Independence Day Weekend
1 Jul 2012
“Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, ‘Do not be afraid, just have faith.’” (Mark 5:36) In the name …
Dave Chappelle is a black comedian. I don’t enjoy too much of his stuff because he swears way too often for my tastes, but a while back someone shared with me a clip of his routine where he plays the blind, black leader of the Klu Klux Klan (http://cliptank.com/funny-clips/dave-chappelle-black-k-k-k-member.html). In the skit we’re told that he was born blind and raised in an orphanage for other blind children in the Deep South. He was the only black child there so they thought it would be easier for him if he thought he was white like all of the other kids. Under the hood of the Klu Klux Klan outfit, he grew-up to become the leader of the white supremacists. It’s only funny because the stupid and hate-filled things he has to say about minorities are unwittingly being said by a minority. The funniest line comes at the end of the clip after he has discovered that he’s black. He divorces his white wife because he can’t stand the fact that she married a black guy.
Back in May the US Census Bureau announced that for the first time in the history of our nation white births were in the minority. For the first time there were fewer white babies born than non-whites. The United States of America is most likely going to look a whole lot different a century from now than she does today. But you know, we look a lot different today than we did a century ago. At the turn of the last century the huge number of immigrants coming over from Southern and Eastern Europe was scaring a lot of the Americans who were already here. I don’t know about you, but my grandparents on both sides were part of that scary flood of immigrants. It seems generational that one set of immigrants will complain about the next set of immigrants, that the United States isn’t going to survive all these new minorities. I don’t know about you, but do you hear a little bit of Dave Chappelle’s routine about the black man under the Klu Klux Klan hood yelling out insults about black men when whites are worried about minorities when we may be the next century’s minorities?
Part of the excitement of being an American is to argue about what it means to be an American. I hope we don’t define ourselves by something as superficial as the colour of our skin. America was born of ideas and ideals. As long as those stay intact, then whatever we may look like in the future, we will still be America and Americans. The front page of the newspaper on Friday morning had a couple of articles about the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the new universal health care law and there was also an article about Syria edging towards civil war. Views about President Obama’s health care initiative are very strong and very divided, but in America this conflict is handled through argument not through violence. It went to the Supreme Court not to the Army. In Syria, on the other hand, the politics there are extremely divided as well, but what started out as peaceful protests against the government are quickly turning into a full-fledged civil war. When I read those articles right next to each other, I thanked God for the wisdom of our Founding Fathers who were wise enough and practical enough to build a nation that embraces the freedom to think and act differently. Maybe the next election will change the powers that be in Washington and the health care law will be amended or removed, but whether it stays or goes is not as important as the fact that America works.
One of the ideas that I tried to get across to the kids at the acolyte retreat on Thursday is that Jesus came with the revolutionary idea that all people are important. Jesus went to the tax collectors and the prostitutes. He touched the ones who were ritually unclean and became unclean Himself. He ventured out to the Gentiles and women. He was called the devil by religious leaders and even His own family thought He was crazy, but Jesus never gave up on the idea that all people are important to God. He never waived even when they put Him on the cross and taunted Him. He still prayed “Father forgive them.” And then maybe the hardest part of His whole ministry was trying to convince His followers to try and do the same thing.
We are constantly faced with moments of decision and choice. Take today’s Gospel as an example. Jairus’ daughter is dying. He’s a synagogue leader. That kind of puts him at odds with Jesus. But Jairus is willing to sacrifice everything. But before Jairus can get Jesus back to his daughter, an unclean woman who had suffered a hemorrhage for 12 years touches Jesus and makes Him unclean. Will Jairus still trust that the now ritually unclean Jesus can work one of God’s miracles for His little girl? To add to the intensity of the situation, servants come reporting that the girl has died. Will Jairus risk his status and position now that request has become so enormous? When Jairus chooses to believe and to surmount all of these obstacles, then Jesus can utter those memorable words, “Talitha koum,” “Little girl, arise!” But before the miracle, there has to be the courage to believe.
We as Christians are constantly being tested, like Jairus, to see past the obvious and to look for the hidden worth of a person and to do our utmost to see the good and potential in all people. Isn’t that also part of the beauty we celebrate on Independence Day, that all people are created equal by God, that everyone from the first immigrants of 1620 to the immigrants of different colours today have an equal shot at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? It doesn’t matter what we look like. What matters is if we can stay committed to the ideas and ideals that have long inspired who we are, and that have let us live together peacefully with all of our differences intact and respected. We face choices every day as Christians and as citizens to be respectful of each other. On this Independence Day Weekend, let us offer our thanks to God for the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, and for the courage to continue to believe and act as we should as Christians and citizen. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. +
Fr. Randolph Calvo