vendredi, décembre 22, 2006

Whom will you serve?

Back in college, when I was grappling with the implications of being newly baptized, I moved fluidly (more or less) in and out of different Christian communities, picking up valuable insights as I traveled. The Pentacostals taught me not to be wary of emotion in worship, while the St. Margaret Sisters helped me learn about the discipline of the divine office and the importance of waiting upon God. The village church of St. James and its unpretentious priest, Bill Wickham, welcomed me without fuss or fanfare and created a space where I could explore my calling. The liberal Protestant chaplain and professor, Joel Tibbetts and his first wife, Ginger, opened their home to me in good times and not so good ones. But the one tradition I didn't learn much about was Anabaptism-the pietistic sects of the radical reformation that were so often persecuted in their home countries and fled to American to find freedom to worship. Anabaptists, of course, believe in adult baptism-and also have a very wary view of secular authority. As I've observed this Administration's evident willingness to pitch American foreign policy as coming straight from the desk of the Almighty, I've wondered if perhaps I didn't have more in common with the pietists-who have often taken to civil disobedience to protest actions they believe to be immoral and unbiblical. Yesterday, at Colin's winter concert, I was ready to race to the first Mennonite congregation I could find and ask the pastor where I could sign up. Since Colin attends a public school, it was considered completely inappropriate to mention God, of course. But about three quarters of the way through the third grader's charming renditions of "Jingle Bells" and "Let there be peace on earth" a little guy came to the mike and piped up: "We are going to do this next set of songs to honor our Armed Forces defending our freedom in Iraq." There followed a selection of traditional flag-worshipping songs-another sign that in
America we can't tell the difference between the Lord of Heaven and Earth and a national symbol with 50 stars. The children did a wonderful job. They were applauded with great enthusiam by parents and grandparents who had brought their videocams to preserve the event for posterity. But as I stood, quietly boiling in the back of the gym, I wondered about the ongoing, pervasive, and troubling lesson of such an event-that for fear of offending someone's values, we must strip Christmas, and Chanukah and Ramadan of their spiritual roots. To do so, we seek the lowest common denominator, the hubristic idol worship of nationalism. So perhaps I'm not as Anabaptist as I thought. I believe there must be a safe place for dialogue about faith in the public schools-with the understanding that to talk about our traditions and diversity starts, but does not end, the conversation.

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