Simply Speaking: Gauntlet thrown
In a very real sense, the gauntlet had been thrown down, supposedly by a singular personage in neighboring Henderson County who, in passing a corner of the courthouse square in Athens, Texas containing a Nativity scene, had been offended by the sight of its presence, there on (horrors) government property.
“Separation of church and state,” you know, originally penned in an obscure Thomas Jefferson letter to worried Baptists, deciphered by quacks as marching orders to quickly knee-jerk our way away from those awful things of prime import, like 9/11, and turn our undivided attention to this blatant manger scene threat thrust upon us in this little East Texas town.
Somehow a linkage of some kind became, or already was, established between this affronted person and an organization known as the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation), headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, which picked up the gauntlet, evidently for a further throwing down. That was their first mistake.
Most all of us know how Texans are known for their love of joking around and the telling of tall tales, many of which are fully believed by the teller, but this was no joking matter. Let’s see now, how shall we understand this?; some folks from far up above the Mason-Dixon Line and Red River don’t like how we arrange some of our county courthouse lawns, at this special, meaningful time each year, and are letting us know they demand we take it down and remove it. Gauntlet down the second time.
Well, this was way over the top. “Remember the Alamo” responses began forming in the hearts and on the lips of Texans and those who agree with our view on all of that. It’s alright, I guess, if *freethinkers (atheists, agnostics and skeptics) and Northerners (or another-word) people think we talk funny and consume odd (to them) things like black-eyed peas, and grits, but challenging us on our courthouse square decorating choices that include Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus is, like I said, way over the top.
Incidentally, Athens is the Black-eyed Pea Capitol of the World.
The Henderson County Commissioner’s Court and County Judge dug in their heels, saying the Nativity scene would stay, even in the face of the ever-present lawsuit threat. They stood tall, and remain so.
And, as things began to heat up on the issue, at least a handful of pastors and preachers from the Athens area stood up and began the process of organizing a rally, Alamo-like, in response to the thrown down gauntlet. The time set to congregate was reminiscent of an old classic movie, High Noon.
The setting began to resemble a Hollywood set for the Alamo, with Texas Department of Public Safety and other officers abounding, seen even on roof-tops surrounding the Square, donning binoculars and weaponry, along with a keen eye and somber look.
As the Noon Hour approached, citizens began pouring into town and toward the old courthouse. Flags bearing the historic “Come and Take It” slogan, with its cannon logo were displayed by attendees, as was the even-older Gadsden, Don’t Tread on Me, Flag, with its coiled rattlesnake.
Young, old, and everything in-between came, many bearing Tea Party-like home-made signs lifting up the name of the manger baby, become savior of the world. Said to be 5000 strong, they crowded up close together around the front of the courthouse entry. The pastors, dressed smartly in dark suits began welcoming, praying, and speaking to the issue at hand and on other serious issues facing Athens, Henderson County, Texas, and all of America.
Hate was not a part of the gathering in word or in deed. Neither was any trash seen lying around on the grounds nor in the streets. Tea Party-like, as I said.
Spoken words from the courthouse steps and from amongst the crowd were powerful, yet congenial and on point. The true and living God was lifted up in word and in deed by one and all. Like those forebears who defended at the Alamo, the gauntlet was picked up and properly responded to by Texans yet living.
Something was begun at that noon hour Saturday in Athens, Henderson County, Texas, something good and honorable and, hopefully, of lasting good benefit; something begun 2000 years ago in a manger scene with Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus. May Yahweh bless through Yeshua, King of the Universe.
*self description from Freedom From Religion Foundation website