Donald Trump has done it again, he has managed to insult all eleven million people of Haiti and a pile more in some countries of Africa. He did it with a vulgar comment. He called those places “shit-hole countries,” (Pardon my french!) And then he actually made a comparison to show how much better Norway was and asks why can’t we get more of them to America? It is shocking to hear those kinds of descriptors from the president of a country that prides itself on being a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. Maybe that is another problem, melting!
Margaret Mead and James Baldwin once had a conversation on America that went like this:
MEAD: It isn’t a melting pot, is it?
BALDWIN: No, it isn’t. Nobody ever got melted. People aren’t meant to be melted.
MEAD: That old image from World War I is a bad image: to melt everyone down.
BALDWIN: Because people don’t want to be melted down. they resist it with all their strength.
MEAD: Of course! Who wants to be melted down?
BALDWIN: Melted down into what? It’s a very unfortunate image.
I love this conversation. It’s hilarious, yes, and I agree, people weren’t made to be melted down! People all have an identity. I carry continually around in me dutch ancestry. And its true of us dutchies: wooden shoes, wooden head, wouldn’t budge! I am proud of my heritage. And you are probably too of yours. No one asked my permission though to be dutch or to like Gouda or to be anything? We are who we are. Every last one is uniquely made and shaped by many factors. Deep down in every person’s heart is a desire to be real, accepted, loved and to make a difference in this world.
Trump isn’t the first to show prejudice, it has been around as long as man has. A nice guy named Nathanael once heard about this new prophet in town and asked where he came from. Philip said, “Nazareth.” That was all Nathanael needed to hear to discount this new prophet guy named Jesus. He says, my paraphrase: “Are you kidding me! Can anything good come out of that shit-hole Nazareth?” (Apparently Nathanael spoke french too! Pardon!)
But Philip wisely said, “Come, see for yourself.”
The biblical record agrees that Nazareth was so obscure that it wasn’t even mentioned once in the Old Testament. It was a rude and crude place where they spoke with an accent belittled by the whole population. They even had a label for those who came from that area, ‘Galilean!’ That word was not a compliment, but a racist epithet. And guess what, this despised place is Jesus hometown for thirty years!
Isn’t it so much like God to do something like this? Mmhm. “Lets make sure that Jesus goes and lives in the fringes!” (Fringes = the backwater, the wrong side of the tracks, the trailer park, Hicksville, a s-hole of a place)! Paul reiterated this weird way of God, that is to chose men and women that the culture of the day overlooked and exploited and abused, the nobodies, and God does this why? This is the point: “To expose the hollow pretensions of the somebodies.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 Whoa! That’s God!
With one little word, ‘Nazareth’, Nathanael was immediately blinded to the amazing possibilities of the grandeur of Jesus.
I am sure that many Africans and Haitians today wished they could live in a country like Canada or France, (maybe not the USA right now). Life has not been easy for them. Earthquakes and poverty and famines… But imagine, to hear a man from the highest position of authority of one of the wealthiest countries say that they don’t count, that they come from an outhouse country; must be devastatingly humiliating. How can this president or anyone be so blind to the beauty of whole races and cultures? But yet, maybe, hopefully, his insensitive comments might have the opposite affect too. May it spur them on to greatness.
My first language was Dutch. I was so good at speaking dutch that when I went to school for grade one in New Brunswick I didn’t understand what was going on. I must have looked overwhelmed. The school told my parents to stop speaking Dutch in the home so I could catch up. But to this day I still have a slight accent when I speak English. I have often been asked if I come from Newfoundland or Ireland!
But though I experienced some language challenges young, I was taught well that I am a unique-never-to-be-repeated-creation of God! This God knew that one day the Dutch boy who barely passed grade one would speak for Him not only in English, but in Thai and now in French, (accent and all)!
I love this question, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” It reminds me that what God is after is not my pedigree, my nationality, my invincibility, nor my brilliance, my superpowers, my perfect accent, or my attempts to do great things, He is after the real me! He chose me, and He called me by my name.
So here’s the thing, this amazing guy that spent his childhood, teenage years and young adulthood living in the worst of place in Israel, from this, um, outhouse town, Nazareth, comes God’s very best. And before Jesus did anything significant, not a single miracle, not one public teaching, the Father breaks his silence and says, “I am so proud of this one, that’s my son (accent and all)!”
That’s why I believe that when God looks at you and I and every Haitian and whoever, you get the point, He doesn’t see us through the filter of disgust, disappointment or doubt. He doesn’t see our skin colour, eye-shape or hear our funny accent… He just sees us through grace and love. He knows you have His DNA and he knows that He can inspire you, develop you, and deploy you to be a blessing no matter where you were born.