Friday, September 29, 2006

The Recovered Memory of Hatred

“I can’t stand the French!” I hear it frequently. It is an interesting statement. Our culture is currently filled with jokes, slander and disgust of all things French. A few weeks ago, at a lunch I was attending, one of the diners at the table asked for French dressing. Even the kind of condiment one wants for his salad is not free from commentary. Of course, what I associate with the French is their armada helping to turn the tide of the Revolutionary War. Then there are the World War II veterans, who remember and revere the French Resistance and chided the English who demanded a respite in the heat of battle for the time-honored tradition of afternoon tea. If anything, after movies like The Patriot, Braveheart, and Cast a Giant Shadow, one might want to exclaim, “Who can stand the English?”

It is interesting how sentiments of time long ago or comments made by a few can influence the ideas and relationships of entire nations and races. When I think of what the English did to the Scots, how colonial America suffered under British tyranny, the British supply of weapons to a fevered Middle East after World War II, the latent feelings of my ancestors creep into the light of my conscious mind. In a moment, the British who are our allies and friends in this current war, become the enemy in a war long ago, a war for freedom.

The Scriptures remind us that the sins of one generation carry down to the seventh generation. The wounds of racism continue today and will continue with every generation that fails to fight it. Ignoring this reality only extends the hatred to the next generation, to our children and grandchildren. Part of the vision for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) by the year 2020 is to be an “anti-racist, pro-reconciling” church. The sins of our great-grandparents still haunt us as we benefit from a system of discrimination and classism. As the acts of injustice by the English to my Scottish forebears still call forth my ancestral fury, how much more are the continued unjust attitudes of race and creed keeping a chasm between people of the same family, the family of God.

"We will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but of the appalling silence of the good people." -The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1964

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