so wanda and i are sitting in taco casa (a totally americanized fast-food taco joint with great green chile sauce and crack tea) up in denton the other day and in the middle of working our way through a couple of bean burritos, i’m actually listening to the muzak playing for our eating ambiance in the back ground.
somewhere in between willie nelson and brad paisley, i’m totally blown away by the song that comes on. “only a lad”, by oingo boingo. oingo boingo? the socal, new wave ska band that defined my youth group in huntington beach in 1981? right here in the heart of texas…in 2013? you gotta be kidding me!
talk about walking down memory lane.
but it’s got me thinking about something deeper. i really liked the sound of oingo boingo. a lot. i still do. in fact, when wanda’s not in the car or if i’m traveling by myself, loud 80’s punk or speed metal will always take a prolonged spin on my ipod. and not just for nostalgia.
when it comes to music or sports teams or art or whatever, we like to joke and banter and enter into fake arguments about what style is superior or who’s version is better. we do it as friends. we do it in fun. nobody gets hurt. there is no deeper agenda.
but as i’m preparing to leave for our trip to mexico tomorrow, i am reminded of something more profound. a war that simmers just below the surface in each of us.
we live in a world…both locally and globally…where people are different. different customs and traditions. different palates. different interests and values. different cultures. different colors. different ways of doing things.
one of the greatest joys of my life has always been to take kids into mexico for the first time. past the tourist traps and familiarity of downtown…and into the neighborhoods and barrios where we often go to help. it’s there where the contrast is so vivid.
looks and smells and textures and lifestyles and possessions are not what we are used to. and the immediate internal reaction is one of superiority. oh, there is an initial wave of pity…but that quickly gives way to “ewww. how they live that way? how can they eat that? how can they stand that smell? can you believe what they are wearing?”
and what’s subtly implied in that inner dialogue is this: we are better. we are smarter. our way is superior. there’s something wrong with them. if they thought like us and a did things the way we do them, their lives would be better.
and we don’t have to go to mexico to have that attitude. it can creep in anytime and anywhere. and we have to fight it.
different cultures…different people groups…different nationalities and backgrounds are simply that: different. not better. not worse. just different. it’s one of the first and most basic lessons we learn as followers of christ. jews and gentiles couldn’t have been more different. they were disgusted by their cultural differences. they despised each other’s religious and philosophical backgrounds. they had nothing in common.
until jesus died and rose again and leveled the playing field. all are now equal. all come to jesus the same way. they learned that god is no “respecter of persons”. they had to learn to live side by side and stop judging each other. they had to learn to sit at the same table and drink from the same cup.
differences were no longer excuses to judge. differences were now the distinctives of the new community. requiring people to change (or even smugly or secretively expecting it), gave way to appreciating differences. and that needs to be true for us today.
i like fish tacos. i prefer to drive older vehicles and not make payments. i like the national league. i’ll never own a gun for my own protection because i could never kill somebody with it. i know myself. i like crowds. long conversations with teenagers still energize me. i don’t understand algebra. i don’t like steak. i stay awake until 1:30 almost every night.
and i like oingo boingo. so show me some love.
and then show it to everyone else, too.
just in case you’ve never heard of oingo boingo…