Summary: The Word of God calls us to a brotherhood and sisterhood that transcends our differences. This sermon addresses three "ism’s" that work against God’s Kingdom: Racism, Sexism and Classism
Sermon for CATM – February 17, 2008 “Repenting of Racism, Sexism, Classism”
What thoughts come to mind as you look at this photograph? [Photo is of 9 red gummy-bears standing separate and apart from one green gummy-bear.
What’s going on here?
What are the figures in the circle thinking? [This guy’s different; why is he a different colour? Why is she not the same as us; others seem to feel the same way; should we eat it?]
What is the figure in the middle thinking? [Why are they surrounding me? I feel pretty uneasy here; why are they all pink? Where are my friends? Are they going to eat me? I wish I was at home in bed]
Have you ever felt this way? Out of place. In the wrong place at the wrong time. In the minority? Surrounded by difference and the unfamiliar? Perhaps the object of derision? Perhaps a victim
Today we’re going to be looking at three different things…three “ism’s”.
Racism. Sexism. Classism. The reason for this is that, even though compared to our southern neighbours we may feel, as Canadians, that we are pretty much ok regarding these three words…the reason is that these “ism’s” exist in our country, in our province, in our city, in our neighbourhood and, shockingly perhaps, even here…in us.
Now we probably think of ourselves as a pretty tolerant people. Canada prides itself on its diversity. Since the days of Pierre Trudeau Canadians have valued the fact that we’re a multicultural society. We’re multi-ethnic, multi-language, multi-faith, multi-everything people.
There was an ad recently in the newspaper of a middle-eastern country that had encouraged radical fundamentalists to kill a Canadian. An Australian dentist, in response wrote the following to help define what a Canadian is, so they would know one when they found one.
A Canadian can be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian, Jamaican, Romanian or Greek.
A Canadian can be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, from the Islands, Korean, Guinean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan.
A Canadian may also be a Cree, Metis, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Sioux, or one of the many other tribes known as native Canadians. A Canadian’s religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or none.
So, apparently, Canada is a pretty diverse country. Yet in all of our diversity I want to suggest that we are not immune from these three “ism’s”, among others.
Let me ask you: What is racism?
[The belief that differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.]
What is sexism? [Discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex, as in restricted job opportunities; esp., such discrimination directed against women].
What is classism? [a biased or discriminatory attitude based on distinctions made between social or economic classes.]
So these are biases. Prejudices. Boxes that we put people in. Decisions that we make about people before we know them…based on what they wear, what kind of money they have, or based on the colour of their skin and based on being male or female.
So…so what? Isn’t that just part of life? Isn’t it best just to accept this stuff and get on with the difficult business of living? And if these kind of attitudes show up in the church…well…what do you expect?…the church is made up of people just like everybody else…nobody’s perfect, right? Hmm. I wonder.
Well…the church belongs to God, right?
What does God have to say about all this? First, let’s look at a passage from James that pretty much hits the nail on the head regarding social equality.
James 1:1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 Suppose someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say, "Here’s a good seat for you," but say to the one who is poor, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor.
James, the brother of Jesus, is addressing a problem that was both a common practice in general and something that was going on in the early church in Jerusalem. And it’s something that happens today. The first thing James does is identify the problem: Favouritism. And then he explains what he means.