Tag Archives: Americanyounot

“i have some bad news. that person is also your neighbor.” Jesus, maybe

25 Apr

I was incredibly privileged growing up to get to experience truly ecumenical Christian worship with people from all over the world. We shared our Easter sunrise potluck feast with Pakistani Lutherans, Polish Catholics, Peruvian Methodists and Texan Southern Baptists, among others. This kind of diverse community necessitated compromise on things like musical worship, liturgy or lack thereof, baptism and confirmation practices– in truly diverse churches, Christians must compromise on everything non-essential, and they must agree that what is essential is truly essential.

 

It’s a difficult thing to practice and it’s also a truly beautiful thing to behold. For every painful goodbye I said in my childhood, for every time I was the awkward new kid who never seemed to get better at making friends– this is one of the immeasurably precious gifts my upbringing gave to me. A picture of the Church that resembled what I imagine heaven may look like. Unfortunately, it’s a picture that few American Christians get to experience.

 
Before I knew I was learning it, I was learning what it meant to serve a God of All Nations. One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my faith as an adult has been trying to reconcile these truths with the nationalistic perversion of mainstream American Christianity– perhaps especially in the Conservative, Evangelical churches my family chose to attend when we lived in the States.

 

Like many of my friends (they’re calling us Old Millennials now?), I came of age politically at a time when patriotism and religion were becoming deliberately and powerfully linked. More intelligent folks than I have written commentary about where this has led us in the Age of Trump. To summarize broadly, there are many, many Christians who identify as Americans first and Christians second… people who are full-heartedly for a literal “America First” doctrine, for example.

 
I have come to crave the company and fellowship of Christians whose first allegiance is not to their home country, but to Christ. This doesn’t make for great preservationist foreign policy choices. But it does make for communities of believers ready to be used by God to change the world.

 
Here’s the quote that inspired me to write this post, distilling some thoughts that have tumbled around my brain for years now.

 

“If our citizenship is in heaven, this truth should change the way we talk. The word ‘we,’ if a person is truly born again, will refer to the new people into whom a Christian has been born – the church. Christians can no longer refer to ‘our troops’ or ‘our history’ as other people do because of our new identity. Fabricated boundaries and walls are removed for the Christian. Our neighbor is not only from Chicago but also from Baghdad. Our brother or sister in the church could be from Iran or California – no difference! Our family is transnational and borderless; we are in Iraq, and we are in Palestine. And if we are indeed to become born again, we will have to begin talking like it, changing the meaning of ‘we,’ ‘us,’ ‘my,’ and ‘our.’

 
“We must connect our prayers to the rest of God’s children throughout the world and through all time and space, people who are reading the same Scriptures, singing the same songs, praying the same prayers, and grafting their lines into the same old story of a God who is forming a people who are set apart from the world to be God’s light and to show the world what a society of love looks like. Today, more than ever before in history, we have a keen sense of what it means to be part of a global neighborhood. We are aware of how beautifully diverse and terribly dysfunctional the human family is… We are reminded that we have friends in Sudan and China, Afghanistan and Iraq, Palestine and Israel, whether they are our Facebook friends or not. They are praying with us. And the bond we have in Christ is more real than any virtual social network. This is what it means to be born again. We are part of a global neighborhood and a beautifully diverse family of God’s children.”

 
From the introductory pages of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro.

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