We seem to be afraid of everything and everybody these days. Immigrants, refugees, people who will take our health insurance away, or cut funding to the Arts. There are a lot of people with money, power and authority, and that makes us queasy when we don’t know how they will exercise that power and how it will affect us and our lives.
I had two brushes early in life when I felt entitled, yet discriminated against.
In high school I was nominated for a scholarship from the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The nominations came from our teachers and then there were forms to fill out. After a few weeks I was notified that I was a finalist. Almost within a day, another call came telling me that I was out of the running for the scholarship because I couldn’t trace my U.S. heritage back to the Revolution (both sets of grandparents were immigrants from Poland and Ireland in the late 1800’s). The scholarship application didn’t ask for information about my heritage, but none the less, I was no longer eligible. But God provided with other scholarships so I could be the first in my family to graduate from college.
My second brush with discrimination came during my third year of college when I was playing golf for the University of Oklahoma. I’d come home during the Summer to work at the local pharmacy and play golf at the 9-hole club my parents belonged to. I’d won the Junior Championship when I was 16 and 17, and this Summer I registered to compete in the Women’s Championship. The pairings were set for the first round when I had a visit from one of the ladies at the club while I was on duty at the pharmacy. “I’m sorry to inform you, but you aren’t eligible to play in the Women’s Championship, since you are playing on your parent’s membership.” I asked where that was in the by-laws and was told that it wasn’t. The issue had never come up before so the ladies’ committee had “voted” to exclude anyone who was not the wife of a voting member (women couldn’t hold their own voting membership in those days). So, I didn’t compete in the women’s championship for the remainder of my college career, even though the other girls that I played with from Oklahoma and Texas had all won Women’s Championships at their own clubs.
What motivates people to discriminate, or exert power and authority to benefit themselves to the detriment of others?
The scholarship committee was afraid that I’d win and they’d have to answer to why a non-Mayflower girl should get assistance to go to college. The women at the golf club preferred not to have competition; it was easier to vote me out than to beat me on the golf course.
In today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 17:1-9) of the Transfiguration, we read how Jesus (and us) are the beloved sons and daughters of God, “This is my Son; the Beloved; with him I am well pleased.” Rather than finding comfort and joy in their inheritance, the disciples fall to the ground, “overcome with fear.”
Jesus’ response: “Get up and do not be afraid.”
Being afraid of others and new situations is a demonstration of how weak our faith is. Jesus commanded us to get up and be not afraid. He will protect us. We don’t have to use our own power to strike out to eliminate the competition.
DO NOT BE AFRAID.