What Happened in Oklahoma… Didn’t Begin There

A recent article in the Christian Chronicle prompted my to write this post. You can read it here: www.christianchronicle.org.

The story tells how one of the students at the University of Oklahoma who was caught on video making extremely racist remarks repented and sought forgiveness. The video made headline nationally and resulted in that fraternity being expelled from the University of Oklahoma. The article also mentions that this student had been baptised in a Church of Christ and how the Northeast Church of Christ (a black congregation) played a role guiding him through the process of repentance.

I am grateful for the role the church and its members (including State Sen. Anastasia Pittman) played in guiding his repentance and then granting him their forgiveness. They provide a powerful example of Christianity. I love this quote int the article from Arnelious Crenshaw Jr., the minister at Northeast Church of Christ. Commenting on the necessity to forgive even statements as hurtful as those on the video, he reflected, “I cannot rid the world of hate and prejudice if I’m full of hate and prejudice.

I do not know the student. I also don’t know his faith or family background beyond the statement in the article that he was baptised in a Church of Christ. So my statements from this point are more general than specific to this event.

I wonder, if a high school student was raised in a multi-ethnic church where loving all our neighbours was emphasised, would that student desire to join a white or black fraternity of social club?

I wonder, if a student had friends in a youth group and that youth group had the courage to discuss the emotional impact of racial slurs, would that student use hateful racist language?

I wonder, if our teenagers had spiritual mentors they respected from an ethnic group outside their own, would that influence their attitudes toward other races and cultures?

I understand that young people will always be influenced by peer pressure. I also believe that when our churches are segregated we [unwittingly] promote segregation. It seems normal for us to associate with our own racial group and to exclude others when we have a choice in the matter.

The hope of multi-ethnic churches is that racial diversity becomes not only normal, but valued. We hope that our members will find mono-ethnic clubs, frats, associations, etc strangely abnormal and irrelevant.

The Christian Chronicle story describes how the OU student met with African-American civil rights leaders and pastors. They shared their stories, values and emotional responses to the video. In his public apology the student commented to them, “I can never thank you enough for the way you have embraced me and opened my eyes to things I had not seen before.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our churches could expose our young people to these stories and values before they leave for college. It’s not enough just to say “Racism is wrong”. The church should also give a face to racism so that prejudiced remarks are not directed to nameless, faceless, people “out there”, but can bring to mind faces of friends and Christian role models that are loved and respected.

Thank-you Christian Chronicle for covering this story.

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