Monday, January 16, 2006

Where I Am on MLK Day

I hope that people are finding time today to reflect on the vision and message of Martin Luther King, Jr. I'm glad to have found such time, and I wanted to share some of my thinking here.

Anyone who has been to seminary can probably name a few regrets. Maybe you could've studied harder for a certain test, spent more time out of the apartment, got to know a fellow student or professor a little better. In different ways, these all make my list. But there's another regret that tops them all for me, and it's going to sound strange.

My first multiracial experience that I can remember was when my father pastored a UCC church in Galien, Michigan (it's not UCC any more...I think it's just Evangelical now). This was a very racially integrated church. I went to Sunday School and worship with a sizeable black population, and I can remember a couple gospel songs that we sang during our SS gathering time. I thought nothing of it, people's skin color didn't really register with me. Honestly, the Cosby Show was really popular at that time and I thought it was just like going to church with the Huxtables. My brain just made that connection.

We then moved to rural Ohio, where there was exactly one black student in the entire elementary school. He was sort of an underachiever, and certain comments by classmates (and teachers) seemed to implicitly connect it with his race. He got singled out in multiple ways. After 5-6 years of this environment, we moved again to a small city where there was a much bigger minority population (black, Hispanic, and Asian). But by this time I was shy about interacting with people of other races. I like to think that eventually I was able to 're-program' myself to interact, but there was that second naivete where you wonder what you can and can't say and so on. My knowledge of history between races as well as wondering how we in our ethnic and cultural differences might be able to be in fellowship now, was the basis for my uneasiness. But it was never a stupid kind of uneasiness where I'd blurt something like, ' your people get sunburnt?' or 'Have you seen that Malcolm X movie?'

My regret from seminary isn't really the point of this entry, so I won't even mention it now. But a regret that I will share is that discomfort that I still harbor on some scale even since I moved back to a racially integrated school system and city some 14 years ago (I forego reflecting on moving back to an all-white church in the same county as my elementary school after being in St. Louis for 3 years). I venture that we might all have that discomfort at some level.While I can never fully understand the situation of one whose race differs from mine, I can still work alongside them toward the new reality that Jesus preached and one that King helped to fight for. And I give thanks for my time at Eden for many reasons, one being because it helped me to better realize my own history and how it might help me do this in my ministry.