Im imagining a church in a small town, a mostly-white town like the one where I grew up, where a hymn becomes a dialogue and a Woody Guthrie song becomes a one-man play.
And now, says the pastor, the choir will give us their interpretation of an old favorite by Horatio Spafford, It Is Well with My Soul.
The choir rises, the organ plays an introduction, and two soloists step forward. Well call them Gold and Blue.
interrupts, happily anticipating whats coming.
cant help adding something.
is finally able to finish testifying.
can't be restrained.
the choir joins in the refrain.
The pastor thanks the choir. And finally, he adds, the Junior Choir will bring us one more selection. I think you all know it.
Two dozen children stand up and sing enthusiastically.
They repeat the chorus, encouraging the congregation to join them in clapping. Then they return to their seats.
Wonderful! Thank you, children. We must always remain proud of this beautiful country that God has given us. Our promised land, if you will. Our exceptional nation.
But perhaps, as we clap along with the music, were missing something more that Woody Guthrie's words are trying to tell us. Something else is hiding in the words of that very same song.
Theres a noise at the rear of the sanctuary. A door opens, and a man enters. The congregation turns to gape.
In the shadow of the steeple, he growls, I saw my people. The stranger walks down the aisle. By the relief office Id seen my people. As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking, Is this land made for you and me?
He points at the congregation. That side, he says, was made for you. He stares at the faces, left to right, for an uncomfortably long time. Finally he steps back and begins shuffling away.
But then he stops. And me!
The stranger begins to tell how God spoke to him.
He turns again to the congregation and clasps his chest. This land is my land, he repeats.
Then he spreads his arms wide and fervently declares, This land was made for you ... and me!