In my Lenten reflection time, I note that we move from Black History Month in February to Women’s History Month in March. On one hand, there is much to celebrate in both recognitions, but on the other hand, why do we need to highlight “Black” and “Women” as special objects of attention? It would be so offensive to have “White Male History Month,” but an argument can be made that – still, to this day – every month is “White Male History Month.” In terms of attention, justice, awareness, equality, and fairness, it seems that the only way we can celebrate anyone other than white men is to designate a special “month.” This is sad, and this is wrong. Women, Chinese, African, Korean, Hispanic, Latino, European, Indonesian, Russian, Laotian, and a thousand other cultures, ethnicities, races, heritages, and histories should be celebrated each and every day of each and every year. We should celebrate brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, men and women as beloved children of God regardless of any human drawn boundary or limit.
At the same time, we should celebrate our diversity, but not just of culture, language, race, gender or skin color. Each of us is a snowflake – unique, wondrously made, one-of-a-kind. Each of us has a foundational personality through which we process knowledge, experience, information, talent, passion, interest, vocation, gifts, and sense of purpose. There should be a day to honor and celebrate every human being who walks upon this earth. If such attention were given, perhaps we would be a kinder, gentler, more compassionate, and merciful people. To look at each difference with gratitude and awe could change our whole way of thinking, acting, and being. Were we to see the gift of each child of God, perhaps we would stop looking for deficiencies, divisions, and reasons to judge and reject others.
Black History Month and Women’s History Month are reminders that we have not found the best ways to honor each other. No race, class, category, or background is superior to any other. There are remarkable individuals in every walk of life. There are special groups and wonderful achievements and incredible stories. No one group has claim to privilege or entitlement. If we have learned nothing else in our United States history, please let us have learned this!
Let us live out Paul’s admonition to the church at Corinth: “If one member (of the body of Christ) suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (12:26, NRSV) Let us celebrate the amazing achievements of black human beings, female human beings, Asian human beings, South American human beings, African human beings, European human beings, Eurasian human beings, Aboriginal human beings, Filipino human beings – let us celebrate the glorious gift of all human beings. Lent is a time to reflect on all our blessings, and how fortunate we are to be children of God, regardless of the month or the cultural construct. Allow the power of the Christ to break down every dividing wall, to put an end to hostilities and divisions, and to unite us in our baptism and our confession. Thanks be to God for this Lenten time. Amen.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).