Monday, October 17, 2016

Walls: From Scripture to Trump

When Obama won the presidency, eight years ago, I wept. I’m sure some of you who watched the Chicago celebration also wept. My reasons, though, were very personal. I saw his victory as a ray of light for my own family. 

Election night, Chicago, 2008
My daughter, Mariya, is an Afghani. Her birth family moved to the United States when Russia invaded Afghanistan. She is Caucasian, like most Afghanis, though often mistaken for an Arab, which shouldn’t matter, but does. Her daughter, my granddaughter, Dela, is Afghani-African-American. My daughter-in-law Gillian, is Shona, from Zimbabwe. Her two children, my grandchildren, are African-Americans. I am a dual American-Canadian citizen.

Anyway, when Barack Obama won, I wept because I thought I saw a ray of light when it comes to race-relations. I dared to believe that we were making progress. I believed, hoped, prayed that my grandchildren could live the American dream, that they could be safe on American roads if stopped by the police, that they would be treated as humans in school, not as black kids in need of special discipline, as is too often the case.

That was then . . . by now:

  • Donald Trump became the Republican candidate for president. Donald Trump has been sued by the US Justice Department for systematic discrimination against Blacks who wanted to rent his apartments. When Blacks applied, they were told the apartments were no longer available; when whites applied for the same apartment hours later, they were available again. 
  • Donald Trump, who once said of his casinos, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” 
  • Trump, denounced Mexican immigrants as, quote, “criminals, drug dealers, rapists,” who has demanded that no more Muslims be allowed to enter the USA, who for months refused to distance himself from racist white supremacists. 
  • Trump, who insists that rather than take down walls, he wants to build them. 
  • Trump, who brags about sexually assaulting women, but denies that he ever did it when nine (and counting) women come forward to say that he assaulted them. 
  • Trump who says “an eye for an eye” is his favorite Bible verse (check out Exodus 21:22-25). Jesus, however, said, “You have heard it said ‘eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39).
Well, ganging up on Donald Trump is almost too easy. So easy, in fact, that we don’t pay attention to similar issues and large walls closer to home.

In Canada, for example. One day, last week the paper included a front-page story about a Black man who called 911 because he was robbed on Spadina St., in Toronto. Within minutes there were ten police there—frisking his private parts, going through his luggage, forcing him to raise his hands, scaring him half to death—even though he was the one who called 911. Here in Canada we still struggle with residential schools and their aftermath, missing and murdered indigenous women, high populations of First Nations and Blacks in our prisons, carding, unequal treatment of persons of color in our schools.

On the other hand, there is this lovely video. 

Biologically, we are one. But with respect to race, we all struggle with our personal prejudice, fears, misconceptions, and sometimes the violence of others. I do too.

But listen. When the Christian church was founded, its first leaders insisted on a huge, fundamental change in how people in their era treated other people—people on the fringes. The Apostle Paul put it this way, more or less: In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith . . . There is no longer Jew or Greek or Black or Arab; there is no longer slave or free or immigrant or First Nations, there is no longer male or female or transgendered or gay, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. In another place, speaking of how both Jews and gentiles are welcome in the church—and so presumably anyone is welcome, Paul added, “he has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us."

Eight years ago, it was Obama who was our ray of light. Today, as Christians, we need to remember that our religious DNA demands of us that we tear down those walls—sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia—it all has to go! Not just for my grandkids, but for Christ’s sake.