Thursday, November 19, 2015
The Confluence of Faith and the World Right Now
Any preacher aware of the headlines, however, will find this an odd time to think of civic festivity or sacred seasons. The anxieties, fear and political posturing following the explosion of a Russian plane and the tragedies befalling Paris and other countries less covered by mainstream US media occupy the minds of many pastors and congregants. The French President speaks of being "at war" after the attacks. Within a few days, over thirty governors of U.S. states vowed no interest in Syrian refugee resettlement citing security and immigration screening concerns. Social media posts continue to fill my Facebook feed with cross-posted news stories of persons being beaten or verbally harassed in retaliation for happening to be a Muslim, appearing to fit a stereotype in the attacker's mind, or otherwise somehow suspect.
Perhaps right now is the best time for the Church to hear the texts, sing the hymns and offer prayers focused on Christ the King Sunday with the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday around the corner. For the former, we celebrate Christ as a benevolent, peaceable ruler, not aloof but alongside the suffering of the world. The marks of pain and suffering are to be found readily on the glorified Resurrected One, so why not call the Church be summoned and even chastened into action and solidarity with the suffering people of the world? The refugee, the stranger, and the person who we define in oppositional terms to ourselves (and our sense of safety and security) is indeed said to be the Christ walking to us, yearning for our welcome.
In turn, the civic holiday of Thanksgiving should remind us that the majority of U.S. citizens are themselves the descendants of a multitude of nations, races and ethnicities. We are a plurality of ideologies, theologies and moralities. There is no one singular American archetype, even as our culture and politics tend to privilege the Euro/white, male and affluent as the arbiters of the status quo. The celebration of Thanksgiving is a reminder of civic pride as well as a reminder that our nation's history is built upon ideologies that have their shadow sides (i.e. colonialism, Manifest Destiny and no small dose of American exceptionalism). A refugee or immigrant should be welcomed, as our forebears themselves were welcomed.
As I noted on my Facebook status earlier this week, I try to move in the midst of these troubling times with profound sorrow for the hurt and the anger and the violence occupying our minds and fueling our fears. My family name (Hugenot or Huguenot) is synonymous with religious conflicts between Christians. I am the descendant of immigrants who arrived in the US from France in the 1830s. Subsequent generations moved across the country as it developed and opportunities for a better life beckoned. I humbly suggest we start looking beyond present day panic and welcome the stranger, the refugee and the "other" at our door.
Thus we are living into the positive side of the Thanksgiving civic holiday. And at Sunday morning worship this weekend, we are hearing of the true Kingdom/Reign and how to ensure our Ruler knows us when coming to separate those who lived the gospel ways of compassion and care from those who chose to live as if nobody else mattered.