My friend Win linked to this article from Slate: Paula Deen’s Racism Isn’t Shocking At All. The assertion is that “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” sometimes.
And my gut response was, “Am I racist?” I’m surely trying not to be. Paula Deen says she called someone the N-word when he held a gun to her head. I am almost positive I wouldn’t have done the same thing, but I’m not an old southern woman either. I’m sure I have some other prejudice that could have reared its ugly head. Am I sexist, for example? Or do I judge people who are older or younger, poorer or richer, thinner, fatter, or in any way different from me? I’m afraid the answer to that is a very unfortunate yes.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis compared these sins against charity to having rats in the cellar. Turning on the lights doesn’t cause rats to spawn out of nowhere. And sudden provocation doesn’t create our failure to love. It just reveals whatever evil was already there and did not have a chance to hide.
I’ve noticed a few approaches to dealing with sin:
Hide it: Pretend it doesn’t exist. Don’t talk about it all, or if it must be brought up, talk about it as though it’s a problem only other people have.
Accept it: Justify ourselves through our relative goodness. Acknowledge and keep a few favorite sins; just focus on the good we’re doing and hope it will outweigh the bad. Besides, at least we a lot better than some people … (Nevermind that pride is a sin in itself!)
Eradicate it: Bring in a professional. Be aware of the problem, keep up with scheduled maintenance, and call for help at the first sign of trouble.
I can’t remember whether it was at a fireside or in a book I read recently, but I loved the thought that we are baptized unto a remission of sins. Think about the word remission and how it applies to cancer. Sins are like cancer. They’re gonna come back if they can, and winning one battle does not mean you’ve won the war. It’s a constant fight, but the Lord is mighty to save.
Just think about how nice will it be when you can respond to provocation with love — not because you’re exercising self control but because love is all that’s there.
I’m looking forward to that. 🙂
Bravo! Loved it!
One thought I had while reading is – where is the line between rational judgement and prejudice? For a stark example, I’d like to think I’m a pretty trusting person, but would it be prejudice or wisdom that told me to say “no” when a known pedophile asks to watch my kids? Hopefully that’s obvious, but when it’s not-so-obvious, there’s gotta be some sort of line separating the two. In almost every category, there’s some sort of issue I would have in certain situations where wisdom would dictate an answer (Would I let a 10-year-old work on the roofing crew to build my new home? Or an 80-year-old, for that matter? Would I choose an obviously overweight person to be my personal trainer, or an anorexic to be my dietitian?)
Again, those are supposed to be very obvious examples, but when the line isn’t so obvious … where’s the line?
One more thought….. All of the previous examples contained things that can be changed (getting older, dieting, eating more, etc…) When we’re considering things we *can’t* change (color of our skin), I think you’re absolutely right. Judging people based on the color of their skin or ethnicity is just flat-out wrong.
Loved your bullets on how we deal with these things…
The examples you mentioned have something more in common than what people can and can not change about themselves. Each was about what YOU could change. In every case mentioned, YOU had to make a decision.
My line is pretty clear: if the heart of the problem is “What should I do?” then it is not only appropriate to judge, I would be amiss if I did not use careful, prayerful judgement in choosing my actions.
If the question is “What should they do?” — I have to ask myself, “before what?” Before I hire them? Trust them with my children? Agree to another date? Or am I thinking about what they should do before I’ll regard them as child of God and treat them as He would?
I would think if I’ve been commanded to love my enemies and bless those that curse me, I have no excuse not to love everyone else too. Even if they wear funky clothes to Walmart. Even if they disagree with me politically. And especially, even if their skin is not the same color as mine.
*Great* response, Velda. That clears things up nicely. If the question is “should I love them as God loves them”, then there’s something definitely amiss if the answer isn’t “yes” – for whatever reason. Two thumbs up.
The recently late Rev. Will Campbell also said we’re all racists. His best line though? — “We are all bastards, but God loves us anyway.”
One of my favorite quotes comes from a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland:
“So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. “