Following up on a conversation with my son on Welcome to My World – why we live here. Our world is Washington DC, the capital of one of the world’s largest and most prominent countries. It is a city where influence is exerted by many people living here in their jobs as non-profit or lobbyists to make or change legislation or to administer and write the legislation. There are ‘other people that live here as well.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
Diversity in Practice
Our little family here consists of ‘the other.’ What do I mean by that? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘Othering” as – “The use of other as a verb is rooted in sociology: to other, a certain culture or individual is to treat that culture as fundamentally different from another class of individuals, often by emphasizing its apartness in traits that differ from one’s own. Othering can be as simple as speaking of a group of people as “them” in relation to “us.” Targets of othering can range from race to gender to sexuality to regional accents to hair color. It’s the notion behind a term like black sheep (“a disfavored or disreputable member of a group”), which only makes sense when one thinks of sheep with white fleece as the only normal kind.”
I am sure you will agree within that definition there is a lot of scope to be ‘other’ in Washington DC! My son and I both fit into the ‘Immigrant Other.’ There are days when I feel sad when immigrants are denigrated or spoken of as ‘less than.’ America was built on immigration; top scientists like Albert Einstein immigrated from Germany to bring his knowledge of physics to America for the world’s benefit.
My son-in-law fits into the ‘other’ of People Groups. He is a Native American from the Navajo Nation. He is here in Washington DC advocating for his people who have been treated as ‘other’ even though they were the original occupants of this country. I have been made to feel ‘other’ when stating I was born in Rhodesia. People viewed me as a ‘white supremacist,’ which could not be further from the truth. My sons also are ‘other’ as they belong to the LBGQT community.
Community in Christ
Working, living, and being ‘other’ here in Washington DC has really taught me much. It has made me study and question things I had previously thought differently about and try to find answers to reconcile my beliefs. I have read many historical and spiritual books and studied the Bible regarding the issues we face here. It has also made me look at people through the eyes of Christ. It took me some time to find a Christian Community that extended a welcome to ‘otherness,’ where I could be happy to worship. Living in ‘otherness’ certainly has opened my eyes to what it really means to live a Christ-Centered life versus a ‘Law Centered’ life.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments and demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them.” Jesus was the one who welcomed the ‘other,’ the Samaritan woman, the lepers, the tax collectors, Roman centurions, Greeks, and women. In fact, he turned the prejudices of the times on their head.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments and demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them.”JESUS OF NAZERETH
Wisdom from a Previous Epidemic Era
Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth-century mystic, who lived in times remarkably similar to us when the Black Death decimated the population in Europe, wrote a book called “Revelations of Divine Love.” Locked away in a small room (I can relate!), she wrote, “And so what I saw most clearly was that love is his meaning. God wants us to know that he loved us before he even made us, and this love has never diminished and never will. All his actions unfold from this love, and through this love he makes everything that happens of value to us, and in this love, we find everlasting life. Our creation has a starting point, but the love in which he made us has no beginning, and this love is our true source.” That is Christ-Centered love when we can extend our actions in love towards ‘others.’
Have you ever been made to feel ‘other?’ or “have you made those different from yourself feel ’other?’What are your thoughts on ‘otherness?’ How do we bridge the gap between ourselves and those that are different from us?