Tuesday, October 29, 2013

loving strangers

strangers = neighbours

"I used to think that the greatest command in the Bible was "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." I was wrong. Only in one place does the Bible ask us to love our neighbour. In more than thirty places it commands us to love the stranger. Don't oppress the stranger because you know what it feels like to be a stranger--you were once strangers in the land of Egypt. It isn't hard to love our neighbours because by and large our neighbours are people like us. What's tough is to love the stranger, the person who isn't like us, who has a different skin colour, or a different faith, or a different background. That's the real challenge. It was in ancient times. It still is today."

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks (quoted on pp 101-102 of Just Hospitality).
jesus prays for future disciples, cartoon by rob g

In Jesus day, weren't strangers simply people you were not acquainted with? In the Jewish towns and villages, there would have been the people you knew, and the people you didn't know. And for the most part, while the latter were strangers, they weren't particularly strange. There would have been exceptions, of course. Some lepers may have seemed pretty strange as a result of deformation and loss of limbs. Those possessed by demons would have been strange. But generally, most strangers looked fairly normal.

In one famous story, Jesus tells of a despised foreigner -- a Samaritan -- helping a stranger who had been robbed and left to die at the road side. There were significant religious differences between them, but otherwise, not that much was strange about the stranger. Jesus told this story of loving a stranger, in response to someone asking, "who is my neighbour that I'm to love?"

Fast forward to today. For the conservative person, there's a whole world of strangeness out there. Goths and punks, transgender people and drag queens, and much more.

But one thing hasn't changed: God's love for everyone, no matter how strange someone might seem to us.

Read True Biblical Hospitality: Loving Immigrants, Strangers, and Enemies at sojo.net.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


HIV= Jesus (photo found online with no credits given; text added by me)
This weekend is the official launch of HIV Equal, "a national multimedia campaign that aims to end HIV stigma and promote HIV testing by creating a social art movement that changes the way people think about HIV and which reopens the national dialogue about HIV."

After hearing about the campaign, I realized I had never thought about the stigma that accompanies being HIV+. Not that it isn't obvious when mentioned, but sometimes it takes mentioning for people to think about it.

And I asked myself, would Jesus have stigmatized people who are HIV+? With his record as a stigmatoclast, the answer is clear: "not a chance."

Would he have taken part in an HIV= campaign? Who knows. But there's no doubt that he embraced those at the margins, the outsiders, the least of these. He looked past the labels and past all the things we use to reject and exclude, and loved the men and women whom his Father had created.

Find out more about the HIV Equal campaign.

Go to HIV= website
My apologies for not having a more middle eastern jesus. A search of Google images finds very few results of a non-white jesus, and then mostly he is wearing robes and such. To match the photos in the HIV= campaign at least somewhat, I needed to be able to place the "HIV=" sticker on his skin in a way that looked semi-realistic, and this is the best picture I found for that purpose. If anyone has a picture of a non-white jesus with a suitable area of skin showing to place the HIV=, please let me know.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

key terms related to exclusion and embrace

This is an ongoing collection of key terms and concepts that people should know and understand, to assist with understanding exclusion and embrace, diversity, and more. Most items are a brief introduction to the concept, with links to more detailed information or discussion.

concept: generous spaciousness*

This is an absolutely key concept, related to the "environment, climate, ethos within expressions of the Christian community as it pertains to engaging with gender and sexual minority persons."

Rather than providing a really brief explanation on this page, read more about generous spaciousness on its own post and then follow up by clicking some of the links on that page.

concept: privilege*

Google offers the following definition of privilege:
"A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to one person or group of people."

KJ Ward, writing at Black Girl Dangerous, defines privilege this way:
"unearned access to a bunch of good stuff and an arbitrarily granted protection from a bunch of bad stuff".

Accordingly, one might think of diplomatic immunity or the privileges that come with membership in an exclusive golf club or with first class plane tickets. But privilege as we are talking about it here is a more complex term, and one which is often difficult for those who are in privileged places to grasp. Let's use an example to illustrate it:
A white person goes into the store to get a birthday gift for their niece. Generally speaking, they never have to think about the following:
Will I be able to find a doll of the same race as my niece?
Will the store staff be worried that I'm going to steal things?
Will store security follow me around?
A black person or an aboriginal person goes into a store for the same purpose, and for them, these are often relevant questions!

Privilege is being able to live your life without ever having to think about such questions.

There are many kinds of privilege: white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, cis privilege, Christian privilege, and others.

Read more about white privilege (including 50 daily effects of white privilege).
Read more about straight privilege (with parallels to the white privilege article).
Watch some amazing videos by Australian performance poet Joel McKerrow, as he says sorry for the white part in him, the rich part in him, the Christian part of him, and the masculine part of him.
Read Christena Cleveland about Killing Me Softly: On Privilege and Voice.
See also white fragility further down on this page.

Monday, October 21, 2013

[just hospitality: God's welcome in a world of difference, by letty m russell]

"In this, her last book, theologian Letty Russell redefines the commonly held notion of hospitality as she challenges her readers to consider what it means to welcome the stranger. In doing so, she implores persons of faith to join the struggles for justice.

Rather than an act of limited, charitable welcome, Russell maintains that true hospitality is a process that requires partnership with the “other” in our divided world. The goal is “just hospitality,” that is, hospitality with justice.

Russell draws on feminist and postcolonial thinking to show how we are colonized and colonizing, each of us bearing the marks of the history that formed us. With an insightful analysis of the power dynamics that stem from our differences and a constructive theological theory of difference itself, Russell proposes concrete strategies to create a more just practice of hospitality.

With careful attention, she writes, we can build a network of hospitality that is truthful about our mistakes and inequities, yet determined to resist the contradictions that drive us apart. This kind of genuine solidarity requires us to cast off oppression and domination in order to truly welcome the stranger. Russell’s lasting message is a highly practical theology for both the academy and the church. The book contains questions for study and reflection."
(description from amazon)

A sample quote:
My experience as an outsider within has led me question the rigid clergy line that divides our church communities and increases hierarchy and competition for power in our denomination. At the same time, it has led me to focus in a theology of hospitality that emphasizes the calling of the church as a witness to God's intention to mend the creation by bringing about a world of justice, peace, and integrity of the natural world. There are a lot of "missing persons" in our world today whose situation of poverty, injustice, and suffering makes God weep. These missing persons are not strangers to God, for God already has reached out to care for them. Yet they are strangers in the world who need to know God cares through the witness of a church that practices a ministry of hospitality and justice on their behalf.       (p. 18-19)
Read an excerpt at Spirituality & Practice.

Friday, October 18, 2013

lay your burdens down

Some days it's just a bit much. It's bad enough that we need to love people, but to forgive them? To work at being reconciled with them? To live in peace? To be hospitable to the stranger and the foreigner?

When it's all overwhelming, come to the cross and lay your burdens down....

Or for a better way, lay your fears down at the cross and ask Jesus to show you the way to love, to forgive, to embrace....

Monday, October 14, 2013

everyone's got a gay relative

everyone has a gay relative - by rob g

For everyone who's ever complained about the gay movement stealing the rainbow to use as their symbol when it was originally a sign that the earth would never be flooded again as in the days of Noah, it was Joseph who really started the whole fad back in the day....

Posted belatedly for the 2013 National Coming Out Day. For fellow Canadians, I apologize for not having a turkey-themed cartoon to celebrate our Thanksgiving Day; however, as I'll take beef over turkey any day, I really wasn't inspired.

Friday, October 11, 2013

[culturally revealing]

A friend lent us a book by René Fumoleau, a French missionary who worked with the Dene in northern Canada in the 1950's.Very interesting and often humorous read which is giving me a broader cultural perspective.

I especially like this story, because of the cultural values which contrast so much with the values I see around me. René writes:
After living for a few months of 1953
with the K'ashot'ine of Rádeli Ko (Fort Good Hope),
I was teaching them the Ten Commandments.
You know them: love God, honour your parents,
don't kill, don't steal, don't lie,
and don't commit adultery.

I explained:

"It is a sin
to do what we shouldn't do,
or not to do what we should do.
Sins are rated as big or small.
What do you think is the worst sin of all?"

The ten Dene discussed together,
and after a while Radisca explained to me:

"We talked it over, and we all agree:
The worst sin people can make
is to lock their door."

From The Secret by René Fumoleau, (Novalis, 1997) p. 13.
Emphasis added.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

[generous spaciousness: responding to gay Christians in the church, by Wendy Gritter]

cover of "generous spaciousness: responding to gay Christians in the church" by wendy gritter"Committed Christians may respond differently to gay and lesbian Christians. How can we engage those with whom we might disagree and navigate our journey together in a way that nurtures unity, hospitality, humility, and justice?

Through her extensive experience in ministering to gay and lesbian Christians, Wendy VanderWal-Gritter has come to believe we need a new paradigm for how the church engages those in the sexual minority. She encourages generous spaciousness, a hope-filled, relational way forward for those in turmoil regarding a response to gay and lesbian Christians. This book offers a framework for discussing diversity in a gracious way, showing that the church can be a place that welcomes a variety of perspectives on the complex matter of human sexuality. It also offers practical advice for implementing generous spaciousness in churches and organizations."
(from Baker Publishing "About")

If you've been following her blog or heard her speak in person or video, you know what a phenomenal book this is.

Here's how Wendy described generous spaciousness in a recent article at Religion News Service:
In generous spaciousness, I choose to listen deeply to the other, expecting to encounter God in our conversation. With generous spaciousness, I am seeking to experience a sense of community with those with whom I disagree. That means I intentionally contribute to an ethos of mutual respect. True respect doesn’t whitewash differences as if they don’t matter. But in generous spaciousness I allow myself to wonder if there might be more for me to learn and discover as I build relationship with the one who sees things differently than I do.

Purchase via Amazon.ca using this link -- same cost to you, and New Direction, the ministry that is leading the way in encouraging generous spaciousness, gets a small cut.

(Other purchasing options).

Tuesday, October 08, 2013


The American what?

When we hear the word "holocaust", we typically think of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II. This is also how Wikipedia defines the term "The Holocaust".

But there were other holocausts and other genocides, not only in far away countries but also right here in North America where I live, yet these are hardly mentioned. I am specifically referring to the holocaust of aboriginal people across the North American continent.

In the U.S. there are 36 museums commemorating the Nazi Holocaust. There are none commemorating the American Holocaust which killed millions of First Nations people....

Friday, October 04, 2013

movie critique

Not needing to look him up in the book of names, the angel at the gate takes the opportunity to offer a critique of one of Hitchcock's movies:

black birds cartoon by rob g

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

breakfast not included

Ludicrous, isn't it? The idea that someone would choose to go to heaven just because of thinking that they would get breakfast there and not in hell? It reminds me of choosing Holiday Inn where a complimentary hot breakfast is often included instead of staying somewhere else....

But that's what part of the chorus suggests in the Newsboys' "Breakfast" song::

May this song remind you
That they don't serve breakfast in hell.

The song in general is complete silliness, but even silliness can send a deeper message, and I have often wondered how a friend invited to a concert with a Christian would feel about the song.

And then I wonder about using hell fire and brimstone as a way of converting people. That's why I first said yes to Jesus, and it took a lot of years to realize that God is good and that He really loved me.