We have a way to go yet…

Opinion – By Murray Bridges, Senor Leader, Bridges Church.

New Zealand’s national anthem stands out as remarkable in many respects. It is actually a passionate plea or to use the song’s own expression an ‘intreaty’ for help. God knows we need all the help we can get in Aotearoa. In the late 1970’s we started singing “God Defend New Zealand’ written about 100 years earlier, in favour of our other national anthem “God Save The Queen.”

With five verses carrying deeply stirring sentiments, the second verse stood out to me this week.

It begins “Men of every creed and race, gathered here before Thy face, asking thee to bless this place…”

If we’re honest our human rights and racial record has been disgraceful in New Zealand.

Being appropriately described as a bi-cultural nation (Māori and pakeha – or non-Maori ) we are in reality a multi-cultural country. Māori people (and Māoritanga -customs, cultural practices, beliefs) are nominally honoured as the indigenous, or the original people but it has not always been that way. Today we are a potpourri or an amalgam of races but this in itself has done little to dissipate the racial divides that exist in our land.

The shocking recent death of an African American man apprehended by four policemen in Minneapolis rightly attracted worldwide attention. Video showed him on the ground. He pled for his life, handcuffed, with a policeman’s knee pressed on his neck. “I can’t breath,” he repeated as minutes scrolled by. Horrified witnesses called for restraint as he slowly succumbed.

There were evidently many wonderful things about George Floyd – his family and friends along with those whose lives were changed for good by his influence will miss this gentle giant of a man. He was committed to helping others and ‘being the change you want to see’ turning his own life around.

To die in the circumstances George did at 46 years of age is an outrageous tragedy. As senseless as it was, might George’s death awaken or deepen our commitment to respect and honour one another regardless of race or creed? If it provoked us individually to take a good hard look at ourselves, it would be a redemptive thing…to take ruthless personal inventory of our own racial attitudes, prejudices, pre-judged misconceptions of others, subtle pride and superiority.

Is there deeply ingrained, irrational suspicion of another race in us? Where there is effect, there’s cause and often that cause may be as subtle as a passed on attitude. It doesn’t take much…a subtle dig here or there, a grudge, an expression of intolerance or derisive throw-away. Devoid of any real basis prejudice can perpetuate from family to family down through generational lines.

Shamefully religion has been at the forefront of promoting social and racial inequalities.

However where true authentic Christianity is practised, it repudiates favouritism, partiality or ‘respect of persons’ head on calling it sin…the injunction to ‘love our neighbour as ourselves’ leaves absolutely no wriggle room for attributing to any person, less or greater value than anyone else.

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