Perhaps the greatest pain in our world at the moment is the profound sense of alienation. What if we take xenophobia as a symptom of the depth of our fear of not belonging?
Since I stumbled across James Alison’s presentation of the work of Rene Girard and the power scape goating in 2003/2004 it has provided a powerful lens through which to view the tensions in society.
The mini takeaway version which will suffice here – we all suffer the anxiety of not belonging, but when I stumble across someone who appears to belong less than I do, and the group to which to which I am desperately trying to belong also perceives that person as being more problematic than me. As long as they are around to pick on and remain clearly different, I am safe. So those who most insecure are often the ones who are most violent (physically, verbally, anonymously) to those who appear to be even less secure.
It is a tragic vicious circle.
How do we move through it? By acknowledging our own insecurity.
How often have we heard a version of the ‘gospel’ preached which is really about defining who is in and who is out? Let’s not settle for a gospel which perpetuates violence against someone who is seen as ‘other’. The gospel does demand everything but not because it asks to conform to some image of belonging. It asks to face the our sense of isolation, to own our own pain, and to dare to be vulnerable.
Do we dare to kneel before a God who is unconditionally loving and requires we face the things we most fear?