Yesterday we somberly recalled the events of 9/11, but it is good to continue thinking about how—or if—we have personally and corporately changed. In an article in The Gazette (Colorado Springs), columnist Woody Paige reflected on that day by reviewing paragraphs he wrote in the days following September 11, 2001.
As a man with dark brown skin walked down the aisle of the Boeing 757…he drew a suspicious look from the woman passenger in 21F…”I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t look like us,” (said) the woman.
It was former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, who sadly brought attention to the power of a simple word when he tried to re-define the word “is.” I recalled that incident last week while attending a class where we were challenged to focus on the word “others.” Describing the singular form, dictionaries define other as an adjective or pronoun: used to refer to a person or thing that is different or distinct from one already mentioned or known about.
Beware of things that sound too simple! Using curriculum developed by the Global Immersion Project, about twenty of us sat comfortably at round tables trying to be as honest as possible (it was the first time many of us had met some of these “others” who were really quite like ourselves) while identifying who were the “others” in our community—or in our families!—who did not share our values, lifestyles, interests, morals, religion, gender, race. And what was the truth we believed about them?
After table discussion, the list was placed on the board…and it wasn’t short! Sometimes we chuckled, but more often we squirmed. Then another list began to form. This one included how what we have read, viewed or experienced informed our truth about the individuals or groups. Need I add that the squirming increased?
Even more uncomfortable was a third list: how does my truth inform my behavior toward the “others” in my life? We didn’t need a Bible study on Christ-like attitudes or actions at this point to reveal how UN-like Christ were most of our behaviors. While Jesus moved toward the prostitute, leper, adulterous woman, skeptic and political zealot, how often I want to retreat to my comfortable corner where I can at least appear ritually clean. No risk involved there. No chance of being misunderstood.
And no looking like Jesus either.