Sermon from Churchill Gilford United Church Overcome Prejudice with Love
Years ago I was part of an unnamed organization. A man joined and then explained that he would like to apply for the position of treasurer. He eventually was elected but there were a couple of comments about his suitability for the job as he was black. The people who made the comments were much older and they had had very limited exposure to black people in that area. Most of what they knew was from books and movies. If I had asked them if they were prejudice, the answer would have been, no they were just stating facts. The fact apparently that black people don’t have the education. In fact this man was a highly educated accountant.
This story demonstrates what is called systemic racism.
This sermon is obviously a response to the results of the trial last week of the man who killed George Floyd.
I am not going to spend much time on drawing conclusions from statistics as they can be used to prove anything. For example in the police shootings across North America the percentage of male/female death remains constant at 92% male and 8% female. Some would draw specific conclusions from that and others would draw the opposite inference. It depends very much where you stand and it often ends up in a blame game which is not productive.
However it is relevant to note the numbers for yourself.
The Washington Post states that each year police kill about 1000 people in the USA. There are numerically more Whites than Blacks killed but Blacks only account for 13% of the population so their deaths are proportionately much higher in number.
The numbers for Canada are much lower in spite of the population difference. Police activity accounts for about 30 deaths per year. Again the number of Blacks and Natives are proportionately much higher than Whites.
In the Canadian prisons more than 30% of inmates are Indigenous – even though aboriginal people make up just 5% of the country’s population
The point of presenting the stats is to say that not everyone is treated the same. This is not a case of blaming anyone. It is a case of saying that there is prejudice in our world.
Prejudice comes from many different sources. It can come from fear of the unknown. I remember a person telling me that if they saw an alien landing they would get a gun and shoot them. Why? We react in a defensive manner if we are unsure of a situation.
Another source of prejudice is what I would call programmed fear. If an authority wants to start a conflict or maintain control they will start misinformation about a group of people. All we have to do is remember the Salem witch trials. Anyone who claimed to have some spiritual knowledge outside the church was executed and the public lived in fear of the witches’ powers.
Right now there is a growing anti-Asian prejudice in North America. Partly it comes from confusion over the Pandemic but it also has huge financial ramifications. How often have you heard “Don’t buy Chinese goods”. That will definitely affect world economics.
A third source of prejudice is likely the most common and that is simply lack of exposure. Many areas of the world have traditionally lived in cultural and racial bubbles.
The barriers are weakening due to social media and media in general. A few years ago this congregation donated money to help a school build in Africa. We watched the build. Even though there was no electricity there were cell towers.
But the lack of real exposure has had tremendous impact on our perception of other races.
-I have in my lifetime met people who told me of their first experience
meeting a black person.
-National Geographic could produce pictures of topless women so long
as they had a certain cultural difference.
-The first black Barbie was produced in 1980. There was a friend of
Barbie before that. She was produced in 1968 and her name was Coloured Francie”
-How many remember the Lone Ranger and Tonto. It was a cowboy
movie in the 1940’s. Jay Silverheels was Tonto and he actually
was a Mohawk for Six Nations in Brantford. He was one of the
first natives to portray a native but his role was totally subservient
to the white man and his name Tonto means Fool in Spanish.
-It wasn’t too many years ago that Blackface shows were popular. I was
in a town where they were holding one and I declined to take part
in it on the grounds that I felt it was offensive. One of the coordinators told me that it was not prejudicial at all in fact Sambo was an inspiration to the local black kids. There weren’t any.
-We grew up with a white Jesus.
We look back on some of these situations and we are shocked at the narrow culture we lived in not that many years ago. That lack of exposure has had its impact on our perception of other races.
George Floyd was arrested because he allegedly was trying to buy cigarettes with a fake $20 bill. The store clerk phoned the police. When they arrived he was sitting in his car. If he had been white would the outcome have been different?
When we are dealing with prejudice it is of no use to throw blame at groups of people. That is merely a way to avoid recognizing our responsibility in solving the issue. It is like trying to decide who started the forest fire. It doesn’t matter. Our job is to put it out.
Martin Luther King Jr said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that, Hate cannot drive out Hate, only love can do that.”
What can you do?
First examine your own heart and see if prejudice exists there. Then, if you find it, ask yourself why it exists in you.
Second, if you see a situation where prejudice exists, counter it. Some would know the story of a gas station in the south who was going to hire a black man but some of the locals said they would boycott the station. A local minister told the owner if he hired the black man he would get new customers. The gas station hired him and the station grew.
A 17year old girl named Darnella Frazier said there wasn’t much she could do on the night of George Floyd’s death but the one thing she could do was film it. That video became very important.
Thirdly, follow Jesus example. Treat everyone as a child of God. Jesus went to strangers and outcasts. He visited with people regardless of who they were. Get to know people and your prejudice will disappear.
I close with this story
A number of years ago a man came to see me about his work situation. He had to work with a black woman and he was distressed. He had a fair amount of prejudice. I suggested that he get to know her as a person. He said that would never happen as he didn’t associate with “those people”. About a year later I saw them in a store together. He told me he was taking my advice, however when I noticed they were holding hands I thought he was really taking my advice to heart. When I got the call to perform their marriage I asked what had changed his mind. His reply was one that we should all heed. He simply said “Love won”
That is our goal. Let love win.
God, you created us. You know we are the product of our history and learning. Help us to discern the knowledge that uplifts people. Help us to discard understandings that harm others and ourselves. All through history you have tried to reach us and teach us, that you care for each one of us equally. Help us to mirror that love. Help us to receive and give this unconditional love,
We are your family.
We pray for those in difficult situations of life who could use some extra prayer
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. lead us not into temptation. but deliver us from evil. for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. forever and ever Amen
SERVICE April 25, 2021
Etransfer info at bottom of page
Thanks to helpers: Cathy, Hugh, Marion
This morning, God, We gather no matter where we are, No matter what doors are locked. Those doors cannot keep you in or out. We live in your world. We have found new ways of being together. We are not alone. We are your people
Hymn – O for a World
Scripture Matthew 5: 43 – 48
Hymn Draw the Circle Wide
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen
Info about contributing
The traditional way is to send a cheque via mail to one of the treasurers.
Make the cheque out to:
Churchill United Church
send to Agnes Cole at 226 Valleyview Dr. Churchill, Ont L0L1K0
or Gilford United Church
send to Doris Coborn at 1468 Gilford Rd, Gilford. L0L1R0
An Alternative (and better) way is Etransfer
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