JordonCooper Rotating Header Image

Not feeling at home

From page 23 and 24 of Where Resident Aliens Live by Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas are some great thoughts I re-read tonight while looking for another story that I know is in there (I read the book twice tonight trying to find it).
The image of resident aliens means in a possibly offensive way that American [or western] Christians need to stop feeling at home.  We agree with Leslie Newbigin that today’s Western church ought to feel like missionaries in the very culture we thought we have devised.  American Christians thought we had created, through our Constitution, a culture in which people were at least safe to be Christians.
 
That was a mistake.  The very notion that we Christians could ever feel at home in this culture or any other was criticized by Hugo of St. Victor: “The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom he entire world is a foreign place.”  By being adopted to be part of a journey called discipleship, Christians are permanently ill at ease in the world.
 
Wise Malcolm Muggeridge prayed that, “the only ultimate disaster that can befall us is to feed ourselves to be at home here on earth.  As long as we are aliens we cannot forget our true homeland which is that other kingdom You proclaimed.”
Constantinianism, which attempted through force of the state to make the world into the kingdom, which attempted to make the worship of God unavoidable to all without conversion or transformation was an ill-conceived project that has at last died of its own deceit.  As Stanley has said, “It is unclear who started looking like whom first, whether Southern Baptist pastors started looking like Texas politicians, or Texas politicians started looking like Southern Baptist pastors.”
 
Because we grew up in mainline Protestantism, we know that project well, American mainline Protestants hoped to be so nice, hoped to remake the gospel into something so self-evident and obvious, that the world would think that it was already Christian without having to die and be reborn.  Fortunately, now that that project seems to be in its death throes, on the basic of membership statistics alone, many are now ready to let go of that deceit and to embrace their new status as sojourners.  America, for any of its strengths and blessings is not God’s salvation.

3 Comments

  1. Brian Mullins says:

    It’s an apt illustration. My wife was a resident alien (literally) when we moved to the US back in 1991. (I am dual citizen – but that’s another analogy…) All was fine until we moved back to Canada ten years later and they made sure she handed in her card. Resident-alienship revoked!

    I’ll gladly hand in my alien residency for this old world anytime.

  2. Mike O says:

    I’ve often thought of the ethnic festivals in many American cities. One of the most notable is the Greekfest. The local Greek Orthodox Churches put on this in a number of cities, and it is popular with all society – Greek, non-Greek, Orthodox, non-Ortho (maybe not Molokans!)

    The food, art, clothing and music are an attraction, and nobody has a problem with people displaying their heritage; also the relationships and community are quite visible. Around here (San Fran) we have Japanese festivals, and other cities have their own (Cedar Rapids has Czech, etc.)

    Is it time for “emerge-fest”?

  3. Toni Ertl says:

    This really is very perceptive. Thanks Jordon.