What happens when we only want to be with “our kind”? I shudder when I see this poster advertising a Klan rally in my idyllic, peaceful town. The poster clearly defines who was being addressed – all “White, Gentile, Protestants” were invited. That leaves a long list of folks who were not welcome at this gathering. This group of people who only wanted to meet with “their kind.”
1926 was a long time ago. I have never seen a poster overtly encouraging segregation or advertising hatred. But you don’t have to look too far on Facebook or other social media to discover hate-filled messages and hurtful words. There are many ways to communicate who is welcome in “our” circle and who is not.
This month our church is studying stories from Genesis. The Tower of Babel is described as a monument to self-preservation. God had told new his creation to go out, scatter far and wide, be fruitful and multiply. And what did they do? They “settled down.” They stayed in one place. Instead of adapting a spirit of adventure and a curiosity to discover God’s diverse creation, the people hunkered down.
It turns out that being sedentary is not only bad for our health, it is bad for our spirits. Instead of expanding their horizons, the people stuck close to home with others who looked like them and talked like them. They didn’t want to be explore. They resisted change. They feared what (and who) might be “out there.” They celebrated their safety by building an enormous city complete with a tower symbolizing their self-absorbed complacency.
God put an end to all that. God broke down the city walls and destroyed their tower. The people were sent out to confront the challenges of different languages, races, and cultures. God’s people had to fulfill their destiny to “scatter throughout the earth.”
That ancient story comes to mind as I listen to candidates urging us to build a wall to protect our multi-cultural, complex, interracial nation. This story haunts me when I find myself avoiding people with opinions, lifestyles, and and customs different from my own. We are not called to a life of relaxed self-satisfaction. We are invited (and sometimes even not too gently nudged) beyond our comfort zones to places of encounter and learning and exploration.
All of God’s people are our kind of people. We become more complete not when we limit our interactions but instead when we dare to listen to and learn from each other.