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loveandpatientpartialheartcbl2014

(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

For too long I have been silent. No more. My heart hurts for the discourse I read, and then further when I hear that some in our country are carrying out acts of hatred toward those who are considered the Other. For my friends who believe justice has been served in this election and that the losers on this side of history should just grow up and accept what has happened, I want them to understand that many people are afraid that is now OK to be judged (and punished) for how they look, or who they love. I’m not got going to grow out of my concern for the Other—and, for me, it is specifically because of what I’ve learned from others of faith and from the Bible. My God is a God of love and my faith compels me to strive to be a person of love—no matter what.

We all pick and choose what we quote from the Bible. I know this is considered a crazy and possibly heretical thought by many Christ-followers, but as a literature major, I can tell you I always read for depth and meaning in everything I read. While I may not know the Greek and Hebrew behind the original creation of the passages we know today, nor do I know all the history surrounding the events in the books of the Bible, I most certainly know to recognize when there are conflicting passages in the Great Book. I must prayerfully consider and reconcile the differences.

For me, I choose to pick the verses where Jesus said the greatest commandments were to love the Lord and God with all your soul and your strength and your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. In his exchange in Luke 10 with the expert of the law who correctly answered that those were the most important laws, the man then asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by starting out with, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho . . . ”

He launches into the parable of the Good Samaritan–and I’m pretty certain that Samaritans were on some sort of registry there in those days. Who was the hero of that story? The outsider–and the man who showed love. What was Jesus telling us here? That love is love. And to love everyone.

There’s that “love everyone” thing again–which seems really, really hard to do these days.

I’m going to try to love the people who have made statements I consider unconscionable—not because my mean-spirited human heart wants to do so, but because my God asks me to love all my neighbors. We can disagree on how we approach the laws of this country, but unless the rhetoric includes language of kindness and empathy, I want others to know that I won’t stand for it. These days it’s all the rage to be snarky but it isn’t very Christian. And yet that’s just what we Christians are showing the world.

Who is my neighbor? You all are.

 

 

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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Over twenty years ago, my husband and I knew we were on a journey to leave behind our old selves—I was pregnant with our twins. Thus, we planned one last trip in between my tenuous early pregnancy days and whatever might follow in later months with a likely complicated twin pregnancy. So we hit the road to visit my college roommate and her family in New Orleans, with stops both ways at my brother’s house in Oklahoma.

We had a lot of time to fill on our road trip. Along with reading books out loud and stopping at every rest area for me and my constantly full bladder, we read through baby name books and tried to come up with four names: two for girls and two for boys. In the end, we could only agree on one boy’s name, so it’s a good thing that’s all we had.

A name that didn’t make the cut, Xenos, means stranger or newcomer. Such a Greek name sounded a little too odd with our last name—and, as I always say, any ending “s” in a first name makes our name into Slambert! However, at the time I didn’t think of the meaning as negative—I saw someone named Xenos as the mysterious stranger or traveler, not as the outsider who would never feel welcome.

Back in 1992, I don’t think we realized our nation was so divided, though, until the riots in Los Angeles burst into flames. Right there on our television screens we could see a lot of fear of the other—people acting toward someone just because of how they looked or because they were not part of a neighborhood.

Even so, I still think the rest of us harbored a little hope that somehow we really might all get along and that we could trust our neighbors, even if those people out there in L.A. could not trust their neighbors.

When the towers fell almost a decade later—after our initial few “kumbaya” weeks—whatever illusions we’d held of “United we stand” and all that shattered into divisions that seem to keep widening these ten plus years since.

So into the culture of fear escalated some thirty years ago after child abductions increased, mix this fear of the other and it becomes so much easier to justify staying among those we know.

In a time when our nation has become more diverse, many of our neighborhoods have become less diverse and more homogeneous.

Before the kids started school, I attended a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group where most of the women lived in newer subdivisions. One day our small groups were prompted to express our fears for our children in this world. I seemed to make them all speechless when I said I feared consumerism. Yes, I feared consumerism and conformity more than contact with the other.

We stubbornly stayed in our aging, mostly blue-collar neighborhood, despite the questions from our friends about the quality of our children’s education. Yes, the kids were in a Title I school and met kids who lived in Section 8 housing, but they understood early on that not everyone was the same nor did they all come from the same opportunities. They were never in physical danger and had many excellent educators. Even when we realized our kids did need a better opportunity for high school, we sent them to a non-homogeneous school filled with kids ranging from those same Section 8 kids to those who lived in very wealthy neighborhoods—once again, despite our friends’ concerns.

Truth is I really feel like the other in many of the newer neighborhoods. They are designed with few entry points, with or without gates—those who are supposed to be there know where to go and those who don’t, stand out. In my grid neighborhood there is no entry point. Anyone can drive by or walk by my house, so I don’t get suspicious of them just because I don’t know them. If I’m going to get suspicious, I base it on their actions.

We as a nation are divided by race, political views, religion, socioeconomic level, educational level, sexual preference, sports teams, favorite ice cream flavor, blah, blah, blah—when the marketers started segmenting us out and we fell into those boxes, they helped us to create way more levels of otherness in our society.

I’m not saying I should trust everyone—because I’ve met many who do not deserve my trust. But I do think I should base my decisions more on people’s actions than on whether or not they belong to my group.

And some days, just thinking that way really makes me feel like such a Xenos in this strange land my country has become since that long ago trip when I was a stranger to parenting or worrying about the world in which I’d be raising my children.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert