My friend Sally tells a story about growing up—growing up in the 1950’s on a farm in the deep south, a farm far outside of town—the sort of place where you only see the folks in your family, and the folks who live on the farm, and the folks who come occasionally to visit. Sally made friends among the folks that were around—and her best friend was another little boy just a couple of years older called Frank who lived on the farm, too. When Sally was about five and Frank was seven, they’d spend hours running through the cotton fields together and pulling one another around in a wooden red wagon along the dusty roads of the farm. They were the best of friends—until Sally started school, and she noticed that Frank didn’t go to the same school as she did. And as she got older she noticed that she never saw Frank at the same places she went in town—the soda fountain, the doctor’s office, even the movie theater. And finally, when she was older, and she invited friends over to the farm for picnics or dinners in the dining room, she learned that her best friend Frank wasn’t welcome to join.
You see, Sally is white, and Frank is black. And somewhere along the way Sally learned that it wasn’t okay for them to be friends. That Frank wasn’t welcome as an equal in her world. And what a perversion of the message of the incarnation that lesson was—a lesson she still grieves today.