A Juneteenth Kind of Karma

(Spoiler alert—if you have not read River Rising but you think you might one day, you may want to skip this post, because I’m going to give away a big part of the story.)

A while ago I promised to post more background on River Rising. One thing some readers may not know—even some African Americans may not know this, sadly—is that the idea of a “lost plantation” which survived after the end of the Civil War is based on fact. Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1965 and Johnson surrendered to Sherman on April 26 of that same year. While some isolated Confederates continued to resist, these two dates represent the official end of the War Between the States. Yet slaves in Texas kept on working for their “masters” until June 19, more than a month and a half after the Confederacy had fallen, and fully two and one half years after Abraham Lincoln had set them legally free with his emancipation proclamation.

Even though their Texan “masters” were fully aware of the facts, the slaves received no word of their freedom until the day Union soldiers arrived in Galveston with the good news. From then to now, African Americans in Texas have celebrated that good news with a holiday called “Juneteenth,” which is coming up in just five days, on June 19th. It is widely believed by historians that this deception was perpetrated by plantation owners in the hope of gleaning one last harvest. All I did in River Rising, was envision that one last harvest turned into another, and another, for fifty-two seasons in a profoundly isolated place.

Thinking about Juneteenth made me consider what it means to be free, and yet not know.

It seems to me that one of Jesus’ most wonderful gifts to us is the ability to live life in the moment. This is a goal of every world religion. Somehow we can sense that living in the moment is a pathway to contentment. Buddhists and Hindus in particular have a strong focus on this goal, which commonly morphs itself into “New Age” thinking.

One of the main enemies of contentment is worry about the future (which I discussed last week in “Fearful Faith”). Another enemy is guilt about the past. Unlike the “Be Here Now” mindset of the New Age movement, Christians have no need to concern themselves with guilt, or reaping what we have sown, or “karma.” Christianity agrees with other religions that the woes of life do have a cause, and we do indeed deserve the trials we get, but the good news is that Jesus died to put an end to payback. On the earthly plane, our actions have results we often cannot avoid. An unfriendly person will not have many friends, for example. But in cosmic terms, in terms of our relationship with God, Jesus cut the karmic cycle once and for all. Because of his sacrifice in our place, because all has been forgiven through Jesus for those who will believe they are forgiven through Jesus, guilt about past actions is unnecessary.

In spite of this, some Christians choose to stay in bondage. Some act as if they think Jesus died to save them from their sins, then rose again to hold those sins against them. Others are consumed with worry, even though they know their Father loves them and can be trusted with the future.

Christians can behave like slaves who have been freed, but do not know.


So, Christian, how can you break the bondage of past and future? The Bible’s answer is you can’t. But Jesus can. In fact, he already did. All you have to do, like those slaves who were not really slaves in Texas, is trust the Good News you have already heard. If you’re a Christian yet you feel the weight of a guilty past or a fearful future, I hope you’ll meditate upon the fact that guilt and worry are acts of faith in something other than the Lord. They act out the fact that you have chosen to believe you cannot trust your Savior. Isn’t it time you acted out what you really believe? “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:18-26) But sometimes “doing is not doing” as the Buddhists say. You don’t have to overcome your past. You don’t have to be brave about the future. Let Jesus do that for you. Remember the Good News you once heard and believed, trust your past and future to the Lord, and act like the free person you already are!

Posted byAthol Dickson at 10:20 AM  

2 comments:

Carrie K. said... June 18, 2007 at 11:53 AM  

I just finished River Rising last week and posted a review on my blog. It was brilliant - I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

Athol Dickson said... June 18, 2007 at 12:42 PM  

Thanks, Carrie! My next one, THE CURE will be available next month. I hope you like it, too. Don't expect a sequel, though. It's a whole other kind of story...

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