I am guilty, I am the Pharisee.
For years, I sat smugly in my pride, assured that I was not a racist. I tried always to judge men, as Dr. King suggested, by the “content of their character rather than the color of their skin.”
Growing up in the Deep South, I was surrounded by an area where the Klan was still active, but prided myself that I was above that. I could thank God that I was not like those sinners.
When my sons were pre-teen, they became friends with two brothers who were African American. They invited their friends to join them in church. When two young boys of a different color walked into church with my sons, I overheard someone whisper, “Don’t ‘those people’ have their own churches?” On hearing this, I said nothing. Like the Pharisee at the altar, I just thanked God that I wasn’t like those who had prejudice in their hearts.
When President Obama was elected for his first term, I stated to a group of men at church, “I don’t care how you voted; you have to be proud that in my short life time, I have gone from seeing people of color denied the right to vote, to seeing Barack Obama become president.” This statement was met with a round of racial slurs and I said nothing further. I simply thanked God that I was not like those with prejudice. I am the Pharisee.
When the Imagine No Malaria campaign started, one of the worship resource videos offered was called “Jennifer’s Story.” I knew that was the one that would catch the attention of most congregations because it featured a young white woman who had malaria. I knew that they would be moved more by one white woman with the disease than by seeing 500 black children in Africa affected, yet I did nothing. I thanked God that all lives, regardless of race, were important to me. I am the Pharisee.
Sir Edmund Burke is credited with saying, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” I am guilty, I am the Pharisee.
Lent is a time of soul searching, a time to get our spiritual house in order. It is time to wash down the walls of our inner temple of the Holy Spirit. Clean up detail is often hard work and may not be comfortable.
Let us look inside ourselves during this time to not only wash down the walls of our own prejudice, but vow to stand up rather than shut up; to do the right thing even when it is uncomfortable; to take seriously the vow we all made when we joined the church, that same vow most of us reaffirm each year with the renewing of our Baptismal Covenant. We vow “to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”