By Rev. Dr. Linda Hollies
I’ve been teaching courses on Cultural Diversity at one of the local universities. It has been an interesting conundrum to watch white men from the far suburbs have to “listen” and to “learn” from a little, short Black educated woman! On the first night of my last course, Hurricane Katrina had just occurred, so I took in an article from AOL with a crying Black woman on the front. The article, as most, talked about why it took so long for help to arrive for the masses that seemed primarily poor people of color. I’m not sure what my students were expecting from me on the first night, but it’s obvious that talk about race and all of it’s issues were not on their agenda.
Be assured that this was not the first time that I have taught the course. I always begin with a Grand Rapids Press editorial cartoon of a white young male graduate, in cap and gown, holding his diploma and the artist showing that everything he has on, including the diploma, have been made in foreign countries! My first written assignment in this class is to ask students to look at the picture and tell me what it has to do with cultural diversity in American? Quick answer: America makes very little, but imports much and needs to become more familiar with the rest of the world! OH! Then, I laid hands on each one of them as I looked at the neck label of their shirts and blouses and NO BODY (including me) had anything made in America! The light bulb came on!
Then, we moved on to the Hurricane Katrina article and the walls of defense came up. Out of almost thirty students, there were two Hispanic women, four Black women and two Black men and plenty of white males and females. So, for awhile it was very quiet as Wisdom and Understanding made their way around the room. I didn’t have to open my mouth! Silence has a very loud sound in a classroom. I begin to ask questions about the words that Americans use to describe others that they feel are inferior to them, such as ”minority”, and ”Third World country”. They sought for meanings and explanations. One brave young man said that a Third World country was one that had no infrastructure and little to no industrialization. When I held up the pictures from Katrina and asked what did they show about America, silence returned again.
One soldier, just returning from a second trip to war torn Iraq, as a defender of our country could not stand to hear me ask questions about “our” nation. He was in tears as I talked about the wounded, killed and crippled on both sides of the war. Finally, he snatched up his computer, and with loud cursing, stormed out. As he was preparing to leave, I walked up to him. I was not afraid. I was not angry. I was not trying to intimidate him. But, I walked up to him and asked him to re-consider, to remain and let’s dialogue, to stay and let’s talk about it, for I did not want him to leave on the first night of class, give it a chance. For God is always about welcoming, opening doors of opportunity and making the circle wide enough to include, “whosoever will.”
When The First Church began, it was with only Jews. But, many of the Jews were fighting to retain the Temple and all of it’s laws and rituals. So, many of the Jews rejected Jesus and his messengers. God opened the door of salvation to gentiles, or those who were not born into the Jewish nation. The first Apostles were Jews, but The Holy Spirit begin to move in them, to work on them and to dispatch them to those who were outside of the Jewish nation. It was a scary proposition to even the Disciples. Yet, God welcomes all who are willing to come. Prejudice, racism and erecting walls to keep others out and away from us is not a new or recent entity. Peter and The Boys were racist and wanted to keep The Church “pure”!
A new convert by the name of Cornelius had chosen to follow after God. He needed revelation and additional information. So, the Holy Spirit guided Peter, through a vision to go and to see this man who was not a Jew. Peter had issues. God had greater issues. God commanded Peter to go to the home of a non-Jew. Peter did not want to be defiled by going into a non-kosher home. Peter had difficulty believing that God wanted to receive non-Jews into relationship. Yet, the God who welcomes insisted that Peter follow through with the visit. God’s plan is so much bigger and more comprehensive than what we can imagine, conceive or think. For it was not just Cornelius that God had a plan for, Paul was there waiting for his “sight”. We never know who God has placed the “welcome mat” out to greet!
Peter was guided by visions. Meditate on the word GUIDANCE. Can you see the word ”dance” at the end? Doing God’s will is a lot like learning to do a couple’s dance.
When both people try to lead, nothing goes right. Their awkward movements won’t
flow and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky. Social custom dictates that the male leads in dancing so that both bodies can move smoothly with the music. Formerly, the male was to give gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing lightly in one direction or another. It was to appear as if there was one body, moving beautifully. For dancing requires that one surrenders, is willing and attentive to the gentle guidance and skill from the other. Through the power, the leadership and the guidance of The Holy Spirit, both “u” and “i” can follow God with willingness. As we become more willing to trust that God really does know best and longs to guide our lives, we too can welcome others.
Cultural diversity can only work as we follow God’s lead. Cultural diversity will only become a heart reality when we can honestly, openly and authentically welcome others, with all of their differences into our hearts, spirits and lives. IF there is one thing that I want every student in a cultural diversity class that I teach to learn, it’s that different does not mean deviant. Different does not mean de-valued. Different does not mean deficient or deficit. Different only means that we are not the same. God loves and welcomes variety. Look at the changing leaves. Watch the rain drops. Look at the fading flowers. Not one is the same. They are all different. God made them and said, “It’s very, very good and beautiful and right!” It was then and it remains so today!
This week, lets dance together with God. Let’s trust God to lead us and to guide us to new people, and new experiences to welcome into our lives. Now, don’t be scared! I just pray and HOPE THAT YOU DANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Remember me, for I’m on the journey with ya! Shalom, Dancers! Sista Linda
Rev. Dr. Linda H. Hollies
Let’s live holy; laugh often; and let’s love with flair and with extravagance!
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