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Darius A. Gray

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Cultural Scapegoats and Whipping Boys

Posted: 11/29/11 09:28 AM ET

"Few people join or stay members of a faith they don't believe in." Those words offered by a dear friend would appear self-evident, but they speak volumes about what is key to individuals.

In the Black community we seem more willing than others to "try on" a different church -- especially if we don't particularly care for the minister at our current church or if someone has said or done something that has gone against our instincts or expectations. We even switch denominations -- back and forth from Baptist to AME and, for the daring, to COGIC. That "trying on a church" behavior within our community indicates a willingness to be flexible.

Suppleness has served us well over the years, especially when options were limited, and it has also served us well in being open to the variety of God's less than perfect creations: us.

But these days, there is a growing tendency toward absolutism. We have become more willing to single out those who are "different." We find fault with lifestyle, faiths, or a host of other variables. We, who have a sad history of being scapegoated, are on the verge of participating in cultural scapegoating ourselves.

I attended a large meeting of the NAACP several years ago only to hear one of the officers of that organization take solace that Muslims, worldwide, were the new whipping boys which would therefore cause less animosity to be directed toward Blacks. Hearing that, I recalled Toni Morrison's comments during a 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley where she spoke about race:

"With very few exceptions, I feel that white people will betray me; that in the final analysis, they'll give me up." She added, "If the trucks pass and they have to make a choice, they'll put me on that truck. That's really what I feel. There are some White people whom I have known over the years that I know would not do that, because they know I wouldn't do it to them. But there are very few of those people. By the way, there are lots of Black people who'd put me on that truck also, so I'm not trying to demonize the White race. It's just a kind of a constant vigilance and awareness that maybe these relationships can go just so far."

After getting into our family car a few weeks ago, I found that a Christian radio station had been selected. The voice I heard on the radio, however, belied that descriptor -- Christian -- as it berated our gay brothers and sisters. The radio minister assured his listeners of his abounding love for these other children of God, but with the next breath he proclaimed their damnation to hell.

Romans 16:17-18 says, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple."

For those who reading the above passage might say, "Well, those people are living contrary to the doctrines." To that I offer that He who is the only just judge, when asked to rule upon a woman found in the very act of adultery, challenged her accusers: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7).

During these challenging economic and political times is would be well to remember our more flexible selves, our own position of having been the underdogs, the scapegoats and whipping boys during our days in Egypt. Let us not now elect others to fill those roles. Let us instead reach for that 'higher ground' which encompasses unfeigned love liberally garnished with tolerance.

May we all be blessed,

Bro. Darius A. Gray
(A Christian in the Mormon Tradition)