There is a well-developed body of scholarship on the racist roots of U.S. immigration laws and how the term “alien” — and, even more perniciously, “illegal alien” — has been used to define and exclude those foreign nationals who are viewed as unwelcome, whether because of race, religion, language, culture, poverty or some combination of the above…
So what does this all mean? Well, it turns out that we had already been calling foreigners aliens for centuries before we started using the word to refer to extraterrestrials. So it’s not that we think foreigners resemble Martians, it’s that we think Martians resemble foreigners. Put another way: It is not the case that, the first time we saw a foreigner, he reminded us of a Martian. Rather, when we in the English-speaking world first conceived of the possibility — or at least first started writing about the notion — that there might be Martians (green skin and all that), we imagined them to be akin to foreigners. This actually has interesting sociological implications. Could this account, for example, for why people who insist they are not racist often do so by saying something like, “I don’t care if you’re black, white, green or purple …”?
Why is it important to recognize that we appear to have named extraterrestrials after foreigners, rather than the other way around? Because it shows just how very much we fear what is different. It also suggests that until we demystify foreigners — perhaps by remembering that apart from Native Americans, we are all descendants of immigrants, i.e., foreigners, in this country — we will just, at best, find a new euphemism to name that which makes us uncomfortable.
A great article on how language is used to dehumanize others, to create a separation between groups, and to label those we are afraid of. My favorite sentence was, ”The power inherent in the ability to ascribe names is real, as is the impact on the named.” Fear is a powerful feeling. Fear of others, their ideas, or their way of life can easily make us do and say things that have devastating consequences. We need to learn to be okay with that which is different from us. We also need to remember that we are different to others.
We tend to make snap judgments about the people we come in contact with everyday. This may come across in how we look at them, our body language, or what we say to them.
Sadly, most of our perceptions of others, their situation, and why they are there are usually highly flawed.
As Mr. Davis says in the video, the way people view him is not who he really is and how he views himself: “It’s really humiliating to be shaking a cup 24 hours a day, and people just look at you like you’re some kind of little bum…I’ve had people walk past me and say, ‘Get a job bum’ and I say wait a second, I’m not a bum, I’m a human being.”
My wife didn’t grow up with a lot. There was a period of a few years where her family went without a car and they had to take their laundry to the laundromat either pulled in a wagon or carried in pillow cases. She felt the stares, looks of people, and their judgments of her and her family. This is how she retells it:
I walked slower than everyone else… on purpose… I wanted to lag behind because well, I just wasn’t happy with the situation… We walked the back way through the shopping center, behind Vien Dong (the Vietnamese grocery store we shopped at). Three men sat on the brick wall drinking from paper bags. They were snickering about the little family with laundry in a wagon. My family was several yards in front of me at this point. They may have even been around the corner. One of the men hopped off the wall and started walking towards me. He turned to his drinking pals and said, “they look too clean to be homeless” and then… he sniffed me… and said, “smells clean too. I don’t know.” Then, laughing, he found his way back to his wall.
I felt worthless. Honestly. I did. I walked into the laundromat, handed my mom my pillowcase full of laundry and said, “I have to go to the bathroom.” I walked into the not so clean public restroom, locked the door, sunk down to the floor, and wept. In those few minutes I remember being angry with God for allowing me to be born. Maybe a dramatic reaction to a drunk man behind a grocery store… but I felt it… and for so many reasons, that day I really felt like things would be better if I had just never existed.
The way we view people can have a big effect on how those people view and feel about themselves. We need to be more aware of our actions and what those actions are saying to those we interact with.
God has assumed the responsibility of a Father, and has taken up those responsibilities to meet them in and through His Son. The enlargement of that in Christian utterance is found in Philippians 4:19. This means Christ recognized, Christ known, God in Christ, and that on the ground of our utter separation unto Him. But note: it is God’s gift. He says that it was not Moses that gave the manna in the wilderness, but His Father. Then it is not the result of man’s labors, it is the issue of God’s grace. Are you laboring for spiritual growth? How we have striven and strained to increase our spiritual measure and our spiritual stature. What a burden we have taken upon us in relation to the maintenance of our own spiritual life! We have almost assumed the whole responsibility for our spiritual life, and made it as though it depended upon our labors in prayer, our labors in the Word of God, our labors in the Lord’s service, our effort, our stress.
No one will think that we have made little of prayer or the Word. No one will think that we have said you must have no care whatever for your spiritual life, but there is such a difference between assuming responsibility for ourselves and recognizing that God has assumed that responsibility. And because God has assumed the responsibility we should cooperate with God. There is all the difference between trying to work for our justification, and working because we are justified; between trying to work for our perfection, and working because our perfection is secured in Christ. The difference is not merely technical, it is practical, and of immense value. Sometimes it is necessary for the Lord to say to us: “Look here, you are making far too much of your own praying, far too much of your own business in the Scriptures, you are unconsciously coming to think that everything depends upon how much and how fervently you pray.” And then you go out and talk to other people about your prayer life as a kind of setting up against their own. You do not mean it, but the implication is that this is what accounts for your growth, and it is going to count for other people’s growth. That must not be a cause but a result. ‘The cause, the secret, the spring of everything is Myself, and sometimes you will just have to cease straining, and rest back in Me, in loving trust. Learn to do that a little more, and then you will pray better, and I shall be able to do something more!‘
That from Chapter two of Knowing God in Christ by T. Austin-Sparks (emphasis mine)
I think most Christians would say that they are responsible for their spiritual growth. With that comes a host of problems that include a heavy burden to do a lot in order to grow and guilt when we don’t do all those things.
But, as T. Austin-Sparks says, we have taken on a responsibility for something that was never ours to begin with. God never intended us to heap on this heavy burden. In fact, this burden is the opposite of not only the freedom painted in Galatians, but also the verse in Matthew that says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Our reality is much different from the way many of us live. We strive for perfection and to “become more like Christ” instead of realizing that those things have already been accomplished. We are saints now. Not because of anything we have done, but because of everything Christ did and, as Paul said, that we are dead and our life is now bound up with Christ living in us.
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” The definition of abide is “to remain; continue; stay.”
May we learn to cease straining and instead learn to abide, rest, and just BE in Christ.
A month ago I was in San Francisco for a work conference. I took my wife along since work was paying and it was good opportunity to get away and introduce her to many of my friends from my time living there.
We stayed in a hotel near Union Square. One evening we were walking around and ended up wandering into a number of art galleries. In one, the first floor held the largest gallery collection of Rembrandt drawings in the US. I really enjoyed these. We eventually made our way upstairs where they had a number of Matisse and Picassos. I have never been much of a fan of either of these artists for the simple reason that the things they painted were weird looking. Cubed looking people? Odd. I’m sorry, that’s just the way I feel.
While we were upstairs, the manager came up and started talking to us about Matisse and Picasso. He said that he never liked their stuff either. He said the paintings all looked weird and when he first started working in the store he thought, I never want to own one of these. He felt this way until one day, many years later, something changed. He said he realized that before these two, no one had ever painted like that. This was new. These two broke out of the box and did something new and different. Before, people tried to paint scenes as realistically as possible. That was the way art had always been done. But then these two guys come along and go in a completely different direction. And for a long time people didn’t get it, they just couldn’t see this as art, because it looked nothing like what had always been done.
But it was art. Matisse and Picasso just saw the scene differently than everyone else.
Dang. I had never thought about it like that before. And in that moment I saw Christ in these artists.
Each of us has all of God inside of us. That may seem like an odd statement since most Christians are accustomed to saying the Holy Spirit resides in us, but realize that God cannot be separated, so if the Holy Spirit is in us then so is God because the Spirit is God. So we have the fullness of Christ in us, yet, as Paul states in Ephesians, that fullness can only be completely expressed by His body, the church:
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Eph 1:22-23).
Or, put another way: each member of the body has been divinely created to express a specific portion of Christ and together we represent the vastness of him.
In this way we each can see and express Christ in a unique way, just as artists can see and paint the same scene very differently. The following picture from TwentyTwoWords is a perfect example of this. It is an artist’s imagining of what Picasso and Dali would have painted given the same scene:
Neither is wrong even though the paintings look nothing alike. In each, the artist is able to bring out something different and unique about the subject and the two paintings together give us a fuller picture of the original scene.
Now imagine a body of believers where each member is expressing Christ (painting the same scene) in the distinct way they see it and you will understand the beauty and vastness of Christ that can be found when every member functions and expresses the uniqueness of Christ that is within them.
Then expand this further to see that every person who has believed into Christ has a distinct portion of Christ that they express and we can only know Christ more fully as we seek Christ in other people.
These are just some of the books I have read lately…
1. Epic Jesus: The Christ You Never Knew, Frank Viola. This short ebook (maybe 25 pages and only $3.99) is the text version of a talk Frank gave at a conference. He uses Colossians 1 to present a powerful and beautiful picture of the greatness and centrality of Christ. There is a revelation of Jesus to be had in this book that is both refreshing and far removed from the familiar way He is presented by most churches today.
2. The Butterfly in You, Milt Rodriguez. Milt presents a stunning view of our identity in Christ. He starts out by presenting a view of Christ that is far beyond anything that most have ever heard and uses that as a foundation to show us who we truly are. One of the best parts of this book is a discussion of the corporate nature of the Christian life and how we cannot fully know Christ and ourselves apart from this.
3. The White Man’s Burden, William Easterly. Taking international aid and development to task, Easterly examines the history of aid and why efforts have not achieved the desired results. He comes down hard on the top down approach and advocates for more from the bottom up (what he calls Planners vs Searchers). I didn’t agree with everything in it, but it has a lot to offer.
4. Revive Us Again, Frank Viola. An examination of a number of habits in the Christian life that we have just picked up during our journey (that we may not even realize) and seeks to revise them and create new habits that are more in line with our life in Christ.
5. The Big Truck That Went By, Jonathan Katz. Katz was on assignment for AP in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. The book is an investigative look into international aid and why after $16.3 billion in pledges and 3 years not much has changed in the country. He uncovers the truths about how wealthy countries give money and just how much actually is spent on the ground.
6. The Pastor has no Clothes, Jon Zens. This is not a book for everyone. Zens shows that in the NT one cannot find any evidence or support for the office of the pastor. And it is not so much a book as a collection of articles he has written on the subject.
7. Wool, Hugh Howey. A post-apocalptic tale, set in a silo. This started out as a single book, but has now become a series. I couldn’t put down the first five books. The sixth book was not as good and I haven’t read the next few.
8. Saving Darfur: Everyone’s Favourite African War, Rob Crilly. The book takes a critical look at how complicated the conflict actually was, why it was painted as a simple good versus evil fight, and the complicated reality about Arabs and Africans. It shows how the Save Darfur movement got it wrong and what happened as a result.
9. From Eternity to Here, Frank Viola. I now have an answer to the question, “What book has impacted you the most?” This book is a stunning revelation of the eternal purpose of God. It is about a bride and a bridegroom. About a Son wanting to be a Lover and not just the Beloved. There are things in this book that I had never heard before. You will come away from this book seeing your Lord in whole new light.
10. Shadows of War, Carolyn Nordstrom. Fantastic ethnography. Following the flow of goods and services into and out of war zones, she reveals the hidden realities of war and extra-state networks. It challenges our preconceived notions about war, politics, right/wrong, il/legal.