11 March 2013

Lent: Race


My birth family was Anglo-Scotch-Irish; no whiff of “color” in our gene pool. My Connecticut Yankee mother taught me to be respectful and polite to everyone. Her racism was of the kind that, were I to express what I’d heard at home, she’d rebuke me. I can’t recall my parents doubting their cultural, educational and racial standing; social standing was another matter and a post for another time.
Around 13 or 14 years old I considered it my duty to welcome any person of any other race or color to America. I must have sensed I was some kind of ambassador when I went to the 1964 New York World’s Fair. I look back on it and I think, “Oh God, please, no, not again.” What a kind little ambassador boy I was welcoming native exhibitors from foreign nations.
In my mid 20’s I began associating New Testament Bible passages with my real life experience. One favorite was, and still is, 2 Corinthians 18-21,
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (RSV)
and it was attached to a particular epiphany. I read this passage years ago as a lector at The Catholic Center at NYU I was struck that I was an ambassador. Christ’s appeal for reconciliation was not only in the Word but also through me as I was reading the Word to those hearing the Word. I was a vessel by which Word was made flesh. The brief moment was powerful in me and for me. It was my calling. I could not have said how I would do it. I just knew it. I have tried to work that ambassadorial calling.
I see now I perceived the role. I felt the role was the message. And at that time in my life, literally on my own in a way I’d never imagined or been prepared for, I was just beginning to mold who I was. I was seeking my role. The message is for reconciliation with the Higher Power. We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. I saw the role. I did not see the message. The message is reconciliation, to find a means to renew and turn back to relationship with your Higher Power. I did not hear the meaning of the Word in the ambassador’s portfolio. I may have just done the best I knew how to do.
As for race the only natives in America are Native American Indians. Everyone else is from somewhere else. My gene pool family’s cultural, educational and racial history hasn’t done to well by the Natives over my personal racial birth family’s 364-year North American stewardship. For our shortcomings, my Heavenly Father, on behalf of our family, please accept my sorrow and heartfelt apologies for what we have done and what we have not done. We may have just done the best we knew how to do.

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