The Latest Ink: High Country Theology
For the last few months, I’ve been wrestling with what a liberation theology of the High Country (Western North Carolina and beyond) might look like. The collected visions and stories are contained in my newest (45th published) book, High Country Theology. Below are a few excerpts…
Countless years passed. Few mountain people remained. Most sold themselves to the highest bidder. The owners of paradise became slaves of the outsiders. No one remembered the name of God. The mountains were dead.
People grew anguished. People grew sick. People died. This was not what the bidders had promised. The mountain people were broken…and imprisoned.
Slowly, the people forgot God.
Despite the waywardness of their neighbors, two women remained faithful to both God and each other. Incessantly, they were shamed for their love. Through it all, they remained strong. Jealous of the love that they shared, their neighbors demanded that they leave each other or face the consequences.
Desperate, one woman turned to the other and said,
“Please leave me. I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to you.”
In a fury, the woman replied,
“Don’t urge me to leave you! Where you go I will go. Where you die I will die. Our love will never fail!”
As the two kissed, their neighbors walked away in shame.
Thus is the nature of love.
This is the prayer of the mountain,
“God has to be in these mountains.
I shall not want.
The endless pastures whisper of love.
The cleansing waters flow through me.
It all restores my soul.
God guides me to the questions.
I shall not want.
Though death comes near.
I fear no evil.
I feel you with me.
I know your touch.
You keep my enemies behind me.
Your leaves anoint my head.
Surely your shadow will be with me.
As my soul rests in these mountains forever.”
I still don’t believe what happened.
The hand of God was upon me. Behold, I found myself high upon a mountain. Pointing down, God showed me that the valley was full of bones. I knew them and they knew me. In the midst of my bewilderment, God turned to me and said, “Can these bones live?” Scared to speak, I simply said, “Only you know.”
God raised the mighty hands of divinity and demanded, “Preach to the bones!!! And I will raise them up!”
So I preached as I was commanded. The ground began to shake. The world turned upside down. God called from the four winds. All of a sudden, flesh started to grow on the bones…breath entered the bodies…eyes opened…mouths began to praise. The valley was full a vast army of justice.
Then God said to me, “These are the people of the High Country.”
The project of the liberation is to place the oppressed and marginalized at the center of the message of God. Thus, struggling mountain people are the very essence of God. The High Country is where God lives.