The whole thing only took a minute or two or three but it was chilling. With eyes to the ground, rolling a case of some kind a young Asian man was being verbally assaulted by a couple of quite inebriated college aged guys. It was in Champaign. Anita and I were walking back to our car after an Illini football game.
The verbal assault which called into question heritage, race, and style of speech was ugly in its intent and motivation. The more vocal of the two thought he was being cute and funny. The quieter one primarily giggled his approval. I'm sure they both thought they were being manly and clever. I saw childish and mean spirited.
I stopped long enough to see the Asian man scurry away, out of harms way. And yet I wonder, even now, how the violation of his personhood and the accompanying fear might impact his life. Will he brush it all off or will he forever be looking over his shoulder?
Some might say that it was the beer talking. Nope. I was seeing the drunkenness only revealing what was deep in their heart. And it scared me.
I've seen the hate mongering gene up close and personal many times. It's present in all our lives (that sin thing again). And when it's unleashed it looks ugly. The ugliness can take many forms. It could be verbal taunting, funny little stories with a racial twist, stereotyping, profiling, redlining or even hiding behind the walls of a gated community to escape 'them'.
I've been saying privately to people that my deepest fear is we're only an incident or two away from some sort of mammoth class and racial struggle. The racial and ethnic divides are deep and wide in our country still. Even on college campuses that major in tolerance and diversity. I wonder how much of our struggles with immigration policy, poverty, pluralism and terrorism are rooted in unresolved racial and ethic fears, hurts, and wounds? A lot I think. How deep is our desire to bridge those divides or are we content to maintain them?
In the Book of Ephesians we read that we are God's masterpiece. Yesterday, I saw a masterpiece of God being treated as worthless junk. And it was wrong. Yet, it happens every day, all day.
The line between my indignation and my participation in hate mongering is probably a thin one. I'm capable of much ugliness. It's truly only by the grace of God that I manage to care about doing what is good and noble. And I'm not sure that I always succeed. Today I'm doing well. We'll see what tomorrow brings. My prayer for myself and for you is that we will see hate mongering in all it's manifestations and be bothered by it. So bothered that we will stand up against it. That's risky business. It's also kingdom business And if we see 'hate' taking root in our personal lives let's stand against that too asking a good God to renew a right spirit within us.