-up confirmation email, as this is a permission-based list.)

kids story books-biblical worldview

A spread from The Cocky Rooster, written and illustrated by Scott Freeman: The story of a self-absorbed rooster who resents being cooped up with the hens every night.

 

A Humongous Mural Project Outside of My Comfort Zone

 

Lake Providence mural 1
Can public art make a difference in a town’s identity? I think I now believe it can play a part.

I certainly don’t think that painting a huge mural on an old building is going to solve anyone’s problems. However, perhaps living alongside inspiring words and images can help to create a climate favorable to positive change. Perhaps it can announce that there are those present who are willing to see change come, and even willing to do something to make it happen. Perhaps seeing a life-enhancing message every day may work on a person’s spirit, at least raising the possibility of new possibilities.

If there were ever a town that could use an identity change, Lake Providence, Louisiana, would be a good candidate. This town has gotten more than its share of bad press. Here is just a sampling of national and regional news stories singling out Lake Providence and the county where it is situated:
–  In 1994, Time magazine designated Lake Providence the poorest place in America.

-  In 1996, the Shreveport Times reported that East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, had the highest rate of child poverty in America.

-  In 1998 George Magazine named LP as one of the most corrupt cities in America.

-  In 2013 CNN called East Carroll Parish “the most unequal county in America.”

This northern Louisiana town of under 4000 people is a Mississippi River town, situated around a lake.  80% of the population is black. Traditionally there has been a white side, and a black side of the Lake, (although this is beginning to change.) There is a public school with no white students, and a private school with no, or few, black students. Though the town is filled with churches, they tend to be either black or white.

When I say these things to non-Southerners, they tend to be appalled, incredulous that such a situation would still exist in 21st century America. I admit that it’s taken me some time to wrap my head around the situation. I was born in 1960 in St. Louis, Missouri, and my siblings and I grew up assuming that racism was stupid and backward, despite having close relatives who sometimes made racial slurs. As a young parent, when my family lived in the inner city of Kansas City, my wife and I sent two of our boys to an all black charter school, partly because we thought it might be good for them to experience how it feels to be a minority. Especially before moving to Loveland, Colorado.

But despite the demographics in Lake Providence, it would be wrong to assume that LP and other towns like it are brimming over with racial hatred today. At this point it seems to be more a matter of ingrained patterns and inertia, especially with younger generations, who haven’t lived with the actual acts of hatred that the older generations have seen. Political power is no longer held by whites. For the past 20 years, LP has made great strides in pulling itself out of the ashes of a nasty history. There are concerned citizens working to turn the town around, and making improvements. I spoke at length with an older gentleman, who grew up in Lake Providence, and who is an agent of change. It’s interesting to hear him describe his upbringing:

By way of background, segregation in the South meant there were two of everything. Two entrances to the only movie theater in town, for example, & two seating sections…Blacks sat upstairs in the balcony; whites sat downstairs. That’s the world I grew up in & I didn’t think much about it at the time. That’s just the way it was…In a small town like Lake Providence, we associated with blacks. Our family had a black maid and I grew up around black folks, played with blacks as a child. In the army I roomed with a black man. Once in TX, we were denied service at a diner because he was black. Though he “took” it, it was my first experience with bigotry and it made me angry on his behalf and helped me to understand a little of what he went through.  

In the courthouse here, there were two drinking fountains – one for whites & one for coloreds. I drank out of the one labeled “white” and didn’t think anything about it. Three restrooms – one for white men, one for white women, one for coloreds (men & women). I went to the one labeled “whites”. That’s just what I did. No one made a “to-do” about the separateness of it…Of course, that’s all changed and you’d never know it even existed now. Everybody shops together at Walmart now.”

Today, I think people still tend to assume racism and hatred where it may not exist. One of my white Lake Providence friends told a story of going to the black section of the mall to have her hair done. She was totally well intentioned, trying to build bridges, and wanting to support a black business. She was met with cold stares, and was refused service. She insisted, saying, “but I want you to do my hair.” The hairdresser refused, saying she had never done a white person’s hair before. My friend insisted again, but the hairdresser said she didn’t have the right supplies, and told her to go the white salon. Is this racial hatred?

Not necessarily, though it probably felt like it to my friend. I don’t know the hairdresser, but I do know that black people hair is really different from white people hair. My wife had dreadlocks for ten years, and she definitely had to go to way more effort to make that happen than black do people. I once had a friend in Kansas City tell me that it was kind of a hassle for her to come to Colorado because the stores didn’t carry the right products for her hair and skin. These is not an insurmountable problem, but it illustrates the point that it’s just more work to accommodate differences. That is not to say it’s not worth the effort.

I can tell you from experience that it is way more work to racially integrate a church congregation than to remain separate. This is partly because integrating involves figuring out how to bring together different, sometimes very personal, cultural aspects such as dress, speech, music, and worship styles. Again, it’s just more work. It requires humility, forbearance, and cooperation from all sides. The multi-racial churches I’m familiar with specifically have a vision to be multi-racial, and are committed to making it work. Yet this is only fitting for any New Testament church that claims to believe the biblical call to love and unity under a universal Savior.

A Brief Word About Hate
Leaving the specific topic of racism for a moment, let’s consider the topic of hate-blaming-and-shaming in general.

I assume everyone has noticed by now the political left’s current tactic of assigning hateful motives to those who hold views it doesn’t like. This is not helpful. Assuming hatred where it doesn’t exist has a polarizing effect on the culture – it promotes a false picture of a society consisting of people who are politically liberal versus people who are motivated by hate. As if the picture is that simple. It’s a lame political tool used to manipulate and shame those with “incorrect” opinions into getting in line. This tactic is being used to shut down honest dialogue, so desperately needed between those whose opinions differ. But accusation is much easier than dialogue. It promotes sucking up to popular opinion over actually thinking about the issues. It’s also blindly arrogant: “If you disagree with my viewpoint, it is because you hate.” End of discussion.

And, by the way, if you’re a liberal hate-shamer, this business of broad-brushing people’s motives isn’t ultimately going to work. Those relative few who actually are haters don’t care what you think (because they hate you,) while the majority of us whose views differ from yours resent having our motives maligned by you. We know we’re not motivated by hatred, we’re not ashamed of our beliefs, and we’re not going to be manipulated or forced into silence.

Racial hatred, homophobia, misogyny and other types of irrational prejudice exist, but probably not to the extent that the ankle-deep news media would have us believe. For example, if you think the millions of people who oppose gay marriage are necessarily motivated by hate, I am thrilled to inform you that you are simply wrong. We’re actually motivated by truth, love, and tolerance. If you think opposition to abortion-on-demand and to Planned Parenthood constitutes a “war on women,” you should be relieved to know that we’re actually motivated by a desire to create a culture that upholds the innate value of all human life; in other words, truth, love, and tolerance. Disagreement does not equal hate.

Attempting to shame people into conformity ultimately won’t work because it doesn’t change people’s hearts. Government force does not change people’s hearts. There is simply no easy substitute for the hard work of building relationships.

The Humongous Lake Providence Mural
Resurrection Fellowship, whose pastor was once a worship leader at a church in Lake Providence years ago, has committed to building a long-term relationship with the town of Lake Providence. This Loveland church sponsored the LP mural project. A local black business owner in LP agreed to let a bunch of (mostly) white people from Colorado paint on his building. The team consisted of 9 adult artists and their families. Most considered themselves to be amateurs or non-artists. As the only full-time professional artist, I headed the project along with my wife and our leader, Eric Holmlund. Our team had one week to paint a very complex design on a huge, already primed, old building. I had my doubts that it could be done in a week.

Lake Providence mural 2
The design, which Eric had named “Destiny Words,” consisted of a crossword puzzle-like grid with interlocking words. In the spaces between we were to paint images reflective of the town and region, based on input from local citizens. Eric created the basic design for this using photos .

I felt that giving inexperienced artists photographs to paint from on such an ambitious project would probably not have ended well. So Mollie and I translated the photos into basic flat shapes, with gradated color, and incorporated heavy line work. We used the design approach of poster artists David Lance Goines, and Michael Schwab as inspiration. We felt that this would unify the overall look of the mural despite the large number of people involved, (some of whom were children.) I also felt that the simplicity of the shapes and flat color would give us a chance of actually finishing in one week.

Lake Providence mural 3
This was uncomfortable, but good for me. When it comes to art, I don’t see myself as a person who is naturally great at collaborating with other people, but for this project I determined to do the upfront design work and then “let it go.”

We arrived in Lake Providence at night in a freaking downpour, but for the rest of the week we had great weather. Our first morning there, Mr. Brock, an LP local took us on a bus tour of the town and impressed on us how different Lake Providence, LA was from Loveland, CO:

Scott Freeman painting mural

The author working on the trumpeter.

Population: LP – 3,991, Loveland – 66,859
Median hh income: LP – $16,900, Loveland – $47,119
Poverty rate: LP – 55%, Loveland – 4%
Race demographics: LP – 16% white, 80% black; Loveland – 91% white (2010)

Wow.

Then, we were off and running, working hard from morning ‘til night. The LP locals were very generous hosts and fed us extremely well all week. Even strangers fed us: one night, a black lady, dressed all in white and wearing a big white hat, was on her way home from a revival meeting. After stopping to talk with us, she went home and brought back the remains of a cheesecake for me! Really?!

The whole week was a big, crazy, colorful party with people stopping by throughout each day, many of whom joined in to paint. We were on the corner of a very busy, very close intersection, so we painted to a serenade of honking horns and encouraging shouts.

Lake Providence mural gator

Rene, Sandy, and me hard at work. The gator is my favorite.

In the end, we went right down to the wire and got the mural done with the help of many hands and much support. (Well, there is this one little area that didn’t get painted, but I’m not going to point it out.) On the very last night Eric and I went up and painted the url to a website that Eric had set up that day, so that passers by can look up the meaning and inspiration behind Lake Providence’s newest downtown public art addition. You can read about it here: www.LPmural.com.

 
Title: “Destiny Words”
Artists: Sandy Beegle, Mollie Walker Freeman, Scott Freeman, Aubrey Grieser, Margie Gray, Eric Holmlund, Sabrina Peterson, Rene Prinsloo, Marcus Robinson
Opinions expressed here are not necessarily the views of the other artists or Resurrection Fellowship.

Lake Providence mural 4

At the center of the mural is a depiction of two recent high school graduates. These girls, both prom queens from their respective LP schools, agreed to appear on the same parade float for the first time in LP history. Both were members of Providence Church in, which supported our team while we were there.

 

LP Judah

The “Elusive” Project

 

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If you’re a music lover, I’d like to let you know about a project I was recently involved with.

One of the things that drew Mollie and I to the city of Loveland 13 years ago was the local musical talent. Loveland is actually better known for its sculpture and fine art, but at at the time we weren’t aware of this. We moved here for relational reasons, and our friends had connected with some world-class local musicians, specifically guitarist Dave Beegle, Keith Rosenhagen, and Taylor Mesple (pronounced MESS-play.)Musician and composer Aakash Mittal is also from Loveland for those of you who like Modern Jazz. I should hasten to add that I’m not saying that Loveland is a great place to make a living if you are an artist or musician, only that there seems to be a disproportionate number of artists, musicians, dancers, and authors for a town of this size.

Musician, singer, songwriter, and producer Taylor Mesple has just released his newest album, Elusive, for which I was privileged to create the graphic design package. Taylor is the creator of one of my all time favorite albums in the universe: Victory Land. It’s one of the most beautiful, unified, and lyrically evocative albums I’ve heard. (You should just buy it right now.) He released Victory Land shortly after we moved to Loveland in 2001, but due to some timing mishaps the album was never really marketed well. The Mesples moved to Maine for several years where Taylor did musical production and ran a music venue called The Maple Room. Fortunately for us, the Mesples eventually moved back to Loveland.

Elusive represents Taylor’s newest and best musical statement to date, after years of producing music for others. Taylor is a bit of a non-conformist in a lot of ways that I consider to be good. Inside his possibly intimidating, biker-like exterior is a sensitive dreamer that aspires to bring healing, light, and inspiration to hearts through music that is decidedly softer (at times) than a first impression might lead you to expect. There is a sense of yearning for the transcendent that pervades his music – an invitation to a journey to someplace better than where we are.

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A bit about Taylor the musician: Taylor was a child prodigy, raised in a musical family. In 1989, at age 13, he began playing keyboards with his Dad’s highly successful band, Wind Machine. The band, originally formed by Steve Mesple and Acoustic Eidelon’s Joe Scott toured until 1998. As an adult, Taylor is now an accomplished producer, session player, songwriter, and musical innovator.

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I also want to mention that Taylor’s wife, Rebecca, is an accomplished singer-songwriter. A few years ago Rebecca released an album entitled “A Simple Offering.” The album consists of simple, yet moving and unforgettable songs, and is one of my favorite albums by a female singer-songwriter. It’s definitely worth checking out. If you want my recommendation for tracks to sample, my favorites on this disc are “My Light”, “Step Into the Sun”, and her cover of Jonatha Brooke’s “Always.” Rebecca’s disc is available HERE.

For those of you within range, Taylor will be performing an “Elusive” CD release concert at the Lincoln Center in Ft. Collins, Colorado, May 6th, 2014 at 7:00pm. I spoke with Taylor recently about what he’d like to accomplish in a live concert. Rather than simply doing the typically less-excellent-concert-version of what is on the recorded disc, Taylor is interested in creating a transcendent experience for the audience. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with. You can find more information at Taylor’s new website HERE. 

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Taylor and I thought the image of a hula dancer in the snow was a great metaphor for God-renewed life in our cold, fallen world. If you’ve ever felt like we were made for a different place then perhaps you can relate.

Artwork and photography copyright 2014 by Scott Freeman