Sunday, November 27th is the first Sunday of Advent 2022, a time of reflective preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth: God’s revelation of Divinity as well as God’s revelation of authentic humanity.
Regardless where we are on planet Earth these days, we are witnessing a major shift in human history. Perhaps we no longer have the best language or imagery to correctly describe and interpret what’s happening. Perhaps we have grown so accustomed to inflated rhetoric and public relations packaging that we have lost our perspective on the human drama that is reshaping our lives. People are fearful and anxious about losing identity: national identities, religious identities, sex and gender identities, racial and ethnic identities.
A person’s identity was once based on a common language, a common religious tradition, and ancestral, social, cultural, or national experiences. Today, in a world of tremendous human migrations across all the ancient boarders, and with ever-growing cyber communications networks, identities are changing, whether people are comfortable or not about the new realities.
Perhaps we should see our identity as based on something far deeper? Maybe we need a new perspective on identity? Some fearful people are working hard to reassert their old, often prejudicial, identities. In the United States, and across Europe, we see the last gasps of white male supremacy in all its ugliness, hatred, and violence. In the United States, we see as well a level of socio-cultural polarization that is higher than at the time of the nineteenth century Civil War (or the “War of Northern Aggression” if you are from the South). The past week has brought seven mass shootings in the United States. Twenty-two people have been killed and 44 wounded.
I suggest we need a new perspective about contemporary life and contemporary people. Seeing people in the old categories just won’t work anymore: liberal vs conservative, Republican vs Democrat, traditional Catholic vs Vatican II Catholic, and of course evangelical Protestant vs progressive Christian.
Although an older fellow, I still meet occasionally with groups of young university students.They are a delight. They experience socio-cultural change as part of our contemporary reality and not a threat to their identity. They are much more concerned about the human values of truthfulness, integrity, honesty, respect for the other, and human outreach based on dialogue, compassion, and personal encounter.
I get frustrated with contemporary church leaders trying to resurrect the 1950s. Or worse. In October a fundamentalist pastor in Idaho told his congregation that gay, lesbian, and transgender people should be executed. A Texas fundamentalist pastor did the same in multiple sermons. They call themselves Christian! And I get frustrated with contemporary politicians pretending to be Christians but displaying neither words nor actions grounded in Christian belief.
We should ask all of them: To what degree do the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth reverberate in your hearts? That is what our conversation should be about. To what degree does the Gospel guide decision-making: celebrating divine love to the extent that people genuinely care for others, support, and yes even forgive one another. This conversation undercuts racism, the denigration of “losers,” the unhealthy lifestyles of self-centered and self-seeking bullies, xenophobia, homophobia, and all human phobias.
Genuine Christianity celebrates the life of the Holy Spirit to the extent that a healthy and healing spirit pervades the individual and collective lives of people who try to genuinely follow the way of Jesus.
This week end we light the first Advent candle, remembering the Prophet Isaiah’s words: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
Today is also U.S. American Thanksgiving. I offer a very sincere thank you to readers who have contributed to my annual For Another Voice appeal. If someone would still like to contribute, all details are in last week’s post. Any questions? Just write me at firstname.lastname@example.org