Jesus was Not Patriotic

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I love being part of something larger than myself. I love belonging to an expansive view—to lift up my eyes and know that my small life is not all there is. There is a world and a God so much bigger and more expansive than I can even dream or imagine.

I love God—Creator of the Universe, who has been here before the beginning of time.
I love Jesus—Son of God, born of an ordinary woman, who surrendered his life to a violent regime on a cross.
I love the Spirit—wise, comforting, counselor, ever present.

I have had the incredible privilege to walk in many places on this earth. As I have lifted up my eyes in Manila and Moose Jaw, I know that God has the whole world in her hands.

A few years ago, I got to stand on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city of Jerusalem. I couldn’t help but remember how Jesus wept over Jerusalem and how the Psalmist reminds us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. So, we stood on that mountain and prayed for the peace of Jerusalem. But we also prayed for the peace of Gaza. And the peace of Bethany, Bethlehem and Hebron, too.

We prayed for the peace of the cities where we make our homes.
The places around the world that have our hearts.

I prayed for the peace of Cape Town and Khayelitsha and Manenberg.
I prayed for the peace of Surrey and Vancouver and Langley and White Rock.
I prayed for the peace of Bubanza and Chisinau.

In North America, this is the week we celebrate the national days of Canada and the United States. Flags are draped, national anthems are sung. We wear the colors of nations we love.

And yet … If we listen to the pain, we know there’s so much more to these stories.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said: Without justice, there can be no peace.

No justice, no peace.

Our nations cannot be beacons of Hope and Justice and Faith—carriers of the heart of Jesus—until we also reconcile with the shadows of our past.

As I sat in church yesterday, I heard how the church is the hope of the world. It can be. But we cannot be the hope of the world if we don’t acknowledge, repent, turn away and walk humbly towards something new. I love the Church, but this very Body has also created some of the most horrendous atrocities in history. There are stories that now run through my mind when I hear the word “church.” I can’t un-hear them. How much more then for indigenous people who experienced these horrors firsthand or still suffer from intergenerational trauma?

I am part of this Body.

History has shown us that conquering territories, even in the name of Jesus, is not the Way of Jesus. Even his disciples wanted Jesus to be a conqueror, a hero, rising up against Roman occupation. The way he chose to do that, was by surrendering to oppressive power. He didn’t mount a horse and rise up to defeat Rome. He was nailed to a cross to defeat our nationalistic tendencies, rooted in our love of power.

We cannot build church if we don’t recognize the damage done in the name of church.

In fact, the more I think about building this church Jesus loves, the more I think it is going back and sitting with the wounded. It is repentance, lament, sitting in the places of the deepest divides and honestly acknowledging the pain that our earnest and often good intentions caused.

In May, I attended the Atamiskakewak National Gathering in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I cannot un-hear the pain I heard at that gathering. These stories of indigenous people in North America are a very real part of the history of this continent. It is not a proud history. It is a painful and destructive history. It is the shadow side of the story.

If we are people of faith, this pain is part of our story.

If we want to build the church, we need to acknowledge the foundations of pain, the injustice of the very land on which we’ve built buildings. We’ve built so much on the pain and exploitation of others.

We need to take that to our mountains and weep and pray with Jesus.

I would love to stand up and proudly sing the national anthem. At this point in my story, I cannot. I cannot sing it if we do not first acknowledge that we sing that very song on unceded indigenous territory.

We can sing our anthems as loud as we want to sing, we can lift our hands as high as we may want to lift it to the God of Heaven and proclaim it as prayer. Our prayers are as ashes before the Creator of the Universe, unless we acknowledge the pain that go along with our words.

The land cries out. There are relationships that need to be healed.

The quality of your relationships is who you are, says Richard Rohr in The Divine Dance. The Trinity is our powerful example of holy relationship. The quality and energy of relationship that exists between the Three, is where we can look for the kind of relationship we are called to have.

If that flow of relationship is blocked between indigenous and non-indigenous, we have work to do.
If that flow—the quality and energy of relationship—that exists between black lives and white lives is blocked, we have work to do.
If there is pain in that flow of relationship between me and a friend, I have work to do.

I am called to reconcile, make right, listen to truth, acknowledge the shadows in my personality, confess, turn away, repair and keep doing the hard and humble work.

I cannot tell you how much I just want to celebrate largeness and belonging to a nation under God. But I cannot celebrate it until my indigenous friends are celebrating right alongside me.

My allegiance is with a God who loves all nations.
My allegiance is to a God who frowns upon children being separated from their families—whether for residential schools or at borders.
My allegiance is to a God who cares for the poor.
My allegiance is to a God who sets the lonely in families.
My allegiance is to a God who cares for the widow and the refugee.
My allegiance is to a God who dismantles oppressive systems.
My allegiance is to a God who loves justice.
My allegiance is to a God who makes peace and calls us to do the same.

No justice. No peace. Yes.

But this we also know: When we do know justice, we may also know peace. When justice rolls down like a river, peace can also come. It is not cheap. It asks us to lay down all our preconceived ideas about power and might and what we think is true and right.

It asks us to come humbly …

More than ever in this season, I cling to these instructions in 2 Chronicles 7:14: If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

I long for the land to be healed. AND I want to build the church. I don’t think these ideas can be separated from each other.
I want to see people rise strong and beautiful, healed and full of hope. I want to see people become alive with the hope and love of Jesus. But I remember, too, how the name of Jesus has been used to abuse and terrorize.

I acknowledge the pain that has been caused by nationalistic pursuits, treaties that were never signed, false promises, broken promises, residential schools and cultural genocide.

I know Jesus weeps over this. I know my Jesus weeps over the role of Church in this story. I long to see healing come. I long to see a quality of relationship emerge between us that will be right and good and beautiful.

Jesus was a Jew, but he never lifted patriotism up as a virtue. He did not pledge allegiance to an earthly kingdom. He honored government and earthly authority, but he understood that God’s kingdom was not of this earth.

This was not popular and in the end, he was crucified for these and other beliefs. This Jesus sees pain, died for peace and empowered each one of us, by the Holy Spirit, to continue the work.

Jesus did not choose a horse, a flag or an anthem. Jesus chose a donkey and death with criminals on a cross.

This is the Jesus I follow.

My name is Idelette and I live on the unceded territories of the:

Katzie
Channel
Lummi
Semiahmoo
Tsawwassen (sc̓əwaθen)
W̱SÁNEĆ
Hul’q’umi’num’ / Halq’eméylem / hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓
and Tsawwassen nations.

I am honored and grateful to be an immigrant and a guest on this beautiful land.

I am a follower of Jesus. I long for a kingdom to come that is not of this earth. I long for it to come—not by might or money, not by power or patriotism, but by the Spirit.

____________________________

EXPLORE FURTHER:

OUR THEME FOR JUNE IS “TERRITORY.” We look forward to exploring with you the many ways we interact with this word through our stories, ideas and our lives.

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Idelette McVicker
I like soggy cereal and I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women. I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth. My word last year was “roar” and I learned it’s not about my voice rising as much as it is about our collective voices rising in unison to bring down walls of injustice. This year, my own word is “soar.” I have three children and this place–right here, called shelovesmagazine.com–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us. I blog at idelette.com and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

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Comments

  1. Amen sister friend. Thank you for acknowledging the territories you live on. As Native American that section had such power for me. Those word spoke acknowledgment of a history we are all tied to and of a sincere heart to say i want to live in this history in a healing way. I’m curious to know if you have ever heard of or done identificatioal repentance and forgiveness? Thanks so much for this piece.

  2. Madeline Twooney says:

    Idelette, you wrote this piece with such a sincere, emotive and humble voice. I am absolutely awestruck.

  3. Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

    I am sobbing. Thank you.

  4. Judy Bauereiss says:

    A gem of an article. Thank you.

  5. Thank you for this. I needed this reminder, this centering, this week. I needed to be reminded that the Jesus I follow is worthy of worship – not the nation I reside in. I needed to be reminded of the co-existence of justice and peace and to advocate and lift up the voices of our indigenous brothers and sisters.
    Thank you.

  6. Yes, yes, yes. So much truth, beauty, bravery, and humility here. Thank you

  7. Oh, my heart. Your words have such force without aggression; they simultaneously insist and invite. I think you are pure magic. Thank you so much for sharing your voice!

  8. A long time ago, G.K. Chesterton looked at his own home nation (England) and asked:
    “Can we hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?”
    And I think it’s a good question for us to pose around any patriotic holiday.
    Can we find grace to “heartily hate” the weak and the ugly about our past and our present, and at the same time “heartily love” all that is well-intentioned and hopeful about our future?
    May it be so.

  9. Valerie Dyck says:

    Thank you…that was beautifully said.
    I’m so thankful for voices like yours.
    We have some work to do
    Again thank you for lifting your voice

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