Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Heads & Tales: day 18

Xenophobia is the fear of aliens.

We don't typically use that word to reference a fear of extra-terrestrials, but a fear of foreigners. All the people who want to built fences to keep Mexicans out of the USA? Xenophobes. All those who think that Cuban immigrants should be put back on rafts and made to sail to Havana? Xenophobes. All those who wish those wetbacks would stop screwing up our economy and taking our jobs? Xenophobes.

But the Nativity story is replete with the heroism of foreigners and the safety of foreign lands.

Consider that the Magi were Persians, not Jews. They didn't even practice the Jewish religion. Their religion wasn't compatible with Judaism either, as their Zoroastrian astrology involved practices specifically forbidden in the Hebrew scriptures. If you want a good contemporary parallel, you'd need to imagine that--instead of Billy Graham or the Pope visiting the manger--it was the Dalai Lama or Bal Thackary.

The foreigners were the good guys, while the nationals were running around with swords killing babies.

Consider, also, that the Holy Family fled to Egypt. During that time, Egypt was undoubtedly more hospitable to Jews than it had been during Moses' life, but the fact remains that it would have felt like that Jewish family was running off to Auschwitz for protection.

Because their homeland wasn't safe.

I have dual citizenship. I am Canadian by birth, and American by ancestry. I hold two valid passports and have voted federally in both countries. I'd love to say that Canadians are far more tolerant than Americans about issues of foreign identity, but they're not. The great Canadian racism involves hating Americans for--ironically--being bigots.

But I will say the standard posture of American Christians seems to be one of unrestrained Xenophobia. Somehow we imagine that this is our land, that these are our rights, and that everything should be done our way to protect our country, our freedoms, and our religious rights.

Herod felt that way. The Sanhedrin felt that way. That basic principle was just about the only thing uniting the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

And I wonder how it got into our churches?

And I wonder how it got called 'Christian'?

And I wonder whether any of us can be self-scrutinizing enough to repent, and act like citizens of another kingdom altogether?

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