Monday, November 3, 2008

The Margins

Some thoughts after class and a few other things that have been swirling around in my head.

Hebrews 11: 13-16 “All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, or people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them."

I have found myself to be a man on the margins, a member of a small minority taken from a large majority, on a sojourn in a foreign land. I am an Asian man, a minority in the United States, only 4.2% according to the latest census. Yet, considering the whole world, Asian people are in the majority, they are the largest growing group. India and China alone make up almost 1/3 of the world’s population. I am a member of a small minority, taken from a large majority, on a sojourn in a foreign land. While I was living in Salt Lake City, UT, I was in the minority as a Christian. The majority of people in Salt Lake are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Yet, considering the United States as a whole, Christians are in the majority (at least for now). I am a member of a small minority, taken from a large majority, on a sojourn in a foreign land.

Because of this I find great comfort in the affirmation that our God chooses the least and the lost, the outcast, the marginalized and the outsider. God chose a small nation, beaten down by many, the slave and servant and vassal state of a rotating who’s who of nations – Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece, Rome – to be the purveyors of glory and salvation and the word of God. God chose to come as a Jewish man from the backwards town of Nazareth (“what good could ever come from there?” Philip asks). God chose fishermen and tax collectors and sinners and lepers as friends and disciples. Christianity, lest we forget, was once the minority. Christianity, lest we forget, was once persecuted because it was not tied to any national identity, because it was a kingdom not of this world.

In fact, I believe that this has been one of Christianity's core problems. Once Christianity became THE state religion, the majority, the world power, things went utterly wrong with it. The Inquisition, the Crusades, Slavery – absolute power corrupting absolutely. The Church is not free from corruption. As much as this may sound un-American (come on, McCarthy) I can't wait for the day when Christianity is no longer the dominant religion in America. It scares me how Christians like James Dobson and his group Focus on the Family can put out letters like this.

Although the writer of this letter insists that Christians should not hope for persecution or for these things to happen, I say: BRING IT ON. I want to remember what it was like to be a child of a God of outcasts, members of a kingdom not of this world, sojourners looking for a better home.

So that is why, for me, the lyrics of a modern-day prophet hit so hard and so true:

A King and a Kingdom
Derek Webb
Appears on: Mockingbird

Who’s your brother, who’s your sister
You just walked past him, I think you missed her
As we’re all migrating to a place where our Father lives
‘Cause we married into a family of immigrants

So my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country or a man

My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood

It’s to a King and a Kingdom

There are two great lies that I’ve heard

The day you eat of the fruit of that tree you will not surely die
And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle class Republican
And if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like him

How can we realize that we are part of a family of immigrants, part of Abraham’s family who left home, part of the Israelites who traversed the desert, part of all of those wanderers who never saw the things that they had been promised? How can we reclaim our identity as a wandering people, as sojourners in a foreign land, children of a God who is the God of the outcast, co-heirs of a kingdom not of this world?


katiemac said...

I just referred to Derek's song the other day at school...talking about the election and hope...and how hope in the right One is the only thing that is for sure.
Lovely thoughts as always.

Jabez L. Van Cleef said...

Hi Marc:

There is a wonderful arrangement of the text "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear," by Elliot Levine. I don't think it has been recorded, but I have sung it numerous times and it is a very effective piece for audience participation, especially for Pentecost (the piece is a round, in seven languages). I will send you a copy of the sheet music if you send me your address via return email. If you want to hear Elliot's group, The Western Wind, singing one of his compositions, follow this link:

Kind regards,

Jabez L. Van Cleef