Here at home? Consider this story, published this morning, about a restaurant in Indiana:
A small-town pizza shop in Indiana has closed its doors after the owners’ support of the state’s “religious freedom” law and pronouncement they would not cater a gay wedding brought fierce backlash. Kevin O’Connor, 61, who owns Memories Pizza with his two children in Walkerton, Ind., has closed the shop’s doors in hopes the furor will die down, but the family fears it will never reopen … O’Connor’s daughter, Crystal, says the family is considering leaving the state. On Tuesday, WBND Channel 57 interviewed members of the O’Connor family, who said they agreed with Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The family said the pizzeria is a “Christian establishment.” “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” Crystal O’Connor said. “We’re not discriminating against anyone, that’s just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything.” The family said it would serve gays or a non-Christian couple in the restaurant.
Brutal physical attack, imprisonment, and cutting-off water are persecution of a different type than that experienced by the Hoosiers described above. But the O’Connors are being non-violently persecuted for their commitment to living-out their faith.
** A biracial woman who has been asked, “What are you?” (Her response: “Human”)
** An African-American man who has been told, “You don’t act like a normal black person, ya know?”
** A black student: “You’re really pretty for a dark-skinned girl.”
Full disclosure: My children are multi-racial, so I’m especially alert to comments like this. They smack of racism or at least insensitivity of a nature so pronounced that it reeks like a rotting egg.
Still, I would submit that some of these things are less “aggressive” than they are either unkind or ignorant. I’m not mincing words when I draw this distinction. Aggression connotes an effort to demean or belittle, and while some of the remarks reported by the Fordham students certainly would fall into that category, others just seem borne of a particular kind of insularity. People who don’t spend time with others of different races or ethnicities often have provincial and stereotypical images of one another that are dispelled by more frequent contact — by less insular and monochromatic social interaction.
My major concern here is that the Bible gives ample remedy for both overt bigotry and unintentional but still hurtful rudeness. “Be kind one to another,” writes Paul to the church in Ephesus, “tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God in Christ has forgiven you” (4:32). That’s just one of hundreds of passages in which warmth, acceptance, and respect are taught as endemic to Christian character. In other words, believers in Christ need to try to be more like Him.
Is the application of these commandments a remedy for all racial prejudice and its offensive articulation in social conversation or conduct? No, certainly not. But for followers of Jesus, His Word’s teaching about racial equality and human dignity offer more than sufficient counsel for the way we treat others of “every tribe and nation and people and language” (Revelation 7:9).