Weed your garden | Opinion

Racism and atheism are fruits of ignorance. I don’t mean that in a derogatory or demeaning way but rather in the sense that we don’t know what we don’t know. Although there are many facets that make up our human minds, two keywords are association and communication. Growing up, we associate and communicate with those around us.

For example, I happen to be a white male born and raised in a predominately white area. The only Blacks and Latinos I saw growing up were migrant workers who were working in another section of a field that we teenagers were picking beans in for the local cannery. My parents and grandparents were not racists. Thus, I had no positive or negative experiences regarding race. On the plus side, we were taught in church and Sunday school that God loves everyone regardless of race or color. People who have parents who are racists will have a negative ‘mindset’ to overcome.

When I went to boot camp, we had several Blacks in our platoon. I don’t recall any racial problems. We were trained to work as a unit regardless of race. When I went to aviation mechanic school, I became friends with a Mexican who talked me into joining the drum and bugle corps at the base. My first duty station was a small reserve training detachment. There was only one Black in our unit. We got along well and had a lot of laughs together. When I was transferred to Japan, there were several Blacks in our unit. I became good friends with one from Philadelphia. I guess we had the same interests. We spent a lot of time talking about anything and everything. I also had some good experiences with local Japanese residents.

Fast forward to today, two Blacks that I consider to be good friends are a Black pastor and a Black member of his congregation. Since I don’t presently attend his church, I don’t get to see them very often. When we meet, we don’t hesitate to greet each other with a warm hug. Thus, it is the sum total of my life experiences, both positive and negative, which have formed (made up my mind) my personal views on racism. 

Growing up, we attended a Lutheran church every Sunday. Like many kids, church didn’t interest me a whole lot. However, when I was assigned to an air station south of Boston, I was introduced to an Italian Catholic girl. We started dating and eventually decided to get engaged. When we informed our parents of our marital intentions, it was like all hell broke loose. Her father did not want his daughter marrying a Lutheran and my family did not want me to marry a Roman Catholic.

Since I was being transferred to Japan, I agreed to talk to the Catholic chaplain when I got there to find out what Catholicism was all about. When I arrived at the base in Japan, I met with the Catholic priest and attended a few training sessions. I was informed that St. Peter was the Rock on which Jesus Christ founded His church and Peter was the first pope. I converted to Roman Catholicism. Some years later another big negative occurred that pushed me over the edge. We now had two children when Ireland began having severe religious strife. Protestants and Catholics were firebombing each other’s homes and killing each other. I’d see this on TV and wonder what is wrong with these people. I became an atheist and was not silent about expressing my views at the laboratory where I worked.

This went on for several years and then, on a warm Wednesday in September, 1980, I had an experience that left no doubt in my mind that God was real and He did care. For the next two days I was totally perplexed. I now knew that God was real but I had no idea what to do about it. Friday night I knelt in prayer and told God I needed help. He assured me not to worry. 

So, what does that have to do with weeding your garden? God is a holy, all-powerful spirit. How do you describe someone you can’t see? Thus, many times throughout the Bible, the prophets used metaphors, parables and figures of speech to describe our one and only amazing God. 

Getting back to our garden, one of the metaphors used throughout scripture to describe our human mind is a garden. Isaiah referred to those who put their trust in the Messiah would be like “well-watered gardens.” Water is often used as a metaphor for God’s word. Weeds and briars are metaphors for sin. If we want to spend eternity with God, we need to “keep our gardens well-watered and free from weeds.” Here’s something else to think about. Have you ever wondered why Christians are so segregated since Christ established only one church? Is there any hope for desegregation? I doubt it. We humans can be so stubborn and resistant to change our ways.

Bob Bartholomew lives in Sunbury.

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