I grew up in Ozark, Missouri, a tiny little town in the 1970s that’s been growing since it’s between Springfield and Branson. I graduated in 1989 – yeah, back in the day.
I remember a lot of things about high school. I had a ton of stability with my parents. I attended the same school K-12. I had great teachers. I was a decently good kid and didn’t cause my parents that much grief. I pursued opportunities, went on vacations, played sports, dated girls, drove up for church and youth group and had good friends from all walks of life.
I don’t remember any black people. Because there weren’t any. I don’t think I remember any Asian friends, or Hispanic friends. I don’t really think I knew people who at the time at least were gay. I doubt very much anyone would have claimed another religion or even agnosticism, much less atheism.
People were getting into trouble for sure. There were pregnancies and fights and drama. But I grew up without any non-white friends. That confuses me somewhat.
Was I racist? Yes? No? I don’t think watching The Cosby Show counts.
I certainly wasn’t actively racist, but that’s surely not the only type.
I”m thrilled my kids and I live in Oklahoma City, and am especially praying that they will have more diverse friends than I did. Than I do. That’s a blessing that I’m thankful for. It’s important. I want that too.
I’d love to have a church filled with people of every tribe, nation, people and language. I don’t know how to accomplish that. I’m as white as they come. I’m the exact paradigm of non-diversity.
I know that in order for me to attract people like me, I just gotta be me. That I can keep it going and we’ll be able to say it just is what it is. That Oklahoma City isn’t very diverse, so why should we be diverse? Why should we try?
I’d like to try. I’d like to see if something different could happen at City Pres, and we could be far far richer because we don’t all look the same, think the same, vote the same, live the same or speak the same.
But I know it’s not just going to be natural. It’s going to be intentional. It’s going to be supernatural. It’s going to take God drawing and breaking and reforming. It’s going to take confession, hard conversations, forgiveness, reconciliation and a new way.
But I’m not just racist. I’m classist. Intelligent-ist. Bumper-stickerist. Craft beerist. Non fast food ist. Good coffeeist. Neighborhoodist. Bookist. What campus ministry did you attend ist. Denominationalist. You haven’t told your story lately or deeply ist. And many more things. This is the heart of a Pharisee, the evil heart that hates people.
May the Lord bring me into the light. May he help me to love. May he transform and renew me. John talks about these very things in his little letters. They’re not new commandments, but they sure feel new to me.