Back in the 1970’s “All in the Family” was the leading situation comedy in the nation. The program flourished in the wake of the civil rights movement. You can still see reruns on television. Archie Bunker was its main protagonist and America laughed at all of his flaws, his narrow-mindedness, and arrogance. We laughed at his irrational logic and America laughed and cried at the man’s bigotry. Archie Bunker had created his own reality, created in his image.
In one of the episodes George Jefferson, his African-American neighbor, drops by to visit. George was a man equally prejudiced. He and Archie start talking about God. Archie Bunker explains why he believes that God is a white man. In his own peculiar logic, Bunker creates the following syllogism: “Man is made in the image of God. Archie is a white man. Therefore, God must be white.” Archie expounds, “Besides, all the pictures of God I’ve seen, all the pictures of Jesus I’ve seen always show him as a white man.” George Jefferson quickly responds, “Bunker, you were looking at the pictures’ negatives.”
“All in the Family” vividly demonstrated that there is a very thin line between comedy and drama. After all, it was sad to observe that both Archie and his African-American counterpart had created their own notion of God. The blight of bigotry does that. It creates a god molded in the image of the bigot.
As we celebrate another Martin Luther King Day, we dare to use this time for personal introspection. We dare to ask ourselves the difficult questions as we honor America’s Prophet of Freedom, who dared to speak truth to power. Indeed, Dr. King gave his full measure of devotion in challenging an entire society to examine and change their preconceived realities.
What happens when we dare to fit God into our own little box? What happens when we dare to create God in our image? What happens when we dare to give God his marching orders? Do we dare ask ourselves the tough questions? Are there still, in the deepest recesses of our hearts, the slightest hint of bigotry? To be sure, all of us deal with personal bias at some level. What I am addressing here is the type of bias that stifles my opportunity to relate with all people across the ethnic, racial and cultural spectrum. I would submit that this is the key to our national cohesion and world peace in the 21st century.
I have found that ultimately our struggles with interethnic bias can often be traced to unresolved struggles with God. After all, if God is love then truly God loves all people of all races. As we fail to experience this unconditional love of the Almighty in our own lives, we will also fail to reach others with the compassionate and transparent love of God. “God’s will be done” becomes “my will be done.” At that point, we are daring to limit the power of God in our lives by creating a God that will fit a personal agenda. Please be assured of this, that God is everywhere and knows the deepest secrets of our hearts. We cannot be fugitives from God no more than we can stop being who we are, for “Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me….” (Psalm 139:7, 9-10)
God’s unrelenting passion is for people, all people!. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that and was compelled to lead a transformative movement. The genius of the civil rights movement is that it has never truly ended. It continues to ask the tough questions. I truly believe that our vision for the rights of all people can be as great as our belief in the power of God to transform and shape our hearts.
“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, … I’d like for somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others… tried to feed the hungry… clothe those who were naked… tried to love and serve humanity.” (Ebenezer Baptist Church, 4 Feb 1968
-Chaplain Joe Molina CDR, UMSC / Chaplain to the Corps of Cadets (© all rights reserved)
See Chaplain Molina’s latest published work: MUSING FROM THE HEIGHTS on Amazon