Trolls 2 took the country by storm this past Spring because it was released as a new movie directly to Video on Demand. Children watched from their homes as Poppy and her friends set out on another great adventure. Poppy learned important lessons about listening to others and everyone learned about the beauty of having unique personalities and different styles of music.
The villain of the story (Queen Barb) has a desire to unite all troll kingdoms by bringing all trolls together under the banner of rock music. This task is accomplished by stealing the music strings of other trolls and essentially abolishing their forms of music (country, techno, pop, classical, and funk). In the end, Barb learns that trolls can be united while still expressing their emotions differently through various forms of music. I get it…this seems superfluous and doesn’t make much sense, but the movie is fun and has a great soundtrack. The thing is–the movie provides a great analogy for thinking about ethnic diversity.
We currently live in a world full of racism. Almost everyone is racist on some level, but most people like to think they are not a part of the problem. In reality, everyone is the problem because everyone is infected with sin. In order to truly abolish racism, we would have to abolish race. What this means is that every people group would have to lose their ethnic identity. This identity is built around skin color, education, geographic location, nationality, and societal traditions. But if we abolished all the things that make people unique, we would not really be united, we would just be bland.
We (all people) need to embrace our skin colors, we need to embrace the traditions based on our society, our education, and our geographic location. We also need to embrace our nationalities. No one should have to feel ashamed of who they are because of the color of their skin. No one should feel ashamed because of their education or lack thereof. No one should feel ashamed because they are from the north or south, the country or the city, this side of town or that side of town, etc. And no one should have to feel ashamed because of their nationality.
In reality, people of all skin colors have done great good and great evil. People in all parts of the world have done great good and great evil. People in all countries have done great good and great evil. When we embrace our traditions, when we embrace the things that make us who we are…we should cling to the good. We should promote the good and help it flourish. We should also remember the bad. We should be aware of the things our countries have done that were wrong…knowing our past mistakes helps us refrain from making the same mistakes again and again.
Being proud of who we are does not require us to be proud of all the things we have ever done. Everybody has regrets, everybody wishes they could do some things differently or over again.
One of the things I love the most about the Bible is that every character is portrayed in a real manner. Adam did wonderful things and he loved God, but he also made very poor choices. Noah loved God and was saved from the flood, then he got drunk on wine from his own vineyard he planted after God destroyed the world. David was a man after God’s own heart, but he orchestrated the death of another man so that he could have his wife. In the Bible, we see people for their goodness and for the sinfulness.
When we look at social media today, most people only want the world to see their good. We take 30 pictures of our kids and then put up the only one where everyone was looking at the camera. In our history books, the winners present the situation as if they are the ones with the moral high ground, we don’t like the world to see the places where our victories or actions were not justified.
People like to hide their sins and they like to pretend that the bad things in their life didn’t happen. But bad things happen to everybody. We all have personal sin and we all live in places where communal sins have occurred. Our neighborhoods have sinned, our cities have sinned, our counties have sinned, our states have sinned, our countries have sinned.
Our past sins do not define who we are. Our past mistakes ought not prevent us from being better in the future. We have an opportunity to change for the better. In order to change, we must acknowledge the past as we look to the future.
We should not desire a lack of racial distinctions. We should embrace them.
Recently I was told that I could not be a Christian and be patriotic. There is nothing in the Bible that says we cannot love our countries. We should not be worshipping our countries or making our worship services more focused on patriotism than on our Christian faith, but we can love God and love our country. We just need to keep our priorities straight in doing so. We need not make an idol of our country.
Where I grew up there were primarily white families and Hispanic families. Each group had a number of shared traditions, but each group also had a number of traditions that were unique. To this day, I feel very comfortable being a part of any Hispanic tradition. They are familiar to me. If I was asked to attend a Quinceanera today, I would be perfectly at ease throughout the celebration. If I was asked to attend a Bar Mitzvah I would probably not be very comfortable at all because I have never been a part of such a celebration and I would be unfamiliar with all the things that occur at the event.
What we do not understand often makes us uncomfortable, but those things need not make us fearful. Our unique traditions and practices make us who we are. People living on the East Coast are different than those on the West Coast. Those in the South in Texas are different than those in the South in Georgia.
Our diversity is beautiful, and it is to be celebrated. We cannot celebrate what we are ashamed of. Instead of living in shame over past cultural sins, we should learn from the sins, embrace the good, and find the beauty in our differences. Moving on does not mean forgetting–it requires educating and becoming better. And the best way to squash fears about those who are different, is becoming educated to other practices and traditions of groups who are different from our own.
This week, I implore you, think about what makes you unique. Think about what traditions you hold dear. Think about what traditions may need to change. Think about what traditions make you nervous, and then think about what you can do to become more familiar with them.
Think about how you can be a better neighbor and how you can further God’s kingdom by loving others through learning about their traditions and their backgrounds.
We do not need less racial diversity, we need to see the beauty in other races and their traditions. We need to see people for who they are and not for what about them makes us uncomfortable. We need to celebrate our differences!! We need to embrace our unique traditions!! We need to learn to share the world with people of other ethnicities by recognizing their value, showing them dignity, and learning about their cultures.