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You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

January 11, 2019

Between last night and this morning, with the snow falling, we decided to watch the movie South Pacific. The first time I saw South Pacific, was on the stage in Austin, Minnesota as a young kid in the 70’s. My across the street neighbor, Randy Day, played the role of Lieutenant Joseph Cable, USMC. The Summerset Theatre Company put on many excellent productions at the Theater on the Campus of Austin Community College.

Some of the memorable scenes from the movie involve Luther Billis, an ingenious entrepreneur who is also a Seabee. In the midst of the music and the WW2 storyline lies a deeper and more profound message. Lieutenant Cable is in love with Liat, a Polynesian woman he met on Bali Ha’i. Ensign Nellie Forbush, is a young Navy Ensign and Nurse who has fallen in love with a local planter, Frenchman Emile de Becque who has two children with his now deceased Polynesian wife.

Joe Cable and Nellie Forbush have a discussion about why they are struggling with their respective loves. As they sang: coming from 1940’s Philadelphia, PA and Little Rock, A-R-K, they essentially make excuses why they cannot be with the ones they love. Liat and Emile don’t understand how this can be.

In an emotionally charged song (yes, this Padre has tears streaming down his face… I always do with this song), Joe Cable explains to Emile de Becque why this is so.

I found this medley (You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught; Children Will Listening) while searching for a video of the original song from South Pacific.

You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught; Children Will Listen

This medley was sung by Mandy Patinkin as a part of a September 11th Memorial Concert at Riverside Church in New York City. It is just as powerful in my mind as the the song Lieutenant Cable sang in South Pacific, and carries the same lesson.

The songs are just as relevant today as they were when they were written and performed. With the increasing rise of hate, hate-speech, and hate-crimes on the local, regional, national, and international stage, they hit me in a profound and powerful way.

I remember my first encounter with such hate in my hometown back in the mid 1980’s during the unrest with Libya in the Middle East which led to Operation Eldorado Canyon airstrikes by the USAF, US Navy, and USMC in 1986 (a year after I had been commissioned as a Chaplain Candidate, Second Lieutenant in the USAF Reserve and during my last year of Seminary). I was walking down the street downtown when a man about my age ran past me with a look of absolute terror in his eyes. Shortly after he passed, a drunken local came running (more like stumbling as he was obviously drunk) shouting racial slurs and saying he was going to kill him.

Sadly, that would not be my last encounter with such hate in my hometown or in any of the places around this nation and world I would live and serve in as a Pastor and Chaplain. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 9-11-01 in this country, I saw a rise of both patriotism in this country and hate as I had experienced in my hometown nearly 20 years earlier.

It isn’t rocket science to realize that this atmosphere of hate is out in the open in this country. Neo-Nazis marching out in the open… Synagogue and Mosque desecrations and attacks… Churches being attacked by white-supremacists… the list goes on and on. And some of the significant voices spurring this on are coming from the Executive and Legislative Branches of the US Government! Sadly, State and Local Governments aren’t doing much better.

Unfortunately, there are too many voices in the christian church (lower case is intentional as regular readers of my blog know) who are on the side of xenophobic nationalism and ignoring the message of Christ. As a pastor and Christ-follower, I strive to do my best to be a voice of Peace, Justice, Mercy, and Hope in the tradition of Micah 6:8 and Matthew 22:37-39. We are called to do Justice, Love Kindness/Mercy, Walk Humbly with God… to love God with all of your being and to love your neighbor as yourself.

As I look out on the snow falling in Estes Park with the beauty of the scene, I do feel a sense of hope.

Dear reader, as we navigate these challenging and difficult times, my prayer is that we will be a witness to something counter to what is on the 24 hour sensationalistic news cycle and social media feeds. After all, the children… our neighbors… the world… is watching.

  1. Thanks for your message. We all need to do our part to create an atmosphere of compassion, sensitivity and acceptance.

  2. yes they are…thank you.

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