As a Canadian who primarily grew up in these United States of America (on a Green Card), I have felt out of place. Even as I write of my displacement/discomfort, I am reminded of the fact that I am a white, cisgender male and am aware of the privilege this affords one who resides in America. That being said, growing up, I have often felt too American for the Canadians and too Canadian for the Americans. This explains why I have often identified (Biblically) with “the sojourner” or “the foreigner,” individuals or groups living in a land that is not their own, who often are dependent on the community they are living amongst.
Throughout the Old Testament, the covenant community is called to care for the foreigner. In Deuteronomy 10 and 27, we read, “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner” and God “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” God expects us to care for those who “are not us” in deep and meaningful ways.
Unfortunately, many in the American church have found it far too easy to fall into religious nationalism, which can even become violent at times. Religious nationalism is not only anti-American, it is also destructive and contrary to God’s will. Rev. Lenny Duncan reminds us that “Nationalism is counter to God’s great expansive kingdom. It is based on a theology of fear, pride, and scarcity ... By resisting nationalism and empire, we find the true face of Christ.”
So, my genuine hope is that you have an incredible Independence Day celebration. I know I plan to! From my living room, I can watch the Grand Rapids firework show and I cannot wait to host our friends and revel in the festivities. What a delight that we get to celebrate the many blessings we receive as citizens (or residents, permanent or temporary) of this great country. Additionally, as the proud brother of a Captain in the U.S. Army, we should not be shy in showing our gratitude for the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our protection and prosperity.
The second part of my hope is that we will spend our time actively serving and loving those whom God has called us too. Oftentimes, calls for care of the foreigner also include calls for care of the widow and the orphan. But as we make preparations to celebrate this place we call home, I am thinking of those who are unable to be in (or even celebrate) their country of origin for lack of safety, security, or survival.
So as we enjoy pools, platters, and pyrotechnics let us not forget that we are called to love those who are “other,” who “are not us.” Let us recommit, as the covenant community, to work against the xenophobic fear and anxiety of our day. Let us not forget Rev. Duncan’s reminder that “God’s grace for us is diversity.”
-Nicholas Hopkins, Minister of Music as found in The Branch Monthly Newsletter July 2022