Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace. Be present, Lord, among us and bring us to believe we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace. Be present, Lord, among us and bring us to believe we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

Teach us, O Lord, your lessons, as in our daily life we struggle to be human and search for hope and faith. Teach us to care for people, for all, not just for some, to love them as we find them or as they may become. First two verses of the hymn, “Help Us Accept Each Other.” (Words by Fred Kaan)

People want and need acceptance. The events of last week show we seem to be becoming more about rejection than acceptance in our country today and reminded me of a couple of recent community forums that were hosted by The United Presbyterian Church. The first was titled “Being Christian in a Divided World,” and the second was titled “Invisible Privilege/Visible Consequences.” Both forums focused on the need for healing of the divides that we encounter in our community and our country.

Privilege is something that we hear a lot about but often don’t understand. Yet, the idea of privilege is about separation, rather than inclusion. Society today seems to be very much about privilege—those who have it and those who don’t. There are many examples, of which the following is just one. It seems that if you are wealthy and Caucasian and guilty of a crime, you have a better chance of being found not guilty in a court of law than if you are poor, African American and truly not guilty.

Privilege is something men have had for many years over women in the business world and too often in church. Privilege often leads to segregation in housing and neighborhoods. Privilege is about who is accepted and who is not accepted in far too many areas of the world. Privilege impacts everything from access to food, education, clothing, employment opportunities, and healthcare.

White supremacy is based on the idea that Caucasians are the only ones entitled to privilege. The person who did the shooting and killed and wounded so many people in El Paso last Saturday, considers himself a white supremist and had posted about how immigrants were taking jobs from whites.

A local African American man was assaulted outside a local bar recently by two men who reportedly made racial remarks will punching and kicking the man even after he was unconscious. Fortunately, he wasn’t killed, but the attack shows that we are not immune to racial hatred and violence in our community.

We may want to sit back and think that we are not privileged and that we accept others, but there were some interesting statements that were dealt with at the forum on privilege that could give us pause. Here are a few examples. 1. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 2. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race (gender). 3. I can accept a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race (gender). 4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed. 5. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them match my skin.

These questions reminded me of and exercise that a group of my denomination’s ministers were asked to respond to at a “Pro-Reconciling Anti-Racism” seminar earlier this year. We were all lined up on the boundary line of the basketball court in the church gym where the seminar was held.

A statement was read, and if it didn’t apply to us, then we were to take a step forward. After several questions were asked, we stopped where we were. Then we looked around and discovered that, although several were scattered between where we started and where the last question was asked, every one of our African American ministers attending the seminar were still at the starting line. If you haven’t been a victim of racism, it’s a difficult to understand those who have been.

In Tuesday’s Oklahoman is an article under the headline: “Racism has devastating effects on kids’ health, pediatricians warn.” The article is based on a recent American Academy of Pediatrics report. One physician pointed out that not too long ago people were talking about living in a post racial age. However, in the past few years that has radically changed. Negative changes in health, both physical and mental, of mothers and children of both African Americans and Latinos have been noted.

I am reminded of something that happened to me back in 1966 that has stuck with me regarding race. I have spoken and written about this before. When I was in basic training at Fort Bliss, Texas, our drill instructor placed an African American recruit in the position of squad leader. One of the “white” recruits that was assigned to his squad confronted the new squad leader and told him that “whites” should not be under the command of “blacks.”

The African American squad leader calmly put his hand on his black combat boot and said, “That boot is black. I’m not black, I’m tan.” Then he took the “white” recruit’s hand and put it on his white t-shirt, and he said, “That shirt is white. You’re not white, you are tan. We’re just different shades of tan.” Isn’t it past time that we recognize that we are all just different shades of tan?

Hopefully, the community forums will continue. The forums will not change things overnight. However, if we can get more people willing to talk about difficult issues, we can make some headway toward improving our community.

As Christians, we should be leading the way in trying to heal the divides. This is what Christian love is supposed to all be about. Love can overcome hate. Jesus gave us two commandments. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us be accepting of one another, rather than finding ways to separate ourselves from one another.

If you are able, be in church somewhere this Sunday.