Buried in a box in my storage locker are two props that I have used extensively in the classroom and in presentations on diversity:
Noddy Book 4
by Enid Blyton, a C20th British children's author, and 2) a hand-knitted Golliwog. For an American audience, both might need some explaining: A "Golliwog" was a stereotypical black rag doll (male) that was as ubiquitous as the Teddy Bear in 1950's England and her colonies; in Enid Blyton's books for tots, Golliwogs were usually the "bad guys" who ended up being carted off to prison for various offenses. The most heinous of these was when a Golliwog lured cute little white Noddy to drive him into the deep dark wood in his shiny yellow taxi. There, more Golliwogs lay in wait; they ambushed him, stripping him naked and stealing his prized taxi. Though as a preschooler I always made room for Mr. Golliwog in my bed and enjoyed collecting Golliwog decals and enamel brooches from Robertson's Jams, yet the Noddy series created my first impressions of crime and punishment and how to identify a "bad man." You can learn more about Golliwogs here:
Today, as America engages in soul-searching in a post George Floyd world, it is interesting to see what symbols need to be erased or replaced. Just as the bad Gollies in Enid Blyton's books influenced millions of children across the globe into believing racial stereotypes about others or even about themselves (especially in India and in African colonies!), so the branding of Aunt Jemima's maple syrup or pancake mix, Mrs. Butterworth's maple syrup or Uncle Ben's rice have contributed to the stereotyping and commodifying of people of color. Little wonder that companies are re-thinking their branding strategies, given today's climate. Colgate-Palmolive, for example, will have to re-invent its marketing of Darlie Toothpaste (originally "Darkie") which is sold in China as "Black Person Toothpaste."
Symbols matter; symbols shape consciousness. Statues which promote slaveholders and slave traders have no place as national monuments; Confederate flags should be as abhorrent in contemporary America as the swastica is in Germany today. Sports teams which have appropriated Native American names, words and imagery also need to re-think what messages and values they are communicating to their fan base.
Black and Brown lives matter. Now is the time to examine our words and our images-- not merely for the sake of political correctness, but to demonstrate our belief that no life should be reduced to a marketing strategy, or to a commodity to be exploited...
PS Try my spiritual self-assessment tool!
After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated diagram and explanatory comments regarding your strengths and "growing edges."
I hope you find the Quiz useful!
Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Before sending out the Twelve to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and drive out demons, Jesus gave them a series of instructions that included warnings about the persecution they would be facing. They would be "like sheep in the midst of wolves,"
scourged in synagogues and dragged before kings, governors and courts of law. Despite this, however, they were to have courage and fulfill their mission of proclaiming the coming of God's Kingdom. Their task was to speak in the light and proclaim the Good News from the rooftops. They were not to be afraid of those who could do them bodily harm; rather, they were to fear the Evil One.
Perhaps Jesus based his instructions on the rejection he himself had already experienced; perhaps his intuition gave him clarity about what the future would bring; or perhaps his familiarity with the prophetic texts helped him predict what lay ahead -- Jeremiah, for example, was scourged, put in the stocks, thrown down a cistern, and according to extra-biblical tradition, was stoned to death by his own people in Egypt. Jesus, then, was well aware that the Twelve would encounter hatred, opposition, verbal abuse, torture and even death; nevertheless, his message was consistent: "Do not be afraid."
What would Jesus' message be to us today? What instructions would he give us?
Matthew 10 is packed with information for any disciple, past or present, but we tend to read it as a text about his disciples, not about us. This chapter, in fact, could be used as a manual for Christian initiation, sacramental preparation, or spiritual formation; it outlines what we are to proclaim, whom we are to heal, what we should carry with us, where we should go, and what to do if we are rejected. It warns us about the price we will pay for discipleship while reassuring us that nothing can happen without God's knowledge.
Most of us live safe, predictable lives, often indulging in the illusion that Jesus came to make us comfortable. The reality is that he came to bring a sword (Mt 10:34) -- a sword that separates truth from lies, action from apathy, proclamation from silence, courage from fear, hope from despair, compassion from indifference... True discipleship involves what Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as "costly grace"; it means standing up and being counted, speaking out against the powers of this world when such a critique becomes an ethical necessity. True disciples not only
that the Kingdom of God is at hand; they also cry out against the evils that block that Kingdom from coming in its fullness -- evils such as racism, sexism, homophobia, the mistreatment of migrants, police brutality ... True disciples, then, are willing to take on the prophetic mantle and speak God's Word whatever the price.
And to end with a quotation from Bonhoeffer:
"Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ."