Commentary: Race relations, like Lazarus, return to life
1/21/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn
NOTE: A head-and-shoulders photo of Connie Davis Rouse is available at http://umns.umc.org/photos/headshots.html.
A UMNS Commentary By Connie Davis Rouse*During
Christmas break a few years ago, my youngest daughter brought home a
beautiful, green house plant that she had kept in her college dorm room.
After a few days, I heard my daughter make reference to
Lazarus. I inquired who Lazarus might be. She responded that Lazarus was
her plant. I could not understand why she would give that name to such a
beautiful thing. My daughter smiled and said, "I named it that because
even though it's always dying, it keeps coming back to life."
is Black History Month. Some feel more comfortable calling it Race
Relations Month. When I think of race relations in America, I think of
the "Lazarus Syndrome." It's always dying, but through the grace of God,
it keeps coming back to life. Let's look at it.
First there was
slavery, a death of race relations. Then, came the Emancipation
Proclamation. Though it only freed the slaves in the South while
allowing slavery to continue in the North, the proclamation breathed
hope back into the idea of racial equality.
Confederate Army surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, the
states were soon solidified and slaves were set free. It looked like
racial discrimination would be a thing of the past, and we would all
live together in harmony. Blacks were given the right of citizenship in
1868, as well as the right to vote in 1870. During the Reconstruction
period, people of color were even elected to public office. Yes, even in
However, many whites in the South were not happy
with this arrangement, so they invented the Jim Crow laws. These laws
were created to discriminate against black people by taking back the
rights they had gained after the war. An inability to vote due to unfair
voting regulations, as well as beatings, cross burnings and lynching,
plagued African Americans for decades without relief. Race relations
were dead, once again, in the South.
Then came the civil rights
movement, and even though leaders like Medgar Evers, the Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr. and President John Kennedy were assassinated, the Civil
Rights Bill was still passed under the administration of President
Lyndon B. Johnson. Government also created the idea of affirmative
action to undo the wrongs that had been committed in the past. This bill
embraced all ethnicities that had been discriminated against, as well
as women. Things got better and race relations were reborn.
recent years, the climate in the United States has changed. We have seen
church burnings and hate crimes, as well as a resurgence of hate groups
and the spectacle of states in the South battling over whether or not
the Confederate flag should fly from government buildings. The economy
is in a recession, and some fear that race relations will decline
further. I say: Only if we allow it.
At our last General
Conference, our bishops and delegates came together for a service of
reconciliation and repentance for racism. This action by white United
Methodists helped promote healing so the church of today could stand
strong and unified.
Some say they would not apologize for
something that they did not actually do. However, I believe the act of
repentance was a noble gesture, an example of true Christianity at its
finest. Christians, for a few fleeting moments, bore the burden for the
sins of their forefathers and mothers to promote racial harmony and
reconciliation in the church. That's what Jesus did. This perfect,
blameless Savior bore the sins of the world to bring us back into right
relationship with God.
I suspect that until the world ends, race
relations in America will continue to experience the Lazarus Syndrome. I
suspect that the same will happen in the church, for it seems that all
of us have not fully understood one simple concept: No one is better
than we are, but we are no better than anyone else, for we all were
created by the same God.
Yes, there may be points in time when
we are not as unified as we should be. There may be times when all hope
seems lost, especially when we hear one of our distinguished U.S.
senators insinuate that segregation would have been best for our nation.
Yet, there are still those who tell me constantly that they are not
going back. They want a better church, a better world, where all people
can live together in harmony and peace, the way God intended.
Lazarus lived by the grace of God, and by that same grace, so can we!
# # #
is a free-lance writer, columnist for the South Carolina United
Methodist Advocate and member of Disciples United Methodist Church in
Commentaries provided by United Methodist News
Service do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of UMNS or
the United Methodist Church.
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