Monday, August 8, 2016

Stolen Land

If you're like me you'd like to think
We learn from our mistakes
Enough to know we can't play God
With other lives at stake.
So know we've all discovered the world
Wasn't only made for whites.
What step are you gonna take
To set things right?

Bruce Cockburn, "Stolen Land"

In church yesterday, I sat down next to a young Native American man and welcomed him to worship.  It was clearly his first time among us, and I wanted him to feel the 'extravagant welcome' we extend to friends and seekers.  The church continues to grow, continues to make space for varied belief and Christian expression.  This is thrilling on so many levels.  And a sign of genuine Christian community.  At least I think so.

He was curious, this man: curious about the space, about the 'priests,' intrigued by the notion of church and how it works.  So I simply and far too easily said: "I hope you'll come again! Please come again.  Our house is your house."

And he looked at me with a smile and said, "Well, that's kind of ironic."  Just that.  He left it for me to figure out the rest.

Somewhat cavalierly, perhaps patronizingly, I assumed it was 'my church' and 'my land' and 'my place'--and I could invite him back.  Out of my own generosity.  Out of a sense of theological grandiosity.  "Well, that's kind of ironic."  The history here, the history across this continent, tells a different story.  If I reckon with that history--faithfully, prophetically--I reckon with my own history of occupation, my tradition's history of destruction and even genocide.  And that's sobering.

The church isn't 'our church.'  The land isn't 'our land.'  The Christian welcome isn't 'Welcome to our house." 

It's: "Let's build a world where there are no rich and there are no poor.  Let's build a world where the occupied are set free, and the kids run the streets joyfully.  Let's build it together.  All of us.  Let's do that here."  I hope the young Native American comes back, so I can say all that.  And make amends.