Anyone who doubts there is a prejudice against white, middle-class, conservative Christians is myopic or misguided. It’s there. I’m here to testify.
As said representative of this group, I cannot tell you how many times casual acquaintances on social media accuse me of being racist, homophobic, or otherwise subtly criticized for the lack of “diversity” in my own postings as I share things that speak to me. I have to laugh, because the key words are “casual acquaintances.” People who truly know me and my family know the real diversity that exists within my own home and family.
Racism is anathema to me. Yes, I was blessed to grow up in an affluent household. Yes, with five children at home, my mother hired a woman to come help take care of the house and children. This woman’s skin was a different color from mine, but she loved me as one of her own and I love her still.
When I attended her funeral eleven years ago, her family invited me and my family to sit with them, because she had loved me as much as if she had given birth to me.
She always called me her “little white baby.” I didn’t think anything of it growing up. We often talked about her life, her experiences as a black woman growing up in times and circumstances so very different from my own. She was a woman of great wisdom and unique perspective on the world. She was a godly woman and it was important to her that I grow to be one, too. She read to me from the Bible and sang hymns to me for lullabies. She taught me different sewing techniques. She taught me the value of dignity and pride in one’s appearance. She taught me the value of hard work and compassion for others. She was my confidante and my moral compass.
I never knew I was supposed feel anything but love for her until she explained to me about segregation and the Civil Rights movement and how some people saw only skin color. It came as a shock to me to learn that she and I were not blood-related. That was the day I learned that love and family are not defined by blood, but by one’s heart. I learned that the only limits for love are those we place on ourselves.
Homophobia is a silly notion nurtured by small minds. My parents divorced when I was eleven and my father married a woman with four children. Two of them were gay. I never thought anything of my brother’s roommate, or my sister’s friends. They joined us for family celebrations. We exchanged gifts, laughed, joked, and showered one another with familial affection. We were simply family. When my brother’s partner (we don’t use the word “step” in my family) contracted AIDS, we continued to love him, to pray for him, to welcome him to our family events. My father prayed over him, witnessed to him, and like a good pentecostal, laid hands on him for healing.
I learned from my father’s example that we are all God’s children, deserving of His love. I learned that one cannot bear witness to the message of Christ if one’s mind and heart are closed. I learned that it is up to us to be God’s hands and feet and to love His children. It isn’t up to us to judge sin or to condemn. It is up to us to serve.
Fast forward many years.
I haven’t always lived a Christian life, or practiced Christianity. I have studied and explored other faiths, other belief systems. I have studied Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism, Eastern philosphy, Hinduism, Islam, Zoroastriansim, Wicca, Druidism…I have even practiced a few of these.
But when my life fell apart, the only faith and belief that was able to save me, was the faith in God the Father, and belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I am a Christian, not because I know no other way and believe in this silly superstition, but because I have studied the world faiths and I have come to know Christianity as the one way that works for me. It is the faith that sustains me, renews me, gives me hope, encourages me, lifts me up, carries me through. When every other belief system abandoned me, Jesus Christ never left me. I am a devout Christian, not because I don’t know any better, but because I do know.
Today my family consists of three adult daughters I did not give birth to, and three children I did. One of my daughters has always referred to herself as a “brown” person – not white, not black. In truth, she’s Filipina, but people have mistaken her for Latina, middle-eastern, black…, whatever they choose to see. I see only my daughter, though I do get angry when she faces racist slurs.
I have another daughter who is Jewish, though she doesn’t practice. She is the one who married her same-sex partner this past June. My heart aches when she tells me of thoughtless and unkind remarks made to her or to her wife, whom I also consider my daughter.
The other daughter of my heart is Italian, and rightly proud of her heritage. I speak little of her because she is intensely private and I respect her right to privacy.
Of my biological children, they deal with Autism and Asperger’s as well as ADHD and all the issues of growing up different. They play with my nephew, who is Chinese.
People who know me, know all these things about me. Casual acquaintances see only that I am a white, conservative, middle-class, Christian and assume that I have always lived a beige life and eschew “diversity.” Some even take it upon themselves to educate me on “diversity.” Others criticize me for my lack of “diversity” and my bigotry towards those not like me.
Perhaps they are right and I am biased against those not like me.
Perhaps I do not understand the life experiences of someone who was not raised and loved by someone of a different race than one’s own. Perhaps I have little patience or understanding for someone who sees only the color of a person’s skin and jumps to conclusions about that person’s life experiences or their worth.
Perhaps I don’t have as much patience for people who have not studied the world’s religions and chosen the one that rings true. Perhaps I lack patience for those who believe only what they’ve been told, and make judgments on a person based on their own perception of who they believe that person to be and not who they really are.
Perhaps I have little patience for judgmental people, who see no value on someone who does not parrot their own views, beliefs, or lifestyle. Perhaps I have little use for people who must fight, abuse, or otherwise denigrate someone because they seem “different.”
Perhaps those who scream the loudest for diversity are those who understand it least.
To me, diversity has little meaning. Diversity is divisive, focusing on differences which are by and large superficial. I prefer to unite my family, different though we all may be from one another, under a banner of unconditional love and acceptance, just as I was taught in my white, middle-class, conservative, Christian home…a home that welcomes all regardless of race, religion, ethnic background, or sexual orientation.
I wonder…those who accuse me of my bigotry, or point fingers at my apparent lack of diversity, how tolerant are they of those who are different from themselves? What do their family gatherings look like? It would be ironic if the family gatherings of this white, middle-class, conservative, Christian are more diverse than those of the people who accuse me of a lack of diversity, don’t you think?