Back in 1968, I was editing a tabloid section of the now-defunct Rochester (N.Y.) Times-Union called "listen. . .," which was aimed at readers in their teens and 20s (the latter being the category of my own age at the time).
One of the then-cutting-edge stories we did that year was about interracial dating, a phenomenon that, while still rare then, was becoming more commonplace.
More than 40 years later, things have changed radically in the U.S. -- including in my own family.
In 1969 my youngest sister married a Japanese-American. Today, one of their children is married to a Korean-American. In addition, I have a niece married to a Filipino-American, another niece married to a Chinese-American and yet another niece married to an African-American.
As my friends over at ReadTheSpirit.com reported the other day, in 2010, about 15 percent of all new marriages in the U.S. were between spouses who were not of the same race or ethnicity.
I certainly cannot attribute all of this change to religion, but I do believe that some of the lessons of religion are playing a role in how we perceive others and, thus, in the options we consider for marriage.
There was, of course, a time when interracial marriage was outlawed in many states. This was a policy rooted in a belief in the inferiority of certain races -- a belief that some important segments of religion fostered through such reprehensible positions as their support of slavery. (Shame on parts of Christianity for this.)
But the broader and much healthier lessons that we all are equal in God's eyes, coupled with the revelations from science -- such as the Human Genome project -- that race is an artificial political category, not a biological category, have helped to move the needle here.
I'm not suggesting that we've overcome all racial and ethnic prejudices. Clearly we haven't. But I am suggesting that the idea that we are, at base, members of the same race -- the human race -- has been increasingly fostered by, among other powers, religion. And as a result we're seeing many more interracial marriages.
And if you want to marvel at what such marriages can produce, you should look at my beautiful grand-nieces and grand-nephews. Oh, my.
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FENCING THE TABLE
And now a note about some needed changes: A Catholic priest in Maryland denied Communion to a lesbian woman at her mother's funeral Mass, and a diocesan official apologized to the woman for that unspeakable incivility. The Communion table is the Lord's table, not any priest's or pastor's table.
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P.S.: You don't even have to leave the Midwest to find repulsive Holocaust deniers -- like this guy in Illinois running as a Republican for Congress. I simply don't get how people can be so completely screwed up. What causes someone to say black is white -- and apparently even believe it?