Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kenneth Allen, RIP

Recently, The Christian Century advertised this book: God Does Not...: Entertain, Play Matchmaker, Hurry, Demand Blood, Cure Every Illness. It is edited by D. Brent Laytham.  The title grabbed me (I guess it is the second in a series), but so far not enough to purchase it. 

But, I did ask the obvious question though, if God does not do those things, then just what does God do? How active is the Almighty in our events and entanglements? Perhaps an even deeper question would be, just how much we want God involved with us, but that's for a different post. Anyway, these ideas were driven home one evening last week when a 16 year old kid from our area named Kenneth Allen was shot to death by drive-by on his way home. 

I didn't know Kenneth, and really wouldn't have paid much attention to the story if I had not discovered that he was part of an innercity youth ministry our church supports in East St. Louis called the Christian Activity Center.  Drew Phillips, chaplain at the CAC, tells me that Kenneth was a great kid. Drew wrote me and said:

"Kenneth was one of the first children I met when I started at the CAC  in 2001.  His appetite was unparalleled, his laugh contagious, his capacity for friendship unrivaled.  He was always the first to sign up for camp, swimming days, mission trips: he loved to be involved in activities.  It was only upon his passing that I realized Kenneth's affect: he was the face of the CAC to so many people...The world is a poorer place without Kenneth.  He was a role model in a demographic in which there is a shortage of male role-models.  He was above so much of the fray that pulls down our teens.  I was looking forward to watching him grow up. His tragic, senseless death hit us who know him very deeply."

Singer and troubadour Tom Waits has a song from his Mule Variations album called Georgia Lee, that always comes to mind when things like this occur. I have embedded it from youtube, followed by the lyric.  After which, I'll share a final thought. 

Cold was the night, and hard was the ground
They found her in a small grove of trees
And lonesome was the place where Georgia was found
She's too young to be out
On the street.

Why wasn't God watching?
Why wasn't God listening?
Why wasn't God there for
Georgia Lee?

Ida said she couldn't keep Georgia
From dropping out of school
I was doing the best that I could
O but she just kept runnin away from this world
These children are so hard to raise good

Why wasn't God watching?
Why wasn't God listening?
Why wasn't God there for
Georgia Lee?

Close your eyes and count to ten
I will go and hid but then
Be sure to find me. I want you to find me
And we'll play all over
We will play all over again

There's a toad in the witch grass
There's a crow in the corn
Wild flowers on a cross by the road
And somewhere a baby is crying
For her mom
As the hills turn from green back
To gold

Why wasn't God watching?
Why wasn't God listening?
Why wasn't God there for
Georgia Lee?

Theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, (talking about the monstrous evil that was the Shoah) tells us that the proper question to put to God in the face of evil is not why, but where? God, where are you? This, he says, is actually reminiscent of  Jesus' cry of dereliction, and may be the primary and guttural response to divine abandonment.

Of course, Jesus promised that we would not be left as orphans (On Monday I relied upon this text for the funeral of a cancer victim), but sometimes this is certainly not how it feels. So this promise we must take by faith.