“But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”
Dr. Martin Luther King from “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”
One of the great travesties of our modern day is the simple fact: We have not learned the lessons of our past.” We continue to discriminate against people of color. We continue to discriminate against people who are economically disadvantaged. We continue to discriminate against people who have a different religious expression. We continue to discriminate.
If we would take a walk through history, and it doesn’t just have to be American history, you will find people from across the world have found ways to discriminate against others for a variety of reason. The ones I listed above are only but a few ways we choose to marginalize another human being. But if we took the time to scan through history, we would all find that discrimination has been a blight on our world, in every nation, and in every state, city, province, town, or however you define the area where you live.
And maybe that is part of the problem. And just for the record, I am not smart enough to solve this problem that has impacted our world since people started noticing differences among one another. But I do believe the fact that because we define ourselves outside of the definition given to us from the beginning: that we are created by God, in God’s own image, and fiercely loved by God, is a problem. Because as soon as we begin to elevate our genetic attributes over another set of genetic attributes we dehumanize those who are different from us. And once we dehumanize those who are different from us, it becomes easier to treat them as less than human and we can enact policies within our government systems that marginalize “the other.”
For the church this is not acceptable. We are called by God to love our neighbors. Jesus taught that loving our neighbors meant loving those we didn’t like. This is clearly seen when you know the culture of Jesus’s day and then read the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jews did not like Samaritans…period. And yet here is Jesus teaching that their neighbor is everyone including the Samaritan’s whom they held in disdain…to put it mildly.
Another problem with discrimination, but especially with racism, is we tend to think in terms of racist acts being when we lynch someone, or beat them up. We channel the images from the race riots of the 60’s. But there are many ways to discriminate and some of those are subtle. For example: telling an African American woman that her hair is wild is discriminatory as it points out an ethnic trait she has inherited and that doesn’t fit the long straight hair norm of Hollywood. I do so wish Hollywood was more diverse! These small and seemingly innocuous comments are actually micro aggressions against people of color. They are not ok.
We seem to have forgotten a simple fact, another point Dr. Martin Luther King made in his letter from the Birmingham Jail, which I recommend for your reading…and that simple fact is this: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Dr. Martin Luther King
How we treat everyone…impacts everyone else. If, as we go about our day and we find someone who is taking too long getting something for us and we respond by yelling at them, we put them in a defensive mood, or we impact their self-esteem…whatever we do we impact them in a negative way…and then when they meet the next person, they may treat them poorly and on it goes in a never ending cycle of negativity and abuse toward one another. But if instead, we offer a kind word, a helping hand, if we choose to not discriminate against a brother or sister no matter what…we offer hope, love, grace, mercy…come to think of it…We offer precisely what Jesus offered to the world.
Maybe…as you go about today, remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King…that basically, how we treat one another impacts us all. Maybe, if we did that every day, day in and day out…our world would start to become a better place.