Monday, September 14, 2009

God Is No Respecter of Any Man, Especially Snobs!


     I recently came a cross an item on the Internet that quickly grabbed my attention. While many folks claim that minorities (especially Mexican and African Americans) have no reason to complain and that racism no longer exists, this item pointed out something that is even worse than ethnic racism: It’s called snobbery!

     The item stated there is an education war going on in Texas, where the state board of education is preparing to adopt new social studies curriculum standards that will have far reaching complications. It seems that the board of education (which influences greatly the book purchasing trend throughout the nation), is arguing that the state’s social studies and history textbooks are giving “too much attention” to some of the most prominent civil rights leaders in the country, namely Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall.
     David Barton, one of these "experts," claimed Cesar Chavez "lacks the stature, impact and overall contributions of so many others."  

     Another so-called expert, evangelical minister Peter Marshall said, "To have Cesar Chavez listed next to Ben Franklin"--as in the current standards--"is ludicrous." He went on to say Chávez is not a role model who” ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation."

     The same "experts" want to eliminate Thurgood Marshall, a prominent Civil Rights leader who argued the landmark case that resulted in school desegregation and was the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court justice. He wrote that the late justice is "not a strong enough example" of an important historical figure to be presented to Texas students. They are strong enough to be honored on a US postage stampt but not good enough to be mentioned alongside Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin in a school text book?
     The item goes on to say that the board members and their appointees have complained about an "over representation of minorities" in the current social studies standards. The article also stated that this action by the board is ironic in light of the changing demographics of our country. Sadly, Latino and African-American children have the highest drop-out rates in the country, and it’s essential to ensure schools are providing students with positive role models and historical figures whose experiences reflect their own.
     There is no need on my part to reintroduce the accomplishments of Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall; their legacies of working to help poor people and minorities speak volumes as to their commitment not only to their cultural heritage, but to the country as a whole. What I do want to address is the issue of snobbery, not just good old plain snobbery, but Christian snobbery!
     Snobbery is bad behavior, just as bad as adultery, lying, cheating, stealing and baring false witness against your neighbor. However, Christian snobbery can be controlled with a contrite heart and seeing life (and mostly people) through the same eyes as Jesus.
     A normal snob is person who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those regarded as social superiors, one who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior, one who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste. Sadly, we have many such snobs in the church. Here’s what I mean!
     I can understand how some of those members of the Texas State Board of Education feel towards minorities; the State’s history is replete with incidents of blatant racism, including one I experienced when I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas back in 1961. Imagine me and a young African American friend of mine (Johnnie Jefferson) walking into a restaurant in that now great city with a sign posted on the wall stating “No Negroes or Mexicans Allowed.” And we were wearing our US Air Force uniforms!
     However, what truly set me back in this recent article is that a for a member of this same board, an evangelical minister, a man of the cloth, by the name of Peter Marshall, to make such scurrilous statements, is an abominable affront to everything Christian. Cesar Chavez is not good enough to stand next to Benjamin Franklin? This is blatant snobbery!
In the Book of Acts, chapter 10, verse 34, the Apostle Peter makes a strong and definitive statement how God views individuals, as he stated "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism. The word for favoritism is the Greek word Prosōpolēmptēs which translates as (God is) not an acceptor of persons. This Greek word is used only one time in the entire Bible. Those who have had extensive Bible studies know that when a word is used only once (maybe twice) in the Bible, it is extremely important to know that the word of God is being succinctly emphatic, as if to say, Hey, I really, really mean what I say! There can be no doubt concerning its exact meaning, whatsoever!
     We see the same emphasis again in the book of Romans 2:11, where it states, For there is no respect of persons with God. The Greek word for respect in this verse (prosōpolēmpsia) is similar to the word respect (prosōpolēmptēs) in Acts 10:14; however, this particular word adds additional emphasis that God not only is no respecter of persons, and never shows any partiality, but places the emphasis on those who when called on to give or make judgmental statements, they focus their respect on the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefer, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities.
     Throughout history mankind has always bowed to the rich, wealthy and powerful, and this has changed little in today’s society. We bow, curtsy and go bonkers in the presence of elected officials, celebrities, and the extremely wealthy captains of industry. We actually send a message to our children that “success” means you have to become wealthy and or famous. It’s no wonder the suicide rate is up so high amongst today’s youth, they feel they have failed if they don’t arrive in that stratosphere. But God doesn’t see the rich, wealthy, powerful or the famous that way. He merely sees each one of His creation in an objective manner, providing each one of us all with wisdom to make the right choices and waits to see how each will play out their life. For those who seek Him and His guidance, He is ready willing and able to provide a formula that works in all aspects of our lives.
     The sad part about this evangelistic minister is that he above the other board members should know that revering others, holding them in higher esteem than the ordinary folks in our society, is not part of the Christian ethos. Evangelical ministers are supposed to be the biblical learned and setting examples for others to follow. Yet, this minister makes a distinction that one can understand why the unbeliever would make, but the minister should know better!
     Sadly, many more people in the “church” than ever before – I’m speaking primarily about some of its leaders – believe they have arrived at the pinnacle of Christian success if they can get their latest book published, it lands on the New York Times Top Ten Best Selling List and it’s selling millions of copies (which instantly excludes me from this group). Or they may have recorded the latest Gospel tune, and recently received an award for “Best Gospel Song” of the year from one of those recording communities; or they may have been on the front cover of a national magazine and or have been listed as one of the top religious leader in the country. Many of them receive certificates, plaques and other commendations from local elected officials for their endeavors, and many believe those types of ministerial efforts will ensure them great rewards in the afterlife, and often will say to others and themselves, “Hey, did you see what I accomplished for God?”
     Yes, many Christians adore and need their popular evangelical leaders and they give them much praise for their accomplishments. Many of them even extol bragging rights and tell other Christians that “I belong to that guy’s church, and he is so cool and so amazing.” But when it comes time to helping the poor neighbor, they have no time because they are on their way to church because, "Mr. Cool is preaching tonight!"
     When Jesus Christ returns to reign on earth for an eternity, He will be rewarding and assigning true believers to special posts in His administration. Some will be seated next to Him in high and lofty places. Others will barely make it into His Kingdom. Actually, many will be shocked they are sitting way down by the entrance to Heaven’s Gate. And then they will stare in amazement as they see many people sitting next to Christ they never knew existed, nor much less heard anything about.

     For instance, they may see a young lady sitting next to Jesus, holding a small child who was abandoned in a dumpster, one of God’s precious children. But, had it not been for this young woman finding the baby and restoring it to health, the child dies! This young lady had very little or no money, she earned her keep by washing and ironing the clothes of an elderly couple down the street, barely able to pay rent on her one room apartment. She wasn’t known by hardly anyone in her neighborhood; but she always took in stray children, those street urchins with no home, and washed and bathed them, and fed them with what little food she had.
     Back down the entrance of Heaven’s Gate is that irritated, handsome guy with coiffed hair, looking kind of like a rock star, turns to another similar guy next to him and asks, “What did she do to get way up there?” How come I’m not seated next to Christ? I had a forty thousand member mega church, I wrote million dollar-selling books, and I had my own TV show on an international religious network. I filled stadiums at my revival meetings and brought in millions and millions to build one of the most beautiful church buildings in the US. Hey? I belong up there!
     Then Jesus, looking down at that poor soul complaining about his positional status in the Kingdom of God, will say to him, “This young lady, with virtually no resources whatsoever, gave practically all she had to feed and bathe many lost children; she was faithful in a few things, and I will put her in charge of many.”
     Hopefully, as we continue this long journey called life, we will be able to see through God’s heart, with the ability to look to the persons to our right and to our left, with different color of skin, with a language unique to their culture, with differing degrees of skills and talents, from different social and economic levels and regions, understanding that each and every living human being is here because God created them for a specific purpose, no better or no worse than each of us.
     What we do here on earth, while there is still time, will not be viewed by God the way mankind sees things. Mankind is still wrapped up in its version of success; revering others more so on how much money, fame and power they have.
     And you? How well known are you? How much power do you have and how many people do you control? How much property do you own, how many shares of stock, IRA's, high yielding deposits? It doesn't matter to God, because He is no respecter of men....but He does look deeply into your heart, which to Him is more valuable than anything you can ever gain on eaerth!
     Who knows, maybe in the next life, our positional status in the Kingdom of God will be at a level we never expected. Now, me, I just hope to get there by the skin of my teeth. How about you?

[Joe Ortiz is the author of two books that challenge the Left Behind and Pre-Tribulation Rapture, and dispensational premillennial precepts and doctrines being promoted by many right-wing evangelicals. The two books include The End Times Passover (Etymological Challenges to Millenarian Doctrines) and Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation (The Sequel to The End Times Passover). The former talk show host, journalist and news columnist is the first Mexican American to host a show on an English-language, commercial radio station, beginning in 1971 at KABC-AM Radio in Los Angeles.]

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