You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught

I’ve never seen South Pacific on the stage, only the movie. So it came as a shock to me to hear this story last week at our statewide UCC meeting.

We have a Transitional Associate Conference Minister (how’s that for a title?), and she is Japanese American. Not surprisingly, as a young person she was in demand for productions of South Pacific. I think she told us she was in three or four school and community productions before she left home for college.

It wasn’t until she was an adult sitting in the audience to watch the show somewhere else that she learned of the song "You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught." I couldn’t believe it! I remember seeing the movie for the first time as a young girl and talking with my dad about the song afterword. He made a point of telling me how true it was and how important that we pay attention to it. (As you know, he was pretty cool.)

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.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

That song tells the story of racism, and the story of all prejudice. We aren’t born that way; we learn it.

In my state next month, we’ll be voting on a referendum that seeks to reject the legislature’s addition to the state Human Rights Act extending all civil rights to people of all sexual orientations. The wording of the referendum means those who support rights for all people have to vote "No on 1." I hate that crap. It’s diabolical. And who’s behind it? Why, church people, of course. I hate that crap, too. (No, I’m not linking to them.)

This is the third time we’ve lived through this scenario. In the past, the polls indicated the referendum woud fail (60% to 40%)and the law would stand, but each time the "Christian Right" worked the issue and got the turnout and won by a hair (50.5% to 49.5%). Maybe hearing we’re so far ahead makes us apathetic? Maybe people lie to the pollsters? I don’t know.

So I’m preaching about it this morning. Go here to read what I’m going to say. And pray for me, please. And for all of us.

16 thoughts on “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”

  1. What Now, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I think it was okay by most people, but those who didn’t like it just avoided me at coffee hour. People just don’t like to speak up, it seems.
    We had a great Open and Affirming meeting after church, with some people attending who haven’t come to the evening sessions. I was pleased about that. We’re going to move ahead to drafting a statement, probably in two parts: first, a relatively brief sentence similar to the one we use on our bulletins now, that can go out on all correspondence, newsletters, etc; second, an explanatory paragraph that gives a little more background and includes reference to scripture. A small group will be working on that in the next week or two, to present to the congregation in the November newsletter.
    I was bummed out that one more beautiful Sunday meant we didn’t have great attendance. I wish I got that. But I don’t.

  2. P/H and jo(e), I wish I had people like you in my church, too. (Maybe I should be searching for a job in a college town?)

  3. Wonderful sermon! It makes me wish I could move to Maine. We don’t hear that kind of call for justice in our United Methodist pulpits here, even though many of the pastors would agree with your position. It would be career suicide, and isn’t that a shame.

  4. That story about “South Pacific” isn’t all that surprising, sadly enough. Watching the PBS documentary series “Broadway The American Musical” recently (it’s just aired in Australia) I heard about the history of SP and that song. And of course originally there was some consternation over whether to include the song or not but Rogers & Hammerstein basically decided there was no musical without it!

  5. what a sermon 🙂
    blessings to you and your church
    Re the low-turn out on Sunday because of the weather. I struggled with that too when God rebuked me – “Lorna, let it go. People find Me, wherever they are not only within the four walls of what you call church, they find Me when they seek Me with all their heart – in familiy reunions, out skiing or raking leaves in the garden under My sun. Lorna let it go.”
    I learnt a lot that day. I also learned that if the sermon IS from God then word spreads like wildfire through the congregation anyway.
    What you preached was a message the whole church (not only your local one) needs to hear. In God’s time it will be so.
    don’t fret. you are blessed and oh! such a blessing too 🙂

  6. Well done, and speaking the truth is always a good thing. (Even if some ears are not yet opened to hear it).
    I;m so proud you’re a RevGalBlagPal!

  7. I thought about this a lot last night … a better word would have been challenged.
    as in “I was challenged by God”
    Your sermon was spot on Songbird. It took courage and it will – in due course- bear fruit that will last.
    Be blessed as you continue to serve the Lord with joy and thanksgiving 🙂

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