Sunday, January 29, 2017

American Dream



My heart is heavy.

My heart is heavy and embarrassed and so sorry.

As the people who have grown up with me know, I am a Christian - formally defined as someone who follows Christ, or Jesus. I am also White. And in the last few years, I have come to realize what this represents (at many times ashamedly) and have opened my eyes to the reality of what this associates me to historically and politically: a mindset of superiority. And privilege. So much privilege.
I'm sorry it took me so long to see it.

I was born in Switzerland, a very small country in Europe. It is a country of many wonders and beauty, but also of great division, especially between the Swiss-born and immigrants.
I was young and I didn't fully understand. I believed what I'd hear and only saw what I was told to see.
I was surrounded by a repeating song.
Someone doesn't belong, and it isn't me,
it would sing.

When I was 4, my family took us to the United States for the first time.
I was still young and I still didn't fully understand.
But there was a sense of hope, of longing for better. And a lot of pride. Even as an outsider.
The American Dream.

When I was 7, we officially immigrated to America.

Someone doesn't belong, and it isn't me,
I'd still hear.

It took my sister and I about a year to learn English.
On the first day of school, I didn't know what the national anthem was or the pledge of allegiance. I don't know what the teacher said to me, but I remember she was upset because I wasn't standing.
We switched schools after that.

It didn't take long for me to see how important America was to a lot of Americans.
It was a bold lifestyle. And loud. And addictive.
This is where I experienced church. I went to church every Sunday.
It was part of our American Dream. We were surrounded by more Christians than we were in Switzerland, and this made us feel like we belonged.

We were surrounded by people who looked like us, who were bold and loud about it. And it was comfortable. We were immigrants, but we were White Christian immigrants.

We had found comfort in beliefs that suited our lifestyle,
we had given God a face and named him "White".

I began to talk to God alone.
I began to ask him more and more questions.
And the repeating song in my head telling me I wasn't the outcast started to change.
"What makes you better? What makes you more important? Your heart is just as messy."
I began to hear.
I became close to the God I asked questions to alone. And became conflicted with the God I'd hear about at church. Because, sometimes, it wouldn't match.

In 2006, we moved to Canada.
And I became more involved with church.
I was given handbooks and teachings that made Christianity appear very black and white.
I still had many questions, but I had new rules and guidelines this time. This was supposed to make being human easier. Or so it seemed.
I also became friends with people of different faiths and beliefs and orientations. I became friends with Muslims and atheists and gays.
And my mind was fighting the need to be right with "What makes you better?"
I had more and more challenging (but important) conversations with friends I didn't agree with. Sometimes they inspired me to change my mind. Other times they simply opened my eyes.

And it started to sink in: I wasn't better and I wasn't more right.
The Love I grew to know was unconditional, and it meant just that.
Grace could never be defined by the human mind.
Handbooks didn't make being human easier.
Countries don't determine whether you belong somewhere or not. And the color of your skin doesn't determine your value.
Jesus was a brown man, a refugee, and hated by politicians. (I had always seen Jesus portrayed in plays or films by a White man.)
And he preferred the company of outcasts.

I woke up from a dream not long ago where I had written the line "I follow God, not Christians" in my journal. Like a reminder of what should always be.

And so, I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus. And I am with the outcasts. I stand for the silenced, the hurting, and the weary. As Jesus did. I will fail often, and I will be wrong at times, too. But I will chase after truth, asking as many questions as I can. I will not be silent. I don't want to mask my fears with pride and a false sense of superiority. Instead, I want to take comfort in a Love I cannot fully understand that I don't deserve, but who wants me anyway. And speak with it. Act in it. Breathe and reflect it.
And if you are a Christian, too, I ask you to challenge your thoughts. To renew [give fresh life to; replace] your mind. Ask as many questions as you can. And chase truth. Don't settle with the easy and the comfortable. Spend time with those different than you. If your thoughts are different than mine and you wish to share them with me, I ask that you don't hide behind a comment. But instead, I invite you to have tea with me. Physically. Or over Skype. And we can dialogue.

In this time of heaviness, confusion, and pain, I send you light, hope, and love.