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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 31 of the 50 Day Spiritual Adventure

Today I'm reading Leviticus 19:32-34.

Real racism is pretty easy to spot. It's obvious, ugly and repulsive - like a nasty cold sore on your lip. You see it every time you look in the mirror.

Prejudice is a lot more subtle, and therefore harder to root out, even for Christians. It can be so deeply rooted that we don't see it or even question whether or not we are prejudiced. Of course we're not!! Maybe we need to look a little harder.

This hit home for me when I was visiting one of our mission partners in northern India. It was a very effective ministry that worked exclusively with Bhangi Dalits. The word 'dalit' literally means 'ground down' like one might grind lentils into a powder. We call them 'untouchable' but the Bhangi Dalits are the very bottom rung of the Hindu caste system. For more than a thousand years their casted has been considered to be sub-human, not welcome at any Hindu rituals, not able to walk down the same side of the street as any upper caste. The only jobs they are traditionally allowed to do are to clean human waste from latrines or handle dead bodies. Each day in the rural villages the women clean the latrines by hand and the men haul away the waste in carts to the dump at edge of the village. At evening the children go to the homes and beg for pennies or scraps of food. The women get their clothes from the dead bodies of upper caster corpses because the clothes a person dies in are considered unclean. That's how they've lived for over a thousand years. It's the worst kind of slavery.

The ministry has seen tremendous success in freeing the Dalits from the yoke of the caste by teaching them that there is a God for the Bhangis. And whole villages are turning to Christ, so much so that the ministry can't keep up with enough trained pastors. Great problem to have.

One of the controversial things about this particular ministry is that they work exclusively with Bhangi Dalits. I asked the founder why. He said even if they were to work with people in the next caste up - those who deal with animal waste and dead animals - as soon as this caste would get involved they would automatically assume they should be in charge and they would never agree to be led by someone from a lower caste. That's how powerful the whole caste mentality is in Hinduism. It is deeply ingrained prejudice - and most Indians can't see it. It's just the way it is and they accept it purely as normal.

When you are too close to prejudice it is hard to see it.

Sometimes it is scriptures like this one that force us to at least examine what it is we really believe, and what is actually going on in the attitudes of our hearts.

The logic for Israel was that they were once the foreigners in a strange land. They were once immigrants who went into Egypt looking for a place to live and belong. So, they should be the ones most open to help other people in need.

Don't take the easy way out. Don't just dismiss these verses. The context does not automatically apply to our nations debate about immigrants, but at least think and pray about your attitude toward the immigrant population that exists all around us.


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