morning I felt very special. Part
of an exclusive elite. The
headline in the Guardian
read “90% of whites have few or no black friends”.
It revealed the results of a survey released this week by the
council for racial equality. It
reveals that the majority of British white people do not share close
friendships with blacks or Asians.
The result, they feel, is a lack of empathy – and therefore
an increased possibility of prejudice.
guess I’d never really seen anyone of another ethnic background than
mine until I was 11 or 12. That’s
when my family moved from more rural parts to the City.
My dad had two churches to pastor in
, largely West Indian, and
I moved from an all while school of 2000 students, to a school of 350
students who came from about 40 nationalities.
Suddenly I was thrown into an environment where people had
different world views, different likes in music, different eating
patterns, different styles of worship.
since grown up in that world, moving back and forth in working within
different cultures -- and
I totally agree with Peter Kellner of the pollsters YouGov who says,
“There is an empathy born of experience.”
got to discussing the survey over the lunch break.
Two Americans – one black – one white, a Dane, and me, an
Englishman. Ariel shared a
little snippet. She’s
been sharing a college dormitory room this year with Mellisa – a
Canadian American but of missionary parents in
. Blonde and blue eyed
Mellisa washes her hair every day to keep it grease free.
Ariel, with her
origins, puts oil into her hair to keep it looking nice.
Two little differences, but two things they learnt about each
other – and incidentally, two people from very different backgrounds
who have become good friends.
were other things that came up in the discussion.
Why is one group classified as “African American” while
another group is not classified as “European-American”?
Why do some labels seem to be more important than others?
And why is it that in some areas of life there is a desire for
integration, and yet we all want to keep our cultural identity?
I don’t have answers for all these questions – and I’m
not even going to try to deal with them here.
The question we must ask, however, is what is there that draws
us together, rather than what is there that separates us.
instance – and I’m now looking at another area of life where
prejudice is rife – my youngest son currently has a girlfriend that
is a Christian, but from a different church to the one he attends.
They have both been to each others churches, in fact, Tim met
Jo at the Friday night youth group that her church runs.
strange thing is, when Tim started to show more interest in Jo, one of
her friends said to her, “you shouldn’t go out with him, he’s
not really a Christian. He
doesn’t speak in tongues.”
she didn’t say this to Tim directly, which has given him more time
to think of a response. His
first, of the cuff reaction was, “she’s not a Christian because
she goes to church on Sunday rather than the Saturday Sabbath.”
statement would be correct or helpful.
A Christian’s salvation is not dependent on whether they
speak in tongues or not – indeed Paul calls it the least of the Holy
Spirit’s gifts – but neither is salvation dependent on a day of
worship – important as I see that to be in my relationship with God.
But how do you best respond when someone challenges what you
believe to be true – or makes you feel that your form of
Christianity is inferior?
the first place, it seems to me that you build bridges rather than
barriers. We have more to
learn and to share from each other than we have differences.
If I only read Christian authors from my own church I would not
feel as enriched as I do today. Perhaps
I would not even feel challenged.
I feel we need to point people towards Christ and towards the cross.
That is where differences reduce in size – as we all realise
what Jesus has done for us and that forgiveness is available whatever
my religious, social or ethnic standing.
I think we look not so much to the Gifts of the Spirit – which God
will give us according to our need and situation – but to the Fruits
of the Spirit that the apostle Paul tells us will develop in every
Christina life -- Galatians
. . love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and
fruits will help build natural friendships in all communities, will
break down barriers, and will ultimately make a powerful difference in
our faith, and our society.