We live in a world of words. A world that seems to think words, saying things, especially quickly, are more important than life itself. Words that we must use to support or condemn. Words which we must use to draw our line in the sand. Words becoming the description of someone instead of actually knowing someone, seeing them for who they are, and acknowledging that we know no one better than we know ourselves.
Over the past few weeks, President Donald Trump, church leaders, and civil servants have drawn the ire of many for not being quick to condemn the actions of a collection of fringe idiots who believe themselves to have been chosen based on the color of their skin. A Twitter storm brewed this week as well with one Christian labeling all white evangelical as racists. The response became a war of words as no one seemed to take the high road or actually have discussion. Assuming that unless someone says the words outright, or marches in the street, they must be a racist.
This is our country now. Instead of adults leading the way with coherent arguments and innocent investigation, we have become five year olds on the playground - "I know you are but what am I?"
Most of this trouble comes from a poor understanding of society. A mindset that has reduced individual liberty and responsibility down to collective mentality and group dynamics. We have become racists in our attempt to remove racism. Instead of saying that the 100 or so "Tiki Nazis" who showed up in Charlottesville spewing hate are exactly that (100 little boys who never got enough attention as a child) we now label an entire race (Whites) as racist bigots. Instead of understanding what free speech means as outlined by our constitution, we try and change the terms, redefining the words to say that free speech means white supremacy. Nevermind that we should just take the words as what they are - free speech. Free, meaning unchained or unconfined. Speech, meaning making statements.
The problem is that when we become racist and lump people together into tribes as white, black, Hispanic, gay, straight, we shoot ourselves in the foot because we decide that we shall define people by the very thing we wish to get rid of. We add words to individual identity in order to mark people out as a certain kind of person, instead of learning who that person might actually be. We make every argument we voice about actual racist behavior null and void because we have already decided that this race or that lifestyle have certain characteristics instead of loving the person for who they are.
I love Morgan Freeman. I love the movies he has been in (although Wanted was brutal). I like the fact that he speaks his mind, and even if we disagree about everything that has anything to do with religion (I am a pastor after all), he voices clear and concise understandings of our world and race from the perspective of a man who was born with darker skin than I.
For Mr. Freeman, the individual, who that person is has more importance than what sort of tribe they belong to. It is our goal as human beings to find our tribe. Once we join our tribe, or are placed in a tribe by the world, we then think that because we are of a particular tribe we will either succeed or not because of who we are describe as, instead of who we are. Again, Morgan Freeman:
Having the opportunity, regardless of what the world might call you or say to you, give the world the finger and get going. That is the sum of what Mr. Freeman and Mr. Lemon are discussing. But because we tend to decide who someone is based on what we have been told, what words have been applied to them, we think that this person is or is not able to be or do something.
When we allow our words to make a decision about us, or about others, instead of knowing those who are our brothers and sisters for who they are as individuals, then we will never progress. Never move forward. Never becoming who it is we were created to be in God - his children.
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. - Galatians 3:26-29
As a pastor, my desire is for us to not allow sin to define our speech. This could be outright racist words. This could also be racism that divides us. If we say that all white people are racist - we are then being racist. If we say all people of color are such-and-such, we are being racist. If we say that because one person did this or that then all people are this or that, we are racist. That person is a person. An individual who sins, who does actions which draw them from God and harm themselves and others. When we come down to this level, we then can see that what we don't need is division or categories. What we need is Christ and forgiveness.