IMG_3525I have traveled the United States rather extensively this summer. Learning, loving, and listening in fellowship with congregations and communities that span the theological spectrum from ultra- conservative to ultra- liberal has been both riveting and eye opening. In my experience, the more thriving and life affirming gatherings have been those hosted by groups committed to radical hospitality. Our nation is in a spiritual crisis, when it is okay for the President to call a Black woman who is a former employee a dog, which is clearly a polite way of saying something much more culturally offensive, we have lost all sense of moral grounding.   The religious spaces with the most exclusionary theology and practices seem to struggle with the ability to speak to the crisis we find ourselves living through. Those who feature and take seriously the concept of Imago Dei understand the deep longing of people in this hour for connection with the Divine and belonging to community. Imago Dei is the theological concept (based on Genesis 1:26-34) that God made the first people in a way that very much resembles God’s own self. The doctrine purports that humanity is made in God’s image and, therefore, the individual is of sacred worth (Lightsey 2015).  Further, the doctrine of Imago Dei postulates that humanity in its authenticity is united with God in character and nature—even if brokenness and sin, in some theologies, has transgressed this original nature (Ruether 1993).  In light of this, our task—as people made in the image and likeness of God—is to overcome the temptation not to love and appreciate all those whom God has called good (Lightsey 2015).

Radical hospitality in religious spaces makes identity legible; no matter what else you might be, you are God’s creation and therefore you are of sacred worth. Mistreatment based on any social identifier such as race, poverty, gender, sexuality, or being unhoused is overturned in environments of hospitality that reflect the welcoming voice of the cosmic Christ who invites whosoever will to come (Rev 22:17, Rom. 10:13). I found that in those spaces dedicated to radical hospitality people were healed and made whole because they were invited into belonging.  The key to building true belonging practices is maintaining our belief in inextricable human connection (Brown 2017).  I have been reminded in my travels that the more exclusive we are the more we are tempted to create walls. These walls are erected around our churches, temples, and other houses of worship and ultimately there are those calling for walls to be erected around our nation, because we are no longer rooted in love and compassion and therefore committed to our bunkers where it is safe to dehumanize others based solely on their otherness.

IMG_3445My own faith tradition of Pentecostalism was noteworthy in its inception for its egalitarian ethos of worship, with race and gender not determining leadership roles, but later collapsed and fragmented, due in large part to such race and gender equality presenting too radical a departure from prevailing social norms (Lewin 2018).  Now it is often the women of Pentecostalism that hold the strangest criticism of progressive social policies, when once they themselves were liberated by the radical hospitality of the Church. It is fascinating to me to see those who were once oppressed use their liberation as a tool of oppression. I often wonder what would happen in the world if those Pentecostal people I am so familiar with, those women, those poor, those Black, those marginalized people would with the fiery power of the Holy Spirit use their liberation to liberate other groups on the margins of society?  To be saved from oppressive systems does not mean to be saved from oppression. Often disenfranchised and marginalized people still suffer from internalized oppression. It is internalized oppression when any group thinks the same way about themselves as the oppressor. This leads to oppression sickness that causes the oppressed to mimic the oppression of the oppressor.  The effort to mimic dominant culture has greatly infected the Black Church tradition with classism, sexism, privilege, dozens of phobias, and more. Unfortunately, inferior-feeling groups often seek to make someone else more inferior (Flunder 2005).

This week as you enter into your community of faith ask yourself if it is a place of radical hospitality?  Who is the stranger here? Who have we made an outsider? Have we justified being unloving and therefore betrayed the Gospel because someone is other? Where are we living into the idea that everyone is made in the image of God and how are we failing to acknowledge the sacred worth of even one individual?  For those who really be seeking the healing and wholeness of our broken world radical hospitality is not an option (Luke 14:12-14).

Please feel free to comment below.

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Brown, Brene. 2017. Braving the Wilderness. New York: Random House.

Flunder, Yvette A. 2005. Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press.

Lewin, Ellen. 2018. Filled with The Spirit. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lightsey, Pamela R. 2015. Our Lives Matter. Eugene, Or: Pickwick Publications.

Ruether, Rosemary. 1993. Sexism and God Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology. Boston: Beacon Press.

7 comments

  1. What a revelatory observation of what is the true culture of that divine space and place called the church.

    I believe the Father of all spirits is yet tugging on the the heart of those that love Him to love as He does. But the challenge is whether those men and women who have been liberated can let go of their polarized way of viewing others which was learned in their church invironment (not their truly converted hearts) come to understand and embrace the human value and worth of all men. Regardless of race or gender the invitation should be the same; “Come over here for the table is spread and the feast of the Lord is going on”. Let’s place another leaf in the table, pull up another chair allowing all to enjoy the love feast.

    Thank you Dr. Donalson for this enlightening and challenging observation.

  2. This is a delicious piece of consciousness for our conscience! I find myself doing a self-examination of even my efforts at work to be hospitable, and not to catagorize people based on instances of oppressive behaviors, ideas. and treatments. This is a real shot in the arm for my faith, and in reflection of the love of The Creator, and His vision of “good”…. as well as, The Gospel of Jesus who died for all – even those that rejected; stoned and crucified Him! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Your most delicious sentence, to me:
    “Radical hospitality in religious spaces makes identity legible; no matter what else you might be, you are God’s creation and therefore you are of sacred worth.”

    I like thinking of the legibility of identity! There is no hiding, but a clear statement of presence and being who you are – and belonging!

  4. I am always astonished by the clarity that God allows you to express through words that will actually cause true transformation and reformation. It would seem that radical hospitality would be the first thing people witness when they meet Christians. May we all continue to love without prejudice, live without hypocrisy to the God we serve. Again, thank you.

  5. Andre Taylor

    Our real problem is the way we interpret Christianity! It is as if we’re showing Christianity, like showing or describing a painting. The person who creates the painting is the embodiment of what other are drawn to, marvel at, and try to explain, but, if I can use a word that Dr. Edward Donalson III uses, “the isness” of the painter really has no need no explain itself because, the reflection of the painters life is not exotic to the creator. I agree with what Dr. Edward Donalson III, has said, but the natural state of the real Christian, is what will naturally draw observers and admirers unto that space of “Radical hospitality” that we create for them!

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