Tag Archives: White

Afscheiden

Therefore,
“Come out from them

    and be separate,
says the Lord.

Touch no unclean thing,
    and I will receive you.”
2 Corinthians 6:17 (NIV)

I have lived much of my life  in and around communities with strong Dutch heritage. The Dutch communities in Iowa were settled, for the most part, by tight-knit groups of Dutch believers who came to America for religious freedom. Over 150 years later most of these communities maintain a strong connection to their heritage. It’s fascinating to experience life here and, over time, observe how we function and interact.

On one hand I have an insider’s understanding, receiving my paternal DNA from a father with Dutch genes who came from this heritage. On the other hand, mine is an outsider’s perspective as I grew up in a city away from these Dutch communities and only experienced them when visiting my grandparents. It is as an adult have I found myself living within them.

There is a Dutch word, afscheiden, which you still hear on occasion in conversation. It means “to separate.” I have come to observe that it is a thread in the fabric of our community in multiple ways. Our ancestors were those who separated from their home to come to America. Within the community there are strong religious subgroups who have historically separated themselves within the community based on adherence to certain church doctrines and religious practices. Visitors to our communities often comment on the large number of churches. It is, in part, due to our habit of separating whenever there is disagreement.

Afscheiden in our communities typically has strong religious connotation to it. One group of Christians claims to have a better (usually more strictly conservative) hold on God’s truth, so they separate and disassociate themselves from their wayward, liberal brethren. The scriptural defense they use comes from today’s chapter in which Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah (pasted at the top of this post).

I always think a little historical context is in order.

Competing religions in the prophet Isaiah’s day were often centered around fertility and nature. There was a wide variety of communal sexual activity cloaked as religious practice and even the human sacrifice of babies and children to please the gods. It was nasty stuff. In Paul’s day, the Greek and Roman temples in cities like Corinth continued to be religious prostitution rackets that propagated a lot of typically unhealthy practices. For both Isaiah and Paul, the call to separate was less about religious dogma and more about foundational moral code.

Along life’s journey I’ve observed that legalistic religion loves afscheiden. Black and white appears on the surface to be much simpler than struggling with gray. For certain groups life must be strictly categorized in terms of clean and unclean, acceptable and unacceptable, good and bad, godly and evil so that I always know what to do, think, say, and who I can associate with. After a while, however, you have all these small, insular groups who have afscheidened themselves to death.

This morning I’m looking back on my own journey and the ways that the concept of “come out and be separate” have affected my life, my choices, my relationships, and my actions. I made the observation to Wendy the other day that Christians like to be prescriptive with our religion, prescribing the things you must do to be a follower of Jesus (and if you don’t toe the line we afscheiden ourselves from you!). Jesus, however, was more descriptive about the Kingdom of God. He always said, “the kingdom of God is like…” and then would describe it.

I’m realizing that I prefer a description to reach for rather than a prescription to swallow.

 

 

The Many Faces of Prejudice

 “Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man;
   such is the place of one who does not know God.”
Job 18:21 (NIV)

As I write these words, our nation finds itself struggling with racial tension after a young black man was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri and the legal system found no legal basis to charge the officer with wrong doing. I have seen this before. I watched it happen after the Rodney King verdict in California. As a child I remember the conversation which lingered for years after the race riots in Watts, California. As a teenager I attended what was, at the time, the most racially diverse high school in the state of Iowa, and I sat on a student committee with students from the white, black, hispanic and asian communities. Our nation is a melting pot, and we continually struggle to get past preconceived notions of one another, to connect, and to relate to one another on a human level.

Along the journey I’ve discovered that prejudice comes in many different forms. Race does not have a monopoly on pre-judging others. There is socio- economic prejudice as in “All rich people are…” or “All those white trash are….” There is regional prejudice as we speak of east coast liberals, northern yankees, southern hillbillies, west coast granola types, midwest farmers, and etc.” There is increasing political prejudice on both sides of the aisle. And, there is also spiritual prejudice which we see in today’s chapter.

Bildad’s rhetoric is getting more intense as he begins to lose patience with Job. He sets off on what he perceives to be the common end of all who are “wicked” and it looks a lot like Job’s present circumstances. The problem is, Bildad is painting his picture of the wicked with a very broad brush. For every wicked person who gets what we believe to be just suffering for their wrong doing, there is another wicked person who gets away with it. For every righteous person who seems to wallow in abundant blessing, I can show you a righteous person who endures unbelievable suffering like Job.

Today, I am reminded that Jesus repeatedly commanded us NOT to judge others, even as He commanded us to LOVE even our enemies and those who hate and persecute us. Until each one of us obediently follows both commands we will continue to struggle with all of our prejudices.