"We aren't much good at listening to otherness -- different languages, worldviews, ages, genders, sexualities, abilities, demographics, religions or philosophies. We're tribal in the best sense of the word, I suppose. Like my immigrant grandparents who found their way to Swedish-speaking communities in Chicago, we find those who share our beliefs, visions and dreams for life. So we live and worship with those who are like-minded. But we are tribal in the worst sense of the word too. We believe or act as if our ideas are right, our ways are the best, and our practices set us apart and above others. My father once told me that the United States was the most beautiful and best place on earth. Ironically, in his life, he never traveled beyond the borders of this country. Grandma Liljedahl talked about her attempt to speak 'American,' as she called it, and rued the fact that hers was always 'broken English.' Without differentness, otherness, diversity or simple exposure to other people, we remain in gated communities of limited thought and tribal views.
"For many of us, education is the pathway to new ideas, new accents and new ways. I remember an early assault on my religious views in a book with the startling title Your God Is Too White. It catapulted me back to a memory as a young boy. We lived by then in the western suburbs of Chicago but supported a church on the west side of Chicago through our "home missions" program. On a winter's Sunday afternoon we drove into the city to our "sister church" to listen to a Pastor Lloyd Lindo preach. I stood in a dark hallway at Keystone Baptist Church in complete bewilderment and confusion. I stared at a painting hung on the foyer wall that we too had in the entryway of our suburban home. It was a painting of Jesus, but in the church foyer it was all wrong! Jesus didn't have the white face he did in my living room; Jesus' face was black. I was so troubled I told my mother that night that something was wrong in their congregation -- Jesus wasn't like that, why didn't they understand? I know now that God showed up in my life in the voice and face of those who did not sound or look like I expected them to be."