Paul’s Letter to the Galatians about living in a community

Throughout the pandemic, and now with the easy availability of life-saving vaccines to slow the spread of Covid-19, I have genuinely struggled with how people of faith, who are often in church or other places of worship  multiple times a week, claiming that not wearing a mask, gathering shoulder to shoulder, and now not being fully vaccinated, is a personal choice.

In some regards it echos the philosophy of Ayn Rand. We have seen the tragic results in both Christian and Hasidic Jewish communities when members acted on the premise of personal choice. I know people who have gone this route and infected family and friends, some too young to be vaccinated.

Recently someone told me about a newsletter from St. Albans, a church just north of Charlotte, that addressed the challenges, and obligations, of being fully engaged in a faith community, where the health of the community, literally, is the responsibility of every member of that group.

The message from the Associate Rector is drawn from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians:

“The on-going and polarizing debate about getting vaccinated during this time of pandemic calls to my mind Paul’s words about “freedom”, especially in his letter to the Galatians. I say this because many who are refusing to get vaccinated are appealing to the notion of individual freedom: “Nobody else should have any say in my personal decisions about my own health.” On the face of it, this seems perfectly reasonable and in keeping with the principles upon which our nation was founded.

Many Christians will point directly to Paul’s words in his letter to the Galatians to support their understanding of individual freedom: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). A mere twelve verses later, however, Paul contextualizes his understanding of Christ-enabled freedom with these words:

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “ ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Gal. 5:13).

This is a critically important caveat that we do well to remember. Paul is clear on this point: the freedom that we have in Christ is not meant to encourage a life of libertine self-interest. Quite the opposite! The freedom that we have in Christ calls us away from being enslaved to pure self-interest towards a life that is committed to mutual love and care for others. Paul hammers home this point with the rather shocking words to our 21st century ears, “…through love become slaves to one another.” Professor of Religion Bruce Longenecker says it this way: “Christians have been set free from the enslavement of chaos-inducing self-interestedness in order to allow the self-giving Christ to become incarnate within their own self-giving way of life.”

The decision about whether to get vaccinated, like many decisions in life, is undoubtedly a personal one, with various factors at play. That said, it is important that we, as Christ-followers, try to make such decisions from a place of neighborly love, and not from a place of unfettered self-interest. Instead of thinking only about how a decision is going to affect me personally, we are called to also give serious consideration to how a decision is going to impact the lives of others. Instead of, as Paul says, using our freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, we are called to use our freedom in the service of others and for the common good; that is, to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Yours in Christ,

I hope, as the Rector writes, others will feel called to be of service to others and act for the common good of those they know and love.

Van Jones put his finger on it last night

Last Thursday I drove to Hendersonville, North Carolina for an annual event called Life Is A Verb Camp. On the way home Sunday afternoon I opted for less interstate and more two lane roads.

In addition to the fall-colored leaves I saw lots of Trump/Pence signs, which really didn’t surprise me as a fellow Southern rural citizen. What had been floating around in the back of mind for a long time began to move more to the front of my thoughts; how are the polls capturing the rural voter? Are they getting to us at all? Am I underestimating the urban turnout?

Last week Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight polling and punditry kept setting aside the poll numbers at a certain point in his figuring, which dogged me about who people say they will vote for and what they will do in the privacy of the voting booth.

Last night Van Jones put his finger on what I was thinking: white-lash. It has been a large and unspoken element in the room on top of the anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitic, anti-woman, my version of Christianity is the only one, anti-choice, denying access to affordable health care, putting profits before our natural resources, loosening gun control laws, and the list goes on and on.

I live among the voters who showed up in force at the polls and elected Donald Trump and Mike Pence; white rural Americans.

It should not be a surprise to readers of Rural and Progressive that I write from a perspective that there are two Americas, an urban and a rural America. Many rural Americans harbor some level of racism. I’ve heard it and seen it. For some people that has been the unspoken driver behind opposition to all-things Obama. And it brought people out in force to elect a TV personality whose favorite line is, “You’re fired.”

Yesterday white rural America told Donald Trump and Mike Pence, “You’re hired.”

I may live in rural America, but the not so subtle racism and divisive values espoused by Trump and Pence are not my values. And they aren’t the values of every rural American.

I’m no less proud of being a Hillary supporter today than I was yesterday, because I believe in a country where diversity is valued and celebrated. That’s the country I will continue to help build.

Take a book, leave a book

Little Free Library Ribbon Cutting, October 27, 2014    W. Church Street, Sandersville, Georgia
Little Free Library Ribbon Cutting, 511 West Church Street, Sandersville, Georgia

About two years ago my friends the Digh/Ptak family built a Little Free Library and placed it in front of their home in Asheville. A Little Free Library (LFL) is simply a place where books are made available for anyone to take a book to read or leave a book for someone else to read. You don’t even have to ask if it is ok to leave a book, you just put it in the library!

A LFL can be sponsored by a family like mine, a business, church, civic group, Scout troop, or a group of friends and neighbors. Most are located outside in a water-resistant box/container where there are lots of people throughout the day. Occasionally they are located inside a business too.

The cost is minimal. Registering a Little Free Library and getting your official Little Free Library sign requires a one-time cost of $35. They’ll send you some helpful information to spread the word about your LFL, and once you have yours ready, you can make it official and be placed on the LFL map and list of locations.  My LFL is number 16,856, so there were 16,855 Little Free Libraries before me! LFL is non-profit organization and can be found at 

So why is my LFL made out of an old newspaper box?  Unfortunately  I was not able to convince my husband to build one for me because he seems to be busy helping me with other things on a list that never ends. Last summer when a bike tour of Little Free Libraries in the Mercer area in Macon was announced, my determination to have at least one LFL in Washington County took off again.

After searching the web I found some old newspaper boxes repurposed into libraries. No building required! The Sandersville Progress didn’t have any boxes to offer, but after several phone calls I was able to get some from the Augusta Chronicle.

Little Free Library, Washington County, GA
Little Free Library, Washington County, GA

Once I got the boxes back to Sandersville, the real work began to make Little Free Libraries a community project. Washington County Machine Shop made some repairs so the boxes would be more weather resistant. Once I retrieved the shored up boxes, I got local businesses to help make Washington County’s first LFL happen.

ACE Hardware supplied me with paint, Brooker Business Products contributed a custom stamp for library books that reads “Little Free Library Washington, GA.” Katlyn Norwood painted to lettering on the box, and Smith Farm Supply donated a fence pole for me to secure the box in my front yard.

Charles Lee was willing to bend the rules for Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cuttings since this is the first official Little Free Library in our county. Bob West and his crew were kind enough to get my front yard “ribbon cutting” ready. Neil Pittman at the Country Buffet and Judy Page contributed food for everyone who attended the ribbon cutting.

On Monday, October 27 community leaders, friends, and neighbors gathered to celebrate Washington County’s first Little Free Library at my house on West Church Street. The books inside Washington County’s first LFL were donated by Jeanne Roughton, Susan Garrett, and my friend in the Monticello area Susan Joris. They range from classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and early reader books for young children, to adult murder-mysteries.

In the next few weeks Little Free Libraries will be popping up all over Washington County. The Beauty Junction on South Harris Street has put one out with children’s books. Washington EMC employees had a design contest for the one they will put on the front porch of their office in Sandersville. The Pendry family will have one on West Church St near the city cemetery soon. The Progress has found a newspaper box this fall to contribute and that one will be decorated and placed in front of Susan Lewis’ office on the Square. The fellows at ACE Hardware plan to build one and place it at their store, and Clayton Sheppard is going to try and make space inside JP’s Kwick Shop for a LFL that Warthen residents want to sponsor.

I am really appreciative of the help and support local businesses and friends have given to bringing Little Free Libraries to Washington County. I have one newspaper box left that I will give to someone who wants to decorate, register, and sponsor a Little Free Library in our county. If you want to get your name in the hat email me with your contact information, who will sponsor the LFL (your family, a Sunday School class, etc), and where you will place it. The other Washington County Little Free Library “librarians” will select a winner.

The deadline for your nomination is Friday, November 21. The winner will be chosen and announced in early December. Email me at [email protected] with your nomination.


Rural and Progressive

Disclaimer: Rural and Progressive is a self-published website. Any contributions supporting the research, web platform, or other work required for the owner and any invited guest contributors, is not tax deductible. Rural and Progressive is not operating as a nonprofit entity.