On one of my trips back home to Zambia, I had gone into the city to buy some African wood carvings and paintings for friends and for my apartment back in the United States. After I was done shopping, I made my way to a bus station. A man, a little older than me, was heading in the same direction a few feet in front of me. There was a group of young boys between seven and thirteen ahead us, begging on the street. They were totally ignored by people passing by. One of the boys went to the man and asked for money to buy food. The boy looked dirty and hungry. The man grabbed the boy’s head and pushed him to the ground. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I reached in my pocket for some change and handed it to the boy and continued to walk behind the man. I felt the urge to say something to him, but did not know how he would respond.
We walked a few blocks without any incident. My anger was growing. I had to say something. He stopped at one of the street vendor’s shops to buy himself a snack, and I gathered enough courage to talk to him. I politely asked him why he pushed the boy away. He responded, “Which boy?” His question made me even angrier. I couldn’t believe he had already forgotten what he did a few blocks away, or maybe he was trying to play dumb. I reminded him where the incident had occurred of which his response was, “Those Street kids are a problem; we had helped a few at our church, and one of them ended up stealing church property. These kids choose to be on the street, and they are nothing but trouble.” I tried to plead the boy’s case. He really needed help but got shoved in the face instead, which was unnecessary. He told me he didn’t want to talk about it anymore and left. I watched him walk away and disappear in the crowd. And this guy was supposed to a Christian?
I bought some food and made my way back to the spot where I saw the boys, but could not find them. I waited a few minutes to see if they would come back, but they had already moved on. What if those boys were angels in disguised?
The incident inspired me to write a song called “Reach Out” about a little boy and little girl who were pushed away by the very people who are supposed to help them out. Jesus taught a lot on taking care of the little children; the most vulnerable and defenseless; the least of these. The church is not only a place of worship, but a place where the sick, the helpless, the hurt, the disillusioned, the fatherless should find refuge and healing. It’s a place where everyone should feel welcomed and loved, and should not feel like an outcast.
Unfortunately the church has become more of a country club where if you don’t share the same political views or wear certain clothes or look a certain way, you are not welcomed. It has become a place of hypocrisy and condemnation. We care more about the color of carpet than our neighbor next door.
We are faced with situations where we see injustice, corruption, abuse, and hatred, but are too fearful to stand up for what is right because of what others might think. For instance, a little church out of Topeka, Kansas became infamous for going to funerals of servicemen to protest for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The forty member church believed the death of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan was the result of America’s tolerance for homosexuality. The church’s mission was to show up at funerals unannounced picketing, holding hate signs. I can’t imagine how families of the deceased felt seeing hateful signs that said: “Thank God for Dead Soldiers. God Hates America. Jews Killed Jesus. God Hates Jews. God Hates Fags. Fags Doom Nations.” Wow! A time of mourning for a loved one turned into a nightmare. No one stood up to counter their hatred until 2000 bikers created a human barrier to stop their plans to picket at a staff sergeant’s funeral in Hinesville, Georgia. In recent years, they have been met with counter protest which has derailed their hateful mission.
I have always cringed when people of faith spread hatred in the name of God. As a Christian, churches like Westboro or any other supposedly religious organizations who have preached hatred does not represent my religious belief and what I know about Jesus’ teaching. The teachings of Jesus were centered on love: For God so loved the world; love your neighbor as you love yourself; love your enemies; do not judge, and the list goes on. Anything that is preached contrary to what Jesus said is anti-Christ. If we do not stand up to condemn injustice and hatred towards people who do not have the same belief or political values as we do; people who have been bullied to the point of committing suicide because of their lifestyle; people who have been abused and taken advantage of, we are simply endorsing the hatred, the abuse, the bullying, and the injustice.
Unfortunately, the media focuses more on stories that encourage division and hatred, but there are people who stand up for justice and speak out in the face of evil. A picture surfaced on the internet of people picketing at a high school holding signs with hateful and derogatory words. Some motorists were even honking showing their support as they passed by. No one stood up against their hatred until a young boy wrote a small sign with words, “God Does Not Hate Anyone” and stood in front of one of the signs. The picture of the boy was all over the internet. It took a lot of courage to do that. Standing up for what is right can be costly at times. It can mean rejection, being ridiculed, and even risking our lives. People like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. did stand up for what was right and paid the ultimate price.
Are we willing to stand up for what is right? Going outside of our comfort zone to help our neighbor? What we say or do can make a difference. If we all loved our neighbor, the world would be a better place.