Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pride and Prejudice

“And He has made from one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26).

My childhood home was loving and happy, but my parents were often away. On those occasions the center of warmth in our home was the kitchen and a tiny, joyous African-American named Annie who was our maid.

I spent many hours with Annie, sitting at our kitchen table reading books or playing with toys and listening to her sing and hum Negro spirituals and other hymns. She was a little well from which sprang a continual flow of cheerfulness and song.

Annie was one of those humble, obedient souls that learn wisdom much sooner and far better than most of us, for it’s a universal law that we can only understand truth by obeying it. Truth eludes the clever and evasive, but the simple, the honest, the good–hearted know more and better things than the rest of us. As George MacDonald put it, “Good people know good things.”

Annie called me “Bubba,” her word for “brother,” a noteworthy name, as I think about it.

I remember rushing into the kitchen one morning and, in childish exuberance, showing Annie a slingshot my father had given me and proudly announcing that it was a “n*****r-shooter.” “Oh, no, Bubba,” she said, and then proceeded to pour out her heart in a gentle lecture on the harm and hurt in that slur, accompanied by a terrible sadness in her eyes.

I never used that word again.

I learned that day that unfathomable sorrow lies beneath the rage and retaliation of those who are victims of our prejudice, for the source of all anger is frustration and the greatest frustration is to be dishonored and debased. Every human being is created in the image of God—more like God than any other creature—a holy icon, if you will, worthy of high honor, indeed admiration and awe. To demean that image and deface it is to wound another human being at the deepest level.

The root of prejudice is pride, of course, and our predisposition toward self-absorption and a false superiority that we must prove to others and to ourselves by petty bigotry. (We must degrade others to upgrade ourselves.) But love sees the value of all human beings and cares more for others than it cares for itself. Jesus himself showed us the way (Philippians 2:1-4).

There is but one race: the human race. We are brothers of the same family, made to be treasured and cherished by one another. Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in God’s sight.

Are all equally precious to me?


[1] C. S. Lewis writes, ”What you see and what you hear depends a good deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.“ Put another way, we don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.

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