Friday, January 25, 2013

Society's Child

A few weeks ago I heard the song "Jesse" on the radio. I didn't recognize the artist, but I did somehow know that the song had been written by Janis Ian. That set me on a search for a number of things, including a clip of her performance of her first hit, "Society's Child" on a program hosted by Leonard Bernstein when she was 13 or 14. I also listened several times to that song and heard something I don't recall hearing before.

The song was about interracial dating, and in the chorus Ian sang "I can't see you anymore." But at the end of the song the refrain changed to "I don't want to see you anymore." Ian expressed poignantly the pain that we impose on society's children when we burden them with our prejudices, when we force them to conform to society's warped norms. The apostle Paul knew about that pressure when he encouraged the members of the Church in Rome: "Do not let the world press you into its mold." (Romans 12:2, the Philips translation)

What damage we do to our children when we load them down with our prejudices - about poor people, people of color, immigrants, people who are gay or lesbian or transgendered or bisexual. What friendships our children miss because they are forced to "stick to their own kind." Prejudice does not just hurt those whom we view as inferior. It hurts all of us as well.