Created Equal

One of our favorite summer time activities is people-watching in a small park one block from where we live. Jane Byrne Park, named for a late former mayor, is flanked by the iconic Water Tower, a high gothic tower, part of the old pumping station across the street, still providing water from Lake Michigan to Chicagoans. The structures are two of the few that survived the great Chicago fire, separated by Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile: high end hotels, department stores, boutiques. Pedestrian traffic on one side of Michigan Avenue has to walk through the little park so it is a very busy place. Late in the afternoon we walk to the park, sit on one of the benches that surround the fountain, and watch. What we see is stunning, inspiring even. Children cannot resist the fountain and immediately head for it, dip small fingers and sometimes strip off shoes and socks and wade in, to the consternation of their parents. Tourists take pictures backed by the Water Tower. The city, the entire wonderfully diverse city, walks by: sight-seeing tourists, business people striding purposefully with briefcase and cell phone in hand, lots of families and young people, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, people of all colors, sizes and shapes and stations in life. It is what my country is becoming. It is what America, at its best, strives to be: “E Pluribus Unum”, “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor..,” “We the People…” It has always inspired me – a nation intentionally welcoming to its shores and citizenship everyone and in the process, over its two and a half century history, creating, not only the most diverse nation on earth, but also its most creative, innovative, energetic and lively.

And that, I fear, is what is under assault from the Office of the President of the United States of America all the way to the sick psyches of White Nationalist Racists who are not at all inspired by our beautiful diversity, but appalled and frightened to death of it. The President almost daily degrades people of color, their neighborhoods and countries, tells them to go back where they came from, ignoring or ignorant of the fact that most are American citizens. So much for E Pluribus Unum.

Someone asked recently where the man and his supporters and apologists went to Sunday School. Sunday School where we learned to sing:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and Yellow, Black and White,
All are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

That simple little childhood Sunday School song actually contains the radical foundational message of Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament, fundamental to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Human beings are created equal by the creator and furthermore given dignity and value and worth by the very image of the Creator each one bears within, not just the white ones but all of them.

Jesus loves the little children of the world,
All the children,
All are precious in his sight..

It is the most provocative, revolutionary idea in the world and it is directly, precisely reflected in the foundational documents of the United States of America: The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The Declaration was approved by a unanimous vote of congress on July 4, 1776 and it boldly announces:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,
That among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Of course, the men who adopted that document with its revolutionary idea – “all created equal” – did not themselves live up to it. Some of them were slave owners and it never occurred to all but a few of them that the equality they celebrated rhetorically included women, their wives and daughters. It took a century and a tragic civil war to finally deal with slavery and another century to bring women fully into the equation. And, in a sense, equality is still an aspiration for both African-Americans and women. But we are still very much at it, trying to bring to reality the Founders’ noble ideal.

So the President’s rhetoric about immigrants and people of color is a direct affront to the foundation of Judeo-Christian Religion and the founding ideals and values of our nation. Does his racist rhetoric have repercussions? Of course it does. I am writing two days after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, most of the more than 30 deaths Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans, reflecting the impulses shooters hear coming from the President.

We simply must deal with the epidemic of violence inspired by angry racism and White Supremacy, and here in Chicago by the deadly combination of drugs, gangs and easily accessible weapons across our state lines in Indiana and Wisconsin. The weapons of choice in mass shootings are military style combat weapons, designed not for hunting or target shooting, but for killing as many people as efficiently and quickly as possible.

But first we must, all of us, remember and reflect on the basis of our faith and/or the noblest ideals and aspirations of this uniquely beautiful nation of ours. David Brooks says the task before us now is “rebuilding the moral infrastructure of our country.” People of faith, I believe, have a special responsibility here. And maybe a good way to do that just might be to sing that little song we learned in Sunday School…

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Comments

  1. Barbara Fountain says:

    Right on! God help us all.

  2. Morgan Simmons says:

    Good morning, John, What a great way to begin this beautiful day – with simplicity and profundity in magnificent balance! I’ll be forwarding your message widely. Best love to you and Sue from Mary and me, Morgan

  3. Lynn DeJong says:

    Thank you for giving voice to the very song that has been going through my head since this madness started – red and yellow black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world. The support for the current occupant and his sycophants by Christians is simply beyond my understanding anymore. Ultimately, it really is as simple as living your neighbor as yourself – and it doesn’t get any simpler than that for those who follow Christ.

  4. Jane Mykrantz says:

    As always bless you and thank you For ALL the little children of the world Cheers to you and Sue as you continue people watching in the park- Jane Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. Susan T Redfield says:

    So vividly and poignantly stated. Thank you for sharing. Susan

  6. Victoria Brander says:

    Yes yes yes

  7. Ruth Beckman says:

    Thank you, dear DrJohn

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  8. Stanley Smith says:

    “ Unalienable rights bestowed by God”
    is the essence of the Constitution of the United States
    because it represents a world view that rights are bestowed by God
    and not by the state.

    “ Multiculturalism “ reflects the world view of a white person,
    which is what one has from the vantage point of Water Tower Park.
    I suggest the corner of 64th and Kimbark.

  9. We certainly sang “Jesus loves the little children” and lots of other songs in Sunday School. Our musician played on a little portable electric organ with handles on the side that chaplains used in Korea. I got so frustrated when Cokesbury started writing songs accompanied by tapes that were keyed to the theme of Vacation Bible School curricula. These are eminently forgettable. So a whole generation of children has not learned the songs we knew. In our town, the organist at our Presbyterian Church was a faithful member of her local Southern Baptist Church. She played the piano for Sunday School at her church and came over to us in time for the morning service. One day I found her in the choir room weeping. She told me that after playing “Jesus loves the little children,” one child had innocently asked if that meant God loved “nigra” children, too. (This was in the 1990s.) She had had a firm talk with the child, but knew that such doubts had been implanted by his parents, a well-known couple in local society, and was greatly upset that they had implanted their prejudice into their little son. I hope that little boy learned from that talk with his Sunday School song leader. I fear that too many in Mississippi never were fortunate enough to have someone like our organist in their lives.

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