Beyond skin color
Q: How can I pray about prejudice and discrimination?
A: When I moved from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Norway when I was 13, one of the first things on my mind was making friends. I would often look up new acquaintances on Facebook and send them a friend request. The problem was, I didn’t exactly know how Facebook worked, so there was one guy I friend requested several times, not realizing that he had already denied my request twice.
As soon as I figured out what had happened, I felt a lot of emotions: anger, confusion, hurt. I felt like an outsider already and to have someone act like they didn’t want to be friends with me only made it worse. Was there something wrong with me? Did he not want to be my friend because of where I was from, or because I looked and spoke differently than he did?
It isn’t being of the same race or culture that makes us feel “in.” It’s God. It’s living in God’s kingdom.
After that, I tried to drop it, but it was definitely still bothering me. I didn’t know if I specifically was being discriminated against, but I did know there was an undercurrent in me of feeling unsettled and upset when the situation came to mind.
One day, as I took a study break and went down to the kitchen to get some snacks, this thought came to me: “Christian, what would you do if so-and-so was about to send you a friend request?”
My first thought was, “I’m going to deny his request just so he can feel what it’s like to be denied!” But just as I heard my own answer, I immediately thought, “Of course not.” From the very first day we’d lived in Norway, my parents had urged us to look past differences, look past color. As Christian Scientists, they said, we know that everyone we meet is God’s idea. We have the same creator. We express the same Mind—the Mind that knows nothing about divisions, cultural barriers, or prejudice, because it is One. And Mind is also Love, so we can only know ourselves and others as purely loved and loving; that’s the law of Love, our common Parent.
So I changed my answer. I began thinking of so-and-so with love. I thought, “As God’s son, he could never harm me; he can only reflect goodness.”
When I got back up to my room, I went on Facebook, and guess who had sent me a friend request? I was like, what?! I couldn’t believe it. But we did become friends, and to me this experience has been a helpful reminder about how to pray about discrimination and prejudice and our relationships with others.
Discrimination and prejudice disappear as we let God tell us everything we need to know about others.
One of the biggest lessons it taught me, of course, is that we really are all brothers and sisters. We don’t live in separate nations; we all live in God’s kingdom—the kingdom of heaven Jesus told us is right here, right now. Prayer can open our eyes to the presence of this kingdom, and when we truly see ourselves and our brothers there, we realize there are no outsiders. If no one is outside the kingdom, then no one is outside good, outside Love. It isn’t being of the same race or culture that makes us feel “in.” It’s God. It’s knowing that we are living in God’s kingdom as God’s offspring, because that’s God’s truth. This is a very effective way of combating prejudice, because it starts from the basis of oneness, rather than divisions.
The other helpful lesson I took away from this experience is that discrimination and prejudice disappear as we let God tell us everything we need to know about others. I was able to respond in a loving way to my friend because God talked to me first, and I listened. God showed me how to view him—as my brother, rather than as an enemy. What about if we did this for everyone we met? What if we let God show us the true individuality of each of His ideas—as spiritual, uniquely colorful, and wonderful? This isn’t hard when we know that Love is our creator, so each of us must be so loved and worthy of love.
I think of praying about discrimination as an active, ongoing thing. It isn’t just about a prayer here and there when we see prejudice. Instead, it can be about the way we are choosing to see people on a daily basis and making sure that we are letting God shape and mold our view until we all “awake, with [God’s] likeness” (Psalms 17:15).