There are many that will claim that they don’t have a prejudiced bone in their body. One can only hope they are telling the truth. I for one think every person on the planet is prejudiced toward something.
The incident that caused my mind to go in this direction was the news story about the death of Westboro Church founder Fred Phelps. Phelps was a man who preached pure hatred toward the homosexual community. He even suggested that the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School was God’s form of punishment for our nation’s acceptance of homosexuality.
Phelps and his group picketed the funeral of a young slain gay man. They also picketed funerals of soldiers killed in the line of duty. The picketing included small children carrying signs that read “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”
The comments on the news story were mostly speaking about their disdain for Phelps and his followers. I didn’t have time to research to see if there were any condolences offered. That could have taken a while.
Growing up in North Canton Elementary, one of, if not my best friend at school, was a young African-American named Clarence Durham. We partnered up on every sporting event made available to us. We were close friends and even at our young age talked about the prejudice in the world.
We were actually inseparable at school. However, we didn’t do any sleepovers like we both did with boys of our own races. Cherokee County had not progressed that far in 1970.
Just prior to us entering high school, there had been several racially motivated fights at Cherokee High. When Clarence and I started as freshmen, we continued to walk the halls together and did nothing to hide our friendship. I like to think we played a very small part, but the days of racial fighting ended shortly after we arrived.
My daddy was in the National Guard. My brother Craig has served three tours overseas. Their service to our country ended when they came home. Like all of our military men and women, they fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. I guess they both have a courage I never had. I’ve done nothing but enjoy the freedoms our military has provided.
It is unthinkable to me that anyone would picket the funeral of a slain soldier. It is deplorable to think someone would picket a funeral of someone slain for their sexual orientation. It is inexcusable to picket the funeral of anyone. I know we have come a long way, but that picketing would not have occurred in the days of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. They would have “handled” it.
A young woman came to me this week to ask a question. She is married to another woman and both are Baptists. She asked me if I knew of a Baptist church close by that they could go to without being labeled as outcasts. She went on to say that she had e-mailed several churches and explained their situation and the answer was common with each response.
She made it very clear they don’t want to cause an issue for any church. They just want to worship. But the standard answer they were given was that they could come as long as they didn’t take part in anything.
There is not one ounce of Christianity in me that would support a man like Fred Phelps. Many of the comments spoke of his prejudice filled with hate.
So does prejudice really exist today in our conservative community? Without a doubt it does. It doesn’t matter if it is due to race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or any of the other discriminatory reasons. It does exist.
Oh, I don’t know of anyone like Fred Phelps or his followers in our community. Many times prejudice is hidden. But it’s like the old saying, “You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.”
When we truly start seeing people instead of labels, we can once again have revivals like in days past and gone. Without God, it is impossible.
When Daddy was a boy, North Canton School let out classes when the church was having revival. Many churches today have had to change their revival week to accommodate the new school schedule. I guess our priorities have changed.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.