Tuesday is the big day. Normally a holiday for our citizens, and a welcome one at that, this year we have some representatives of the North American Mission Board coming to town–they’re good people, but they don’t keep up with the local calendar–and some of us will be spending the day with them.
Sunday morning, I preached at Oak Park Baptist Church on the West Bank of New Orleans. They were commissioning their Sunday School teachers for the year; like everyone else down here, they’re running a little off schedule. Interim minister Joe Kay announced that a church in Ruston had sent $10,000 to help install showers in the renovated educational building so they will be able to host volunteers coming to help rebuild the city. He read a letter from a couple who belonged to Oak Park decades ago, sending their love and a thousand dollar check. The church voted today to allow the Billy Graham “Rapid Response” chaplains to live in a residence next door for the next three months. At the end of the service, the altar was filled with members recommitting themselves to pray for this city. State Legislator Jim Tucker, a member of the church, was present. He has a standing invitation to attend our Wednesday pastors meeting in LaPlace to bring us up-to-date on legislative doings.
Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose is defending Mardi Gras, which has become a popular task around these parts, since much of the nation wonders whether the city has lost its mind by staging this party in the midst of the great devastation. He says some of the same things the rest of us have, that 98% of the people in the French Quarter who are guzzling barrel-size beers and flashing their bodies for beads are not from here. They are from “your” town. “You’re watching a mirror of yourselves,” he says to the nation.
Chris Rose is put out with what the media–and some self-serving politicians, I might add–have done to the image of this city, post-Katrina. Listen to the national coverage of our disaster and you come away believing the rich white folks of Lakeview got off easy compared to the poor Blacks of the Lower Ninth Ward. “Never mind,” he writes, “that the flood itself ignored such devices and claimed lives, property and peace of mind indiscriminately and equally across race, class and gender lines and across hundreds of square miles.” He writes, “The failure of the Corps of Engineers was true democracy in action. Or would that be inaction?” Read any paper in the nation commenting on New Orleans’ having a Mardi Gras this year, and it comes out to rich white folks partying at the expense of the neglected minorities.
Rose quotes a friend who lives in the Lower 9th, that she is fed up with the reaction when she tells people where she is from. “They immediately think I am poor, uneducated, have no car, no job, and was too stupid to get out of town when a hurricane comes.” She adds, “I’m not stupid.”