I heard Barack Obama say something to the effect that we live in a world where our parents can't believe that there is a black president, but our children can't believe that there has never been one before. That's pretty good...and, if true, an optimistic sign of where we are heading.
Like almost everyone else I know, I walk around telling people that I am not a racist. I have genuine friends of all backgrounds. I don't think I am prejudiced, but I probably am. Maybe we are all in denial. Maybe we are all a little afraid of people who don't look or act like the people we grew up around. A lot of my friends, black and white, are islamaphobes. Some of my friends are homopobes. Some of my gay friends hate Christians. One of my friends is even filled with hatred for the Steelers. I guess it's complicated.
As a white guy in America, I can try to apologize for white guys throughout history who mistreated their fellow human beings for the worst reasons of all. I had a black friend a few months ago tell me that he hates it when white people apologize for slavery. I can see both sides of that one. Maybe my problem is that I don't fundamentally see myself as a white guy, but as a slave of Jesus. I am more prone to apologize for what my people (Christians) have done to promote or ignore racism than what my white forefathers have done.
The unavoidable truth is that the main reason I am a suburban middle-class American is because I was born to a white middle-class American family. If you track my story backward it will eventually lead to the story of slavery. My ancestors were white and got a head start in the American experiment. That is a true reality that cannot be ignored. At some level, I benefit from the sins my forefathers. It seems to me, however, that to respond to that reality with guilt or self-hatred won't get us anywhere. All I know to do is to trade in that story for the story of the cross. To die to the sins of my past. To invite others of all races and stories to die to their story in favor of the Jesus story. To be engrafted into the story of Jesus, a Jewish rebel pilgrim. In doing so, we find that Abraham and Moses become our new forefathers...our new story. I think this is what St. Paul's ministry was largely about: inviting us Gentiles into the Yhwh story through Messiah Jesus.
I think that today and tomorrow represent a true redemption within the American story. Historically speaking, what is about to happen tomorrow is unthinkable. As an American, I am glad that I get to see it in my lifetime. As a Jesusite, it causes me to look forward to a day when the earth will be fully ruled by King Jesus and his Father, my God. When he fully reigns it will look something like this:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." Revelation 7:9-10