Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I want to draw attention to my friend Rachel’s excellent post entitled My Carefully Calibrated Difference on her personal blog. http://rachelstanton.wordpress.com/ I really identify with her thoughts about identification with the ‘other’ and the internal struggle coinciding with it.

As we talk more with others about this church community we are preparing to form we get some interesting responses. At the suggestion that we desire to be a church of and among the poor, a few people have expressed their fear that we are making ourselves vulnerable to be victims of crime – even exposing our daughter to be raped! One well-meaning gentleman pulled me aside on two occasions to warn me about the way “those people” think and behave. One person suggested that if we have any home meetings, we should have them in the garage so that none of “those people” see our belongings and come back later to steal them.

It’s fine and noble that we want to help “those people,” but we should be careful not to expose ourselves or be too vulnerable. And we need to keep the invisible boundaries of superiority in place at all times. At least – this is the message so many communicate to us.

As we struggle to work out the implications of identification, which we readily concede to be a process barely begun within us and which we know to be impossible but for the grace of God, the warnings of our middle class friends only help us to see our own hypocrisy and strengthen our resolve to press on. The Church needs to be reconciled within itself among the rich, the poor, and the middle classes who look at one another across economic divides with suspicion and pride. We humbly pray for the grace to be an agent of that reconciliation.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Clash of (parenting) Values

I met a home-school mom the other day. She explained to me that her kids asked to go to public school one year, and she let them so they could “learn their lesson.” Sure enough, they were begging to be back home with mom by the end of the year. She said her primary objection to public school is not the quality of the education (which surprised me), but rather the quality of the other children. She went on about how terrible the kids were, visibly shuddering as she described their need for decent parenting. She doesn’t want her kids subjected to them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against home-schooling and I think it’s a great option for lots of families for a variety of reasons. I just don’t share this woman’s reasoning. at all.

The elementary school this mom referred to is located in an area with a large population of low-income families. It is the same school my daughter attended – and loved – for six years. Maria always had lots of friends from homes with various disadvantages. Sometimes these kids have been mean and inappropriate, and Maria has had to cope with that. So I don’t doubt the basic observations of this home-schooling mom.

Her philosophy is that all those heathen kids might corrupt or harm her kids, and that her nice Christian children should be protected from them.

My philosophy has always been that my daughter will have to live in this world – for better or worse – all her life. The sooner she learns how to navigate relationships with diverse people of different beliefs, family cultures, and values, the better. I believe it’s better for her to experience occasional pain in social situations, and then learn how to navigate it, than it would be for her to avoid social pain by isolation. It’s better for her to see how others live and be able to contrast our values and beliefs with others as she is developing rather than be exposed to the world all at once when she hits college. But the most important difference between our practices is that I believe all those other “bad” kids aren’t bad. They are just kids who need to be loved, and who have something to offer us as well as we to them.

This means my daughter has friends who come from homes where abuse, addiction, neglect and even violence are daily realities. We can’t change their realities, but we can open our hearts to them, offer them true hospitality, and love them with the love of Christ. They have enriched our lives probably more than we’ve enriched theirs.

How could we follow in the footsteps of Jesus while bunkering down in our houses trying to avoid contamination?