Perspective – June 2020

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here, this editorial first-person think-piece has been brewing for a couple of months now.  If nothing else, it may help explain why I’m silent online about things everyone’s talking and arguing about.  

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Now and then, someone asks why I don’t participate in online discussions about current events. I’ve ventured out onto that playing field a few times. It’s a great way to get shot at by people who’ve already made up their minds about whatever it is this time.

It occurred to me the other day that if I were profiled this week, I’d probably land in the “Be Wary!” column.

  • I’m an over-60 white male,
  • born into and raised in a home with conservative parents.
    Two of them. One male, one female, married “till death do us part”.
  • Mom stayed home until we three were all in school, then she worked part-time and her hours matched our school hours.
  • I grew up in the Rockies and on the Great Plains, started working when I was 13 and worked my way through college.
  • Two weeks after we graduated from college, my wife and I exchanged rings and vows. We celebrated 42 years together a few days ago.
  • Our kids are still in their first marriages.

“Watch this guy. He’s bound to have wrong views about what’s going on in the world.”

Would you find it interesting that I learned much about different cultures growing up? That my maternal grandparents lived and worked in a predominantly Hispanic culture
That we had friends who would return from Japan now and then, and teach us about the culture there?  I had my first taste of squid in 5th grade.
That another friend of the family loved to make Indian dinners for dad’s church and teach us after dinner about how people in India think and believe?  Yes, Dad was a minister. These were missionary friends.

“Oh, one of those! He’s GOT to be warped. Watch him!”

I played Jr Hi basketball with Cliff, a native American Indian, Ron, a taller-than-me black guy who liked to answer “Wherever Dad’s stationed right now” when people asked “Where you from?”  He lived in Germany before his dad was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base, and he transferred to East Jr Hi in Aurora, Colorado.  Our team didn’t care who was Native American Indian, black, Korean, Norwegian, who spoke Spanish at home and English at school, or whatever else. We went to school together, played ball together, and enjoyed each other.

My “adopted grandparents” (close family friends) had a “labor house” for migrant workers on their farm in Western Nebraska.  “How HORRIBLE!”  You might think so at first.  But I learned that for several years a medical doctor and his wife left his practice in Mexico each summer and brought their family to that farm, lived in close-quarters, worked fields, and thinned sugar beets to develop a solid work ethic in their children. As a 12-year-old, I found that extraordinary and impressive.

Somehow, I managed to grow up in what many today would call a suspicious environment without the baggage everyone assumes all white people currently carry.

I know why I don’t.  If you’re interested, keep reading.

I was taught differently than many today. It was intentional. Biblical.
(–gasp – “Don’t SAY that word!”)
There is a Creator.  He loves.  He IS love.  Yes, He.
He loves the pre-born, the newborn, children, young and old. He loved – so much that he gave His only son to pay sin’s penalty for all. You can’t find a more inclusive word than “whosoever”. (See John 3:16. If they ever have sports events in stadiums again, you may see signs with that again.)
I’m guessing Jesus may have suppressed a bit of a smile when he told His story about generous mercy with the half-breed hero from the wrong side of the Jordan River.
A Samaritan? Seriously?
Seriously.

We sang in Sunday School, “Red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world,” and it became part of my world view. So much so that when my new wife and I were considering where to serve, we had our eye on either church planting in Scandinavia, or writing indigenous church music in Haiti. Where He needed and appointed us is where we’d go. Surprised we were when He sent us to western Nebraska without our even needing to interview. No need to learn Swedish or Creole, but a little Spanish might come in handy.

Mine was -and is- an inclusive world view, best summarized over 30 years ago by a young speaker at an international convention for educators.  At one point, he paused and said, “If I’ve spoken to you privately about this moment, would you come to the platform now?”  Forty or forty-five people made their way up front, where he asked them to arrange themselves from the darkest of dark to the fairest of fair across the stage. The room grew quiet as we saw it happen before our eyes.

Thanking them, he then turned to us, the crowd, and smiled. “I’d like a volunteer to come on up and draw a line between black and brown, another to draw a line between brown and …  You’re not moving.
Anyone?”

Motionless silence.

His tone softened. Deepened. Like a parent making a point with a just-corrected child, only he was younger than most in the room.
“That is because man has drawn the lines, not God.”
He let it soak in.
“Man-drawn lines divide. God unites.”

I’ve never forgotten that moment with Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis.

Occasionally I wish I’d have been sitting within earshot as the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the churches in Galatia, modern-day Turkey.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3.28 ESV) I would love to have seen him choose his words under the Spirit’s direction.

Contrast – erase the line.
Contrast – erase the line.
Contrast – erase the line.
You are all one in Christ Jesus.

That won’t fly in today’s society, however, in part because –at least in America– we’ve systematically ejected moral absolutes from the game. We’ve made it unacceptable to disagree with anyone, even if they’re wrong, because, in the absence of absolutes, no one is.

To extrapolate that to the ridiculous, everyone’s right who thinks they are, so discussion is difficult at best. The debate is a polyphonic something or other; we’re expected to overlook (tolerate) the dissonance.

I love our land, its people, the ideologies on which it was founded, and the book people put their hand on –or used to– when they’re sworn in.  But in today’s culture, it’s probably best that I love and encourage people like Jesus did whenever I can, without fighting about how it works – or should.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNRyGGSOQLQ&w=560&h=315]

 

In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts everywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord,
Close binding humankind.

Join hands, then, members of the faith,
Whatever your race may be!
Who serves my Father as His child
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet North and South;
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.

Text:     John Oxenham
Music:   Alexander R. Reinagle


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