Two contrasting stories from June 2015 are etched into my mind—one upliftingly positive and
the other hauntingly negative. My reflection on the two experiences confirmed for me we are
more alike than we are different.
I officiated a meaningful wedding ceremony in Virginia. What was different about this particular
event was that it was the marriage for our daughter Anna and her fiancé Josh. I have conducted
many wedding ceremonies over the past 32 years, but, I confess, a wedding is totally different
when it’s your little girl who says, “I do!”
Anna and Josh’s love story is not so unique. They met in college. First there were interested
glances, then there was conversation, and finally the first date on Valentine’s Day. Following a
lengthy courtship, Josh proposed to Anna at the summit of one of their favorite mountain trails.
Josh and Anna are alike in many ways: they are children of proud parents, they have siblings,
they were raised in Christian homes, they laugh, they cry, they work hard, they play, they pray,
they sing, they love their pet, they crave time together at the beach, they hope for a bright
future, they love God, they worship, and they attempt to live lives of faith and purpose. They
share many common goals and values.
Anna and Josh are different, too: in temperament, in expressiveness, in communication style,
in social interaction, in decision-making, and in musical taste. The diversity in God’s amazing
creation is good!
Yes, Anna and Josh are similar and different. However, I haven’t mentioned the most striking
and obvious difference—Anna is an extremely white-skinned, half-German, half-Southern girl
from Virginia, and Josh is a dark-skinned young man from Uganda. In addition to their
contrasting appearance, there are a few, very interesting cultural differences, as well.
The beauty of this story is that the wonderful celebration of marriage had nothing to do with
the color of skin. Two members of the human family, much more alike than they are different,
committed to spend the rest of their lives together. The ceremony and reception were
meaningful and joy-filled. One of our long-time friends commented in her blog: “It was a joyous
event filled with love, laughter, and prayers.”
The contrast between the high of Anna’s marriage to Josh and the racially motivated murders in
Charleston less than two weeks later is stark. The events in Charleston on the heels of our
daughter’s inter-racial marriage made us feel like we were on a roller-coaster ride—the high of
love, inclusion, acceptance; a low of hate, anger, prejudice.
Many prophetic pastors have preached beautifully crafted sermons following what happened at
Emanuel AME Church. I’m grateful for their God-given courage to speak out about the
devastating impact of racism. There is still so much that needs redemption in our world.
Now is the time for action. Love always leads to action—something I mentioned multiple times
in Anna’s wedding ceremony. Anna even asked me to include my definition of love in the
marriage homily: “Love is the active willing and working for the good of another.”
I’m convinced action starts in our homes. We teach by what we say and do AND by what we fail
to say and do. Children are savvy. They detect the hypocrisy of singing “Jesus loves the little
children, all the children of the world,” while hearing words of hate or expressions of racial
superiority at the dinner table. It’s not enough to say God loves everyone equally. We must
work for equality for all. This work starts in our homes then extends through our concentric
circles of influence.
Action is also needed in our churches. Teaching and modeling love and respect for those who
are different is the Jesus way. Together, we cultivate capacity to nurture relationships that
bridge the racial divide. Check out the excellent work of The New Baptist Covenant
(www.newbaptistcovenant.org), and consider engaging in a covenant of action with an AfricanAmerican congregation.
Though racial tensions are running high in our country right now, I’m hopeful about the future!
Yes, progress is slow, but I see different attitudes and actions emerging in the current
generation. My generation is still reeling from the lies we were told. I vividly remember hearing
the old men in the hardware store where I worked during high school talk about God’s design
that made black persons inferior to whites. My gut knew something was terribly wrong, and
Spirit convicted me about the incongruence between what I heard from these church members
and what scripture teaches. The cultural myth was thoughtless and unchristian. As a result, I
worked hard to make sure those around me did not see the differences in color—lest they label
one better than the other. In hindsight, however, I believe trying to ignore color is not helpful.
The contributions of each color and culture are valuable and deserve recognition.
What I see emerging in this generation is the capacity to notice and appreciate the differences
in color. I see this played out in my children. Anna was able to see and appreciate both the
color of Josh’s skin AND the divine spark of God in him. Our son Andrew attends grad school
and takes classes that awaken consciousness to all the subliminal ways our culture has
promoted racism. Andrew will teach English in an inner city, low-performing African-American
school next fall. I believe his love, appreciation of color and cultural contributions, and nonjudgmental attitude can and will make a difference. This generation has much to teach us about
inclusion and equality if we will listen!
We have choices to make about what we believe and how we treat fellow human beings. Let’s
choose the path that leads to love, grace, equality, and acceptance. For truly, in God’s eyes, we
ARE more alike than we are different!