If you read my last blog entry you'll see that I believe that some level prejudice resides in all of us. What we do and how we act in light of that prejudice determines how we interrelate with other races, cultures and people who are different than us. I like to think of myself as a person that loves people. Learning about other people and the things that make them unique as individuals is refreshing to me. I often try to challenge my prejudices and do what I can to get to know different people.
I am an Evangelical Christian. When my family and I moved to St. Augustine, one of our top priorities was to find a strong, Bible teaching, Evangelical church. We also really wanted a church with a strong expository preacher. My entire life has been spent in Black churches. Racial makeup of the congregation really wasn't important to me but it was important to me that my next church home be a place where I can feel totally comfortable inviting anyone. I wanted a place where I knew that my guests would be treated with love and respect and they would hear the Gospel no matter what their skin color or socioeconomic status was.
We visited a number of churches. Some of them were predominantly black, others were predominantly white. We visited a couple Southern Baptist Churches and ended up settling on Turning Point @ Calvary in St. Augustine, Florida. Southern Baptist churches are known for expository preaching and we found a home that we are desperately in love with. For those of you who may be history buffs, you know that Southern Baptists are overwhelmingly Conservative and don't quite have an exemplary record when it comes to relations with Blacks in the past. (At one time they supported slavery and segregation)
If one were going to find racism in a church, they might be prejudiced to expect to find it in a place with ties to such a troubled racial past. My family and I are among perhaps eight to ten African American people in this congregation of well over a thousand. At the time of our joining, I never noticed more than two or three in regular attendance. This could have been a prime time for me to be guided by my prejudice. I could have said to myself, "Where are all the Blacks?" "I'll bet these folks will act funny towards us because we're black." It didn't take me long to realize that these prejudices couldn't be further from the truth.
I've found this church to be the single most inviting and loving congregation I have ever had the pleasure to interact with. While I'm sure that there are some that have certain prejudices about me as I do them, the love of God is evident in their interactions with me and my family and others. The Word of God is taught without compromise and God's work is evident in the life and deportment of the congregation. I am learning that white people are a lot like me. They work, pray, laugh, love and cry just like me. Many of my prejudices are being further broken down and I hope that many of their prejudices are being challenged by my family.
From time to time some well meaning person will say something to my wife like, "Sing soul sista" or some well meaning gentleman will make it a point to let me know how many Black people he knows in one of our conversations. Some would choose to be offended by these episodes in a kneejerk fashion. This is not how we are going to move forward into a real post-racial America. There are substantive differences among the cultures of the people of this great land. How will we ever learn to appreciate one another if we don't have patience and take the time to understand each other?
Sometimes we toss around the word diversity. What was the last thing that you did to actually promote diversity? When was the last time you intentionally befriended someone who perhaps is a little different than you? Maybe if more of us would take the steps to understand each other we could really move closer to a post racial future.