For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Cure for Racism (or at least in our family)

I would never suggest that my wife and I are perfect parents, that our children are perfect people, or that our efforts are the perfect example.  But please read to the end before making any judgments on what I'm saying here.  Because I have to say that my children have demonstrated more than once that gospel centered living, a biblical understanding of personhood, and Christ like love is the answer for racism.

I've been hearing so much lately about how the only way we can reconcile all the racial tension is for “white” people to apologize for every wrong ever done to “black” people.  This is so flawed because it is in itself a “racist” idea.  The very concept divides us into categories.  It assumes that because I'm white, my family history is full of racists; and because someone else is black, they are the children of slaves and victims.  That's racist.

It could be that my family heritage is full of Christ centered opponents of slavery and racism.  It could be that this person is the descendant of tribal royalty only recently emigrated to this country.  Probably not.  But to automatically infer that my skin color defines my heart and the heart of my family is racist.  To demand for me to apologize for something I didn't do simply based on skin color, is in fact racist.  And it's no more helpful than asking those of darker color to have to apologize for inter-tribal atrocities done in their own history.  Furthermore, it just reinforces our differences, instead of focusing on the truth we are all just People.  

I dealt with this while living on a Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.  My response to people who brought up the past “outrages” done by one side or the other, was simply “that wasn't me, and it wasn't you.  We live in the here and now, and I love you with the love of the Lord.”  I know that sounds simplistic.  But here's where my kids come in.

Our oldest daughter was only a toddler when we moved to that Reservation.  When we moved back to Missouri several years later, she heard some folks talking about “Indians” in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.  And she came home and asked us, “Do we know any Indians?” We chuckled and started naming some of our friends from North Dakota.  And her innocent response was shock.  “They were Indians?!”  It never dawned on her that those folks were anything other than People.  Friends.  Church members.  Children of God.  People, period.

Again, we aren't perfect parents.  But we've tried to always live with a biblical attitude that says there is only one race: the human race.  And there are only two kinds of people: those who know Christ, and those who need to know Christ.  And, thankfully, our children picked up on that.

Example number two.  Fast forward almost 20 years.  Our little later-in-life-surprise is now 13 years old.  We've tried to raise him like the other, older three, with the same ideas of personhood.  And it seems to have paid off. 

We brought home the DVD of The Greatest Showman, which he hadn't seen yet.  For any others who haven't seen it, one of the main sub plots is the budding romance between two people of different skin colors.  And they are the focus of much scorn and derision by other characters in the movie.  

After the movie was over, I asked our son:  “Do you know why the relationship between Carlyle and Anne was such a big deal?  Why people were so offended and upset by it?”  And his answer was a confused, “Uh, not really?”  My heart just exploded with joy.  He is so oblivious to the very idea that people would be upset by an “inter-racial” relationship, that it blew right by him. 

When I explained that in the time this movie was set, folks were bothered by that sort of thing, he just said, “Ohh.  I didn't think of that.  Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”  Just didn't even seem like an issue for him

I know I'm probably just being a little naive here.  But if we just spent more time seeing people's hearts changed by the gospel, living lives according to biblical ideals, seeing people as people instead of doing a million other things to highlight our differences, we just might be a little better off.

In the end, I realize that we will never “end racism”, because racism is sin and we will never be free from sin in this world.  Only when Christ returns and establishes His kingdom will we finally live together in the harmony God desires.  But we can at least work toward that end.  We can look at people as people, not as a skin color.  And we can teach our children to do the same, not teach them to feel guilty for the sins of generations ago.  Instead let's help them look to the present and future with the hope of Christ.  And maybe that will bring us just a little closer to that elusive “end.” 

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