"And I have other sheep that are not of this fold." – John 10:16a
By the time you read this, I will have already stood with (or even marched with) my good friend, Ed Bailey, pastor at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lancaster. You see, I wrote Ed last week, following days of rioting across our country. I asked him, "Is there anything you believe I should be doing? I am open to your input." In response he asked me to come join him and some other pastors at the Lancaster Square in a "silent protest" on Friday, June 5, at 4pm. I wrote back, "I will plan on seeing you then, Lord willing." And so my assumption, as I write, that by the time you read this article I will already have stood with Ed.
Many years ago I wrote a short story entitled "Monopoly." It was the story about two brothers that, in a game of Monopoly, teamed up against their younger sister. They agreed to sell properties to each other, not charge each other rent, etc. As the game proceeded the sister got increasingly agitated by her brothers' actions and finally did the only thing she knew to stop it: with great tears she cried out for her mother. Mom came and after hearing what had happened told the boys to stop ganging up against their sister and demanded that "no more deals" be made between the two of them. From that point on all were to be treated the same, and the boys agreed. The catch to the story was, however, no matter how "fair" the game was played from that point on, the sister was doomed to forever – apart from the most fortuitous rolls of the dice – remain in a place of disadvantage compared to her older brothers.
This is the plight of African Americans today. Here and there some have, by means of what America offers, become wealthy and influential. Athletics and entertainment have become a great pathway to wealth for some. But most will never become NBA pros or have the success of a Denzel Washington. Instead, most will remain in a position of inferior income and economic standing compared to their older "brothers" who played the game their own way, and for quite awhile, until Mom (governmental edict) stepped in.
As one of the older brothers, I have no regrets for how the game has treated me. I do not feel guilty for my education, my job experiences or the opportunities that have come my way. Like most other "older brothers" I feel as though I worked hard (harder even) than most and that any sense of guilt or shame over any accomplishments in life would be wrong or reflect a false humility.
Yet I admit the racism is systemic…it is built into the very fabric of what is and what is not in our country. Can this racism be denied? In my opinion, not by any thinking person. Can it be rectified? That is the much harder question. Some have suggested reparations – effectively taking the Boardwalk or Park Place Monopoly cards and giving them to our younger sister. That would certainly make things more even, but if she loses those properties later in the game are they to go to her a second time? How about a third time? That is, when is "enough, enough?" For some 40+ years our nation has been attempting to even things up through affirmative action. Just how effective that has been is debatable. Ironically some of its most outspoken critics have come from within the African American community.
The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is good news for the entire world. To the early Jewish church, it meant that their place of superiority or advantage was going to slip away. What is most interesting is that they were even willing to let it go. The apostle Paul certainly helped set the church on this pathway by means of his many letters – letters that addressed Jews and Gentiles as equals within the church, teaching that God is not a discriminator of persons. This is part of our glorious gospel message. Let us live it out and pray that, in time, the world catches up to this truth.
"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.”