My mother was a lover of Broadway musicals, and because of that, she often played their soundtracks on the record player. I spent a lot of my early years being indoctrinated by the songs of “Sound of Music,” “Camelot,” “Porgy and Bess,” and “Carrousel.”
In recent days I have been reminded of the Broadway musical storyline of “South Pacific” (1949). The story is of a Naval American nurse stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II, who falls in love with a middle-aged expatriate French plantation owner but struggles to accept his mixed-race children. Songwriters Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein received a great deal of criticism for the songs, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” for its blatant racial overtones.
“You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
One legislator at that time in history said that “a song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the American way of life.” I am grateful for those involved in this musical stuck to their convictions and overcame the pressure to eliminate the song from the show because it made a powerful impression on me.
I went to high school in the late ’60’s-early ’70’s. I can remember standing outside the school building because the fire drill bell rang and dismissed students due to racial rioting. I thank God my sons have not had the experience of overt rioting in their schools. Having said that, we still have a long way to go in the area of racial harmony. The only way this can be accomplished is through intentional teaching and taking time to learn compassion for all.
Because of the racial tension that has become so glaringly obvious, I am wondering if we have been lax in our teaching of the value of the individual…every individual. We need to be “in-your-face” intentional in order to put an end to intolerance of any kind.
We have been so deliberate during this pandemic to end this virus through quarantine, constant and thorough handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. Because of this, we are seeing this dreaded virus flatlining. How can this be translated into deliberate, calculated, intentional acceptance of all people, to begin to flatline bigotry, hatred, and disdain? We’ve got to be carefully taught.
Jesus said, “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). The Amplified Bible goes further in definition, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Moral excellence means to take a stand, bend a knee, or extend a hand and be willing to be seen and take the heat for it if necessary. We must be intimately in touch with Christ, the Giver of all compassion, to be able to be an endless source of compassion to all people.
Jesus was the first to cross the boundary lines to extend a hand of acceptance to those outside his class and race. Because of it, he was a target for ridicule and punishment. Can we expect any less?
When was the last time you were ridiculed for your moral excellence? In other words, when have you lived out Christ in such a way that you have valued all others, giving them esteem for who they are and where they have come from? Remember, “you’ve got to be carefully taught,” so live a life of God-given compassion and be that object lesson for others.
written by Major Lauren Hodgson, Spiritual Life Development Department, USA East