I’ve been trying to improve my posture at the behest of my physical therapist. When I concentrate, I do fine, but the next thing I know I’m slouched over as my muscles return to their familiar position. St. Paul warned that the familiar is oddly comforting and incredibly easy to fall back into, even if it is destructive. He especially charged us not to be seduced by human philosophies that our discipleship has already stripped from us, and instead to do the hard and conscious work of remaining alive in Christ.
I think of this when I hear news of the recent horrific shootings and attacks against Hispanics, Muslims, immigrants, and asylum-seekers. Part of that is familiar. Growing up in rural Iowa, our town was 100% Catholic and 100% white. Instead of being taught that all people are children of the same God and part of my own family, I was taught that outsiders, Protestants, people with colored skin, or those not “like me” were dangerous and should be shunned.
Now that I reside in the Chicago area, I live, work, and regularly encounter those of other races, religions, and cultures, and I know my upbringing was wrong. I consciously choose to be open, accepting, curious, generous, and kind, and I am amazed at the common humanity that binds us all together. Yet I catch myself. I have to constantly examine my unintended reactions when, for instance:
- The person on the phone has a non-European foreign accent
- I drive into a neighborhood populated by another race or culture
- I see a woman wearing a burqa
- A young black man wearing a hoodie and low-slung jeans walks toward me on the street
Your list is likely different than mine, but all of these situations trigger emotions inside of me that I work and pray I can understand and eliminate. It is all too easy to succumb to the emotions, to go back to what once was familiar. But that is not the way of Christ. Jesus reached out to all, and especially to the immigrant, marginalized, poor, and hurting people of his day. God needs my voice to keep fighting the seductive human philosophies of power, superiority, and cruelty that would denigrate, cause suffering to, or kill these precious children of God. This is not what Jesus would do. In fact, it is against everything Jesus taught, stood for, and died for. May God help me to stand straight and tall in the Gospel, and live in a way that is true to our Christian calling.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.