Minority/Majority Relations: American Perspective v. Biblical Perspective
There are 3 scarce resources in society: Privilege, Power, and Prestige. During Barack Obama’s campaigns and presidential terms, minority rights were in the spotlight. It could be argued that Obama’s administration was able to give some prestige and power to minorities that they may not have enjoyed before. However, this mean that if you were a part of the majority, it’s possible you’d feel left behind. While the majority and minority in American did not change, they may have had the perception that they did. Perhaps the majority perceived that they weren’t important anymore.
I realized that if I was feeling ‘left out’ and disenfranchised during either Obama or Trump’s elections and presidencies, I needed reevaluate from where my worth as a person is coming from.
What happens when I’m not the majority anymore? I’m not sure if I ever really considered that thought. Never had to! But when it came up in conversation last week, I thought about it and decided that I would be scared if I was a minority. Now, I do have some ‘minority’ status being a woman (especially a single woman in the case of my hometown), but I’m also a white, middle-class, have good social support and well paying job, so I don’t have all the same rungs to climb, as say, a single woman of color living in the ghetto trying to raise a child on her own. Not even close!!
If I base my worth as a person on the color of my skin on my address or my bank account, then I will be afraid of changes to my status. I mostly think of white supremacist groups as being full of hate, but where does that hate come from? To paraphrase that wise sage, Yoda, ‘Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side.’
In my home county in PA, we house Lancaster City which is one of the most welcoming areas to refuges in the US. I am proud of that fact, although, not living in the city, I am not currently involved in refugee resettlement (other than my sister’s, ‘you are welcome here’ sign in our front yard.) I’ve been to Celebrate Lancaster and have seen firsthand that most of the people that come out to celebrate the city are not white like me. While I might have felt like the odd one out at that celebration, I was also proud to be part of a town that accepts people from all races, nations and creeds. How American, I thought! But, there is another group in my community that does not think diversity is very American.
I was shocked to hear of the group Evropa, perhaps I shouldn’t have been, but I was, planning to protest Syrian refugees coming to Lancaster. When I and the people around me heard this, we all said, ‘have they ever been to Lancaster City?’ There are plenty of people from all over the world, not just Syria, living in Lancaster. Someone made the comment that Syrian refugees were not the main goal of the group, they are just using them to spread that fear and that got me thinking. Evropa won’t stop. Once they get people to stand against refugees, they’ll move on to other groups to persecute. That would include, Christians, like me, who believe that God created all men in his image. I’m reminded of the famous poem by Martin Niemöller concerning the Nazi takeover of Germany. The poem talks about not helping other groups because you yourself or your loved ones are not part of that group. The poem ends with, ‘Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.’
Evropa thinks the Lancaster City has ‘anti-white’ policies and that whites are being replaced as the ‘in’ group. At a rally in Lancaster, one of Evropa’s leaders called Syrian refugees ‘soldiers’ and said that white, European Americans’ culture and pretty much everything they hold dear, including their own lives and the lives of their families are at stake. One of their rally phrases is ‘you will not replace us.’ Whoa. I had mixed emotions when I heard that. One of my emotions was sadness for my culture. I feel really awful admitting that, but I would miss my culture if it was drastically changed because of a new culture becoming more prevalent. However, (and I feel less ashamed of this emotion), I also felt extreme anger towards the people who are standing against fellow human beings just because of where they come from or the color of their skin or their language.
I would like to say that the views of white supremacist groups is un-American, but I don’t think I can say that with confidence. Sure, it’s not the traditional view of the American Dream to exclude anyone from becoming a better, more successful person and raising their family up with them. However, Americans also have the right to protest, whether they’re protesting the fact that more black people are killed by police than other races, or whether they’re protesting new immigration,. So, where does my standard for how to treat others come from? It needs to come from something above culture and the laws of the land because, as we know, in the United States, all groups have the right to get their opinions heard.
As a Christian, I go to God’s word as my source of truth. There are people in majority groups and minority groups that claim to be Christians and follow the truth, but they still treat other people that are different than them in a way that’s not in line with the Bible. The Bible talks time and time again about caring for the poor and the afflicted and about people bearing each other’s burdens instead of trampling them down. One beautiful verse in Revelation 7: 9 says ‘…I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.’ What clearer indication is there that God welcomes all kinds of people? The same passage says God ‘will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ He’s not just ‘allowing’ the different nations to come and worship Him, he’s intimately involved with their wellbeing and he cares for them and sacrifices for them (me, us).
I heard Tim Keller preach a sermon about culture and in it he said that ‘identity and allegiance have to be based on Christ.” If we are more allegiant to our country or our race than Christ, we will make differences something offensive. But, if we have our allegiance and identity in Christ, we can treat people the way he treats them and we don’t have to worry about ‘losing’ who we are as a people.
Now, we’re still very much a part of our cultures, so how do Christians live ‘in’ the world, but not ‘of’ it? It’s almost impossible!! But, Christ promises that we can become more like him, so hopefully we continue to grow to be like him and not like our culture. Someone gave me a practical tip for responding to ‘cultural’ issues (such as kneeling for the National Anthem instead of standing), that I want to keep in mind. It was, ‘don’t get caught up in the emotion of the situation right away’. Search your heart and check to see that you’re not freaking out because something is happening that you’re not used to happening. As Christians, we have to be careful of having an ‘extreme’ answer, unless there is a non-biblical activity happening or view being disseminated (aka — treating those of another race as inferior to you).
What I think people tend to forget is that people get into trouble when they’re too much alike. There is research that says power is less likely to be abused when there is a diverse group in power. Just think of the tower of Babel!! God thought we would get into too much trouble if we were too much alike!! I know in my own friend group, we truly value each other’s perspectives and learn from them. How would we grow if we never encountered something different than we were used?
I haven’t lost faith in America, I just know that my decisions on how to treat people need to be based in Scripture, not my American values. I am thankful for the ideas in our American culture that line up with God’s truth and want to be a part keeping those parts of our culture alive and well. Consider the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Martin Niemöller: “First they came for the Socialists…” https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392
Dr. Timothy Keller, “Culture” from the Vision of Redeemer Series. October 30, 2005