In one of the men’s restrooms in the FCC church building, there is a framed
poster hanging on the wall opposite the entrance. The poster includes portraits
of two American baseball players from the early 1900s, Christy Mathewson
and Ty Cobb, with the words “The World’s Greatest Pitcher” and “The World’s
Greatest Batter” above the portraits. Both of these men played in the major
leagues at a time when Blacks were not allowed to play in the majors, which
resulted in the formation of Negro leagues which had separate teams
consisting of Black players. The poster is a reminder of a time when white
American culture did not acknowledge the existence of Black athletes whose
skills and accomplishments were at least equal to those of white athletes.
Thankfully, we no longer live in such a time – and yet this poster still hangs in
the men’s bathroom at the FCC church building.
Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed the removal of Confederate
monuments, Confederate flags, and Columbus statues in cities throughout the
U.S. – including Chicago – as our nation has gradually come to terms with its
history. These monuments have come to be viewed as obstacles to unity
because of their ties to slavery, racism, and white supremacy. The monuments
no longer reflect who we are as a nation, and their continued presence in
public places does not convey the ideals which our nation aspires to. As we’ve
begun to acknowledge that this is an issue, we’ve taken steps to address it.
At FCC, if our desire is to move forward as a body of believers in which all races
are viewed as equals, we must be willing to identify and tear down the
“monuments” and “statues” in our midst which fail to reflect our present
values. We need to understand how the baseball poster in the men’s
bathroom – or even the hallway picture near my office which depicts a white
Jesus with European features – might be communicating a negative message
to people of color in our congregation. We need new monuments which unite
us and highlight our diversity as a church family. We need monuments which
point to shared values and a common vision instead of elevating one race of
people over another. My prayer is that FCC will seek the Spirit’s guidance on
these issues and will demonstrate its commitment to racial equality through
concrete actions which reflect God’s vision for our congregation.