By Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell
Years ago, a white ministerial colleague of mine, shared this story about his white congregation and their experience with their young organist who was black.*
My colleague said that at first there was resistance in the congregation to their new and young organist because of his race. But in time, their negative attitudes were transformed by his musical gifts and by his personality. Many of the older persons in the congregation "adopted" him as their grandson. He as a person became more important to them, than his race. I missed seeing my colleague for a few months. The next time I saw him I asked about the organist and the congregation. He said this; "Gil, he developed a serious illness and died suddenly. The grief in the congregation was a kind of grief I had not experienced before. I realized that for many persons in the congregation, getting to know and love the black organist was the first time they had known a black person as a person and not as some-less than person created by years of prejudice". Then he said; "Gil, when he died, this was the first time many persons had ever grieved over the death of a black person whom they had come to know. His life and then his death transformed the bigotry and, "the hate that they had been taught by the time they were 7 or 8". (From South Pacific)
The "protection" of marriage as an institution, has become for some, much like the "protection" of segregation as an institution, that I experienced in North Carolina where I was born and Texas where I spent my teen-age years. Apparently for some, it is easier to maintain the status quo of institutions than it is to affirm the God-given humanity of LGBT persons and same gender loving couples. How many of them must live and die, before church and society affirm them?
Throughout my ministry some persons have asked why I consistently in my writing and speaking, use illustrations that are race-based. I respond by saying that I do this because in my remembering of my racial experience and history, I am better able to understand and respond to the struggles of others. This I believe is what Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor was saying about her experience as a Latina. If I am unable or unwilling to allow my experience as an African American male, to influence my understandings of the bias and bigotry others experience, I compromise the meaning of my experience.