Give Berlusconi a Break on the “Suntan” Remark: A Reminiscence from Kensington Temple

It seems that our media never stops on finding ways of griping about people:

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, under fire at home for describing U.S. President-elect Barack Obama as “suntanned,” said on Friday he saw no need to apologize.

At a news conference, Berlusconi was brusque with an American journalist who suggested he should say sorry for the remark on Thursday. Visiting Moscow, he described the man elected to be the first black U.S. president as “handsome, young and also suntanned.”

His center-left opponents called the comment racist; Berlusconi responded by saying they were “imbeciles without any sense of humor.”

At Friday’s news conference after a European Union summit, the reporter asked: “Prime Minister, do you realize that your comment on Obama is offensive to the United States? Why don’t you apologize?”

Berlusconi responded: “Give me a break! You have just put yourself on that list of people (imbeciles) I mentioned yesterday!”

This incident reminds me of a more light-hearted incident that happened to me in London in the early 1990’s.

For many years the largest Full Gospel church in the British Isles was Kensington Temple in Notting Hill.  Under Pastor Wynne Lewis the church had grown spectacularly to a five (?) service Sunday (building bigger in London is next to impossible, unless it’s a mosque.)  For directions, they simply told me to get off the Underground at Notting Hill and follow the crowds.

Those crowds were overwhelmingly non-white, drawn from a hundred or so ethnic groups that had come to London.  That’s a reality that most Evangelical (and especially Pentecostal and Charismatic) churches in Europe live with.  It’s very difficult to induce a Caucasian European to come to such a church, let alone commit their life to Christ.

Lewis’ and the rest of the pastoral staff’s schedule was so crowded that they took their lunch at the church between the morning service and the afternoon one at 1430.  They invited me to join them for this.  It was quite an experience, with the staff and other members milling about.

One young lady from Ghana came in; she was a medical student at Johns Hopkins.  Evidently Lewis hadn’t seen her in some time; he said, “That’s a lovely tan you have.  Where did you go on holiday?”  She was amused at his remark.

The truth is that, for those of us who profess and call themselves Christians, the people with the “lovely tans” are the future.  Evidently the world has figured that out too.

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