I can remember when I was a young boy at home playing with my toys. Whether indoors or out, I would be all alone, yet conjure up an assortment of imaginary companions as I conducted the work of play.
Actually, we learn from developmental psychology that play is for children the practice of work. We learn, indeed, to do adult work by participating in child’s play
So I would be playing along just fine as a young boy. Me, myself, I and my imaginary companions. Until with a knock on the door, I would find my playground party crashed by the neighbor kids, cousins, or whathaveyou. These others would want to play with my toys. And I used to think of them as “messing with my stuff” when I was a kid.
Wisely, my own Mom, God bless her, would use such vulnerable occasions in my impressionable years as “teachable moments” in which to say, “now you need to share your toys with others.” Grudgingly, I’d back off from my position of selfish control and give my visitors free reign over the toys I used to have all for myself. I’d go along with their messing with my stuff after all. Together, these visitors would become my playmates, and we would learn how to negotiate, how to compromise, how to “play nice,” and how to turn imaginary companions into actual friendships. I would forsake my unique privilege of ownership, and turn my Me into a We.
All of this comes back to me now in my 70th year of life as I consider my life as a healthy white anglo-saxon male protestant Christian American. I was truly born into privilege. Amen?
In fact, my life may be a rather accurate metaphor for the United States here in 2016. A nation of mostly white Christians, we have had a grand old time playing with our own stuff all this time.
Our imaginary companions have all been pretty much like us, doing as they are told, and letting us decide the rules of conduct if they dare to mess with our country. We were here first, so we claim ownership of our toys as if we went to work earning them all fair and square for a living. We won’t count all the ones others designed, made, sold, bought, or gave us. We have pride in ownership. So don’t confuse us with the facts.
Now there’s been a knock on our door.
We’ve got company.
Some we had invited. But who invited these “others?”
They all want to join in playing with our toys. And in the invention of new rules, new games, new uses for toys we’d always imagined belonged to us alone. It’s called immigration. It’s called democracy. And, truth be told, a bunch of us want “them” to leave, go back home, and be “walled” off from our own unique privilege. We want life to be “our way or the highway.”
Wisely, Jesus, God bless Him, will use such vulnerable occasions in our impressionable years as “teachable moments” in which to say, “now you need to love your neighbor as yourself.” Or, “now you need to do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” All of us white kids…….and, let’s face it, we never stop being God’s children……..who hear what Jesus has said are tempted to rebel against such re-direction. If someone else pops up who says, Make America Great Again, we’d maybe prefer thinking God sent him to us instead. We’re going to build a wall. We’re going to stop those refugees from coming to our land. Finally!!!! Someone God has sent with permission for us to rebel against Jesus!
Well, I didn’t always appreciate what my own dear Mother had to say in such teachable moments as those in my childhood.
But I do now.
Because it sounds an awful lot like what Jesus is still saying to me, and to all of us as white Christian Americans in 2016, if only we will learn to pay attention to the God who actually owns all our toys in the first place. And who still says, as in Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, and Luke 9:35, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him!”