Friday, March 30, 2012

Race Wars

Most of my ancestors have been at war with each other at one time or another. English and Scottish, Scottish and Irish, Irish and English, Native American and Pioneer American, French and French, German and nearly everyone...the list goes on. 

The idea of my ancestors trying to kill each other just because of their nationality pales in comparison beside the modern-day conflicts that stretch from a global scale all the way down to violence from one person to another. The case of Trayvon Martin has recently unleashed a firestorm of opposing views, and several years ago a female army reservist was beaten, punched, and kicked outside a restaurant, by a man yelling racial slurs. Just yesterday morning one of the news headlines was about a high school girl who violently attacked another soccer player from the opposing team, and now faces assault charges.

Though we may never know for sure how much of a factor race played in each of these interracial conflicts, there are enough examples of hate crimes every day that the trend can't be ignored. We can expect that these types of tensions will only get stronger as we get closer and closer to Jesus' coming. Two thousand years ago, Jesus saw that it would happen, and gave a detailed warning. Matthew 24:7 says, talking about the time just before the fall of Jerusalem, as well as the very last days of earth's history, "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom..."

In the Greek, that word "nation" is ethnos, from which we get words like ethnic and ethnicity. (Just a quick digression. I am not a Greek or Hebrew professor - I have a secret weapon. A free download of a program called Esword, available at, can turn any lay person, including me, into a scholar. Hover your mouse over the # associated with each word in English, and it will give you the Hebrew or Greek of the original text, the pronunciation, and each possible meaning. Every time you read the Bible, you'll find new treasure you never knew was there!)

So this verse, put another way, says, "Race will rise against race, and realm against realm." 

Back in the days when we lived close enough to prisons to do ministry there, we got to know inmates of many different races and affiliations. In the chapel, or the comparative safety of the visiting room, they would breathe the same air without too much trouble. Out on the yard, it was a different story. They lived one wrong glance away from a prison riot. The inner cities are full of their own stories of violence and tragedy.

All of us find our identity, to some extent, from our surroundings. I'm a wife, a mother, a daughter, a bus driver. We have identities based on political ideologies, careers, and yes, even race. I'm proud to be from a mixed heritage. Jack is proud to be Native American. When I try to remind him that he's part white, too, he pretends like he can't hear me. :) No matter how much or how little we feel that racism personally affects us, a huge part of our identity is tied up in our ethnicity.

If you don't believe me, try a little experiment. Picture yourself a very different color than what you were born with, and see how you feel. It's very unsettling, and maybe even a little uncomfortable. It may be easier for me than for most people, since I have undergone a rather startling color change. Due to my Portuguese heritage, and a darker strain of Germans, I have always had a nice color to my skin. Brown in the summer, and still a light tan in the winter. 

It's different here, where the sun hangs low against the horizon for all the long months of deep, hard winter. Each of the last 3 years I've gotten a little lighter, and after this winter I'm a brilliant, glowing shade of stark white. I've never been a plain old white person before. It's strange to be so pale. Even at the ripe old age of almost 40 (shhh, don't tell anyone), I had a mental picture of myself as a brownish person. It's hard to adjust, and I can hardly wait till the weather is good enough for me to start getting some Vitamin D going, along with some color - any color but red.

As Christians, one of the experiences we must go through as part of our learning process, is to set aside our worldly identities. To no longer let labels like black, white, brown, conservative, liberal, rich, or poor, define us. We are not who the world says we are.

Galations 3:28 says it better than I could. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

United in Jesus, saved by His blood. That's our identity, and our eternal destiny.


  1. I've missed you!!! Glad to have you back writing again. Great read. Will let you know how that works for me. Sounds like something I want to investigate. Bev

  2. Hi Bev!!! I missed you, too. You'll probably like esword. It does so much more than I've learned how to do yet, but even the basic search function and getting to see the meaning of words in the original language is amazing. :)

  3. Very nice post. I never knew that a person could become lighter by moving to a different climate. I know I get some form of SAD every year, hope that doesn't affect you as well.

  4. Thanks, Susan! Yep, it's amazing what can happen when you go months out of the year with every body part bundled up and sheltered. So far no SAD for me, but I think it's a big problem up here. Every year there are a number of suicides during the winter, but the last 2 years have been especially bad. It's not much comfort that Alaska is even worse.