Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Everybody's Beautiful

“Everybody’s beautiful in his own way…” “Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

How many Christians have sung the choruses and songs that contain similar sentiments? Some of those very people stood screaming profane epithets at the black marchers who gathered enough courage to protest in the 1960’s. I watched some historical clips of those days in the southern states when discrimination against blacks was being challenged. Violence and venom spilled from whites and I was horrified to realize that I had forgotten how reprehensible it had been. Generations younger than mine may possess only a cursory knowledge of this demeaning treatment of human beings with another skin colour.

When President Barak Obama was elected, a recurring comment was ‘look how far we have come.’ On one hand great social inequity has been reversed within half a decade. On the other hand in the long history of the United States, how ashamed should white Americans and Canadians be that the changes didn’t happen sooner?

St. Catharines, Ontario, not Alabama, was my childhood home. I grew up in a white family. Yes, it’s true. I attended a Caucasian church with people white like me. The Bell family was the only black family in our church. The Bells had a son named Ralph a few years my senior who was an outstanding person, a role model, an achiever, a high school student body president, and later an associate evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team. I admired him very much.

The church wasn’t segregationist, wasn’t intentionally white. That’s the way the societal climate was in the 1950’s. Ethnicities voluntarily practiced a soft exclusivism. Nevertheless ours was a church with an international missions focus. Many of its own members were commissioned to work overseas with other racial, cultural and language groups. We at home relished their stories and pictures.

I will forever be grateful for the opportunity my family had to live in Toronto from 1981-1991 where I pastored a Scarborough church in which Asian, Jamaicans and Caucasians enjoyed one another’s company. Oh we didn’t have integration mastered by any means. But what a socially educational environment in which to raise my children through their teen years as they enjoyed multi-cultural friendships.

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