Monday, March 21, 2011

IMMIGRATION & COMMANDMENT THREE: NO MISUSE OF GOD'S NAME



Perhaps, the biggest blunder of American Christianity is that our traditions, which often hail from a Christian context, go on existing apart from that Christian context. Though it can be said that America is the greatest country in the world because its citizens have equal rights, we have experienced a subtle change in the Christian trend of ontological equality which is to illustrate how intrinsically no man stands above another. 

If the Church is the thermostat of culture, then what happens in our little congregations are miniature case studies for happenings on a larger scale in the world. Could an Hispanic come into our congregation and naturally feel welcomed in our community as easily as he does in our public schools, movie theaters, and Walmart stores? What about any another ethnic minority? Would an illegal alien feel that he could come to the church for basic assistance, for counsel, and for safety were it needed (and it is needed)? 

Of course, we intend that such people would feel welcomed, and we might even have the bias that they should feel welcomed. However, if they do not, then we have not successfully illustrated our intentions. If the suburb dictates how the church will function, then there is no way our congregation will embrace the Great Commission in a real-world way. If a political framework dictates who comes and goes from our church, then we are not thinking broadly enough. 

Assisting in Iraq is wonderful, but that is not what I am talking about. Iraq is here, yet they are not amongst us in natural relationships and proportionate to their available numbers. It is this real-world inhibition to the Biblical equality of mankind which passively assures that fraternities largely based upon race are allowed to continue even though Modernism with its emphasis upon empiricism has long been dead. It is not just that Blacks want their own Church. It is not just that Hispanics want a Church in which they can speak their native tongue. It is not just that the poor do not want to worship with us because they are embarrassed. No, it is that they feel less than human amongst us. They feel they must hide something intrinsically ethnic or situational about who they are. It is an ontological problem. 

I am afraid that the existence of so many diverse churches in our city (communities that do not naturally interact with each other) underscores the variant ontological philosophies of mankind that we have: each with their own racial, regional, national, political hierarchies of importance, and each with the idea that everybody else needs to be converted to their point of view. So I suggest that to create a genuine equality in our community is for man in the church to be treated as man. Of course, that is a tall order and we are only responsible for our own congregation. One practical way to begin is by challenging the politically correct stereotypes that curb, blur or erase racial, ethnic, political or otherwise situational distinctions. 

I once was told by a man in church that he would never comment on my hair (or lack thereof) because he considered it racist to speak about Black people's hair. Though I appreciated the sentiment that he did not want to offend me, I was chagrined that my hair (or lack thereof) presented him with such a tortuous, internal conflict. In other words, to reciprocate his do-not-offend sentiment, I felt compelled to reciprocate by making my hair (or lack thereof) a non-issue or by living with the consequence that my hair (or lack thereof), though it be a truly insignificant thing in the larger scope of who I am, can never be mentioned before my brother for fear of causing him to stumble. 

Take this real-world example and replace it with more substantial interests of the immigrants amongst us: leisure, music, customs, child-rearing, worship styles, politics, business, clothing. You have a church that feels pressured to either choose to ignore immigrant distinctions or to pressure them to adhere to our very own, making them a sub-image of our own image. The church cannot be the tool to blur or otherwise diminish these distinctions. The church cannot photoshop such distinctions away. 


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