is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 21, 2008. We've
come a long way in race relations since that day in
April, 1968 when Dr. King was killed. But racism is
still alive in the United States, and we still have
a long way to go before we experience the true meaning
of the phrase, One Nation Under God.
have lived long enough to see the whole scope of the
civil rights movement work its way through the American
consciousness. When I began my college years at Denison
University in Ohio in the fall of 1950, I found myself
in a fraternity system that included 90% of the men
on campus. And in those years, segregation was still
the rule when it came to fraternity membership. There
were not enough African-Americans on campus to form
their own fraternity, but they were excluded from the
all-white groups which inhabited fraternity row.
at the age of 17, I knew this was wrong. I went to school
knowing that I was going to join the only fraternity
on campus which welcomed brothers of all races. It was
called an "American-letter fraternity" (as
opposed to a Greek) - the American Commons Club. We
included among our members all the blacks on campus
who wanted to be fraternity members. There was enough
interest in what we were doing, and we attracted so
many members, that at one point we were excluded from
participation in inter-mural sports, because we simply
ran away with all the trophies.
one point, we led a protest march in 1953 against a
racially segregated swimming pool on the edge of town.
We all marched through the gate, paid our fee, and then
waited while the final person came through, our black
president. When he was refused admittance, we all demanded
our money back and marched out the way we had come in.
A pathetic little demonstration, perhaps, but I think
we were ahead of the curve.
the years we have seen our national consciousness become
aware of the evils of prejudice against racial minorities
and women. We are still conflicted about granting full
and equal rights to gays and lesbians. I am certain
that we will look back some day on this kind of bigotry
with the same sense of guilt and shame that we now feel
about racial prejudice.
we are still blind to the fact that religious prejudice
falls into the same category. We must begin to think
of it in terms of "religious racism," the
idea that because someone else's religious skin color
is not the same as mine, he is somehow inferior, not
only in my eyes but in the eyes of God. I had an uncle
who thought I was going to hell because I was the wrong
kind of Presbyterian! We know that the Roman Catholic
Church tends to think that all Protestants are outside
the grace and mercy of God. Evangelicals are certain
that liberal Christians are working for the Devil. And
we hear constantly about radical Muslims who believe
that, since non-Muslims are all infidels, killing them
is an act of devotion to God who delights in their death.
will we generate the kind of anger against this type
of immoral bigotry which will allow us to initiate a
new civil rights movement? We need a movement to end
religious racism. We hear claims that God wants us to
maintain our separate and exclusive little groups, that
God takes pleasure in our attempts to prove that we
are right and everyone of every other religious color
is wrong. The fact is that God is on the exact opposite
side of that discussion. Since we are all his children,
God wants us in a single community of love and acceptance.
To blame God for our bigotry and ignorance is the worst
kind of blasphemy. And we will have to answer for it
tend to be prejudiced against the "other,"
the person who is different from us racially, ethnically,
sexually, religiously. That attitude is caused by ignorance
of the simplest of all spiritual truths - there is no
"other." There is one God. There is one people.
When we reject anyone for any of these reasons, we are
participating in the destruction of our own family.
John W. Sloat 2008