Welcoming the outsider

in Columnist: Samuel Krueger/Opinion by

The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Clarion, its staff or the institution. If you would like to submit a response or an opinion piece of your own, please contact clarion@bethel.edu.

By Samuel Krueger

Many of you know me as the Clarion’s token conservative writer.

One of the hardest parts of being a conservative is our disposition for how things are. As a middle class American, I inarguably live in the best of all possible worlds. Why change it?

I am not saying that the system isn’t unfair sometimes. I am also not saying that America is perfect – far from it, actually. However, I do think that change should be approached cautiously, conservatively. That is, I suppose, what makes me a conservative.

I am not opposed to change. Change can be good, but I find it wise to err on the side of caution, rather than deal with the consequences of haste.

Conservative policies can be easily changed, they rarely uproot social institutions and generally offer more relaxed stakes compared to the status quo. But the great strengths of conservatism can also be our weakness. Our disposition to preserving things the way they are can sometimes get in the way of truly leading Christ-centered lives.

I am speaking about your average conservative’s reluctance or suspicion of welcoming the outsider.

Historically speaking, Americans aren’t very good at welcoming the outsider (I.e the Irish, then the Italians, or literally any ethnic minority ever). This trait can sometimes be compounded by a conservative personality.

Now, I would consider myself fairly well-rounded. I have interacted with all sorts of people and I do my best to immerse myself in other cultures and world views as often as I can. But if I am honest, that took me a long time to get used to. As a white guy from a white suburb in an already very white state, I feel like this inability (or rather a disability)  is made worse.

I am reminded of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4. In this passage we learn that Jews and Samaritans don’t mix. The woman seems surprised that Jesus, a Jew, is even speaking to her, let alone asking for a favor.

The part that struck me was not Jesus’ line about living water, but the Samaritan woman’s response to Jesus’ offer.

She says, “Are you greater than our father Jacob?”

The chapter starts off by outlining the differences between Jesus and this woman, rather than what connects them. The parallel this woman makes, their common roots, ties them more closely from my perspective. The fact that she acknowledges this similarity shows that ancestry played little part in the barrier between them.

It’s easy to take this idea and apply it to today’s world.

Like the separation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, the gap between Americans and immigrants is the same. It has nothing to do with ancestry.

Sometimes we are so caught up with how someone may act differently that we neglect that they are exactly like us in so many other ways. I have learned this particularly through my growing experience with the Ethiopian and Somali immigrant communities in the Twin Cities. I have begun to realize that these people embody the same things that made my forefathers  so successful when they came to America less than 150 years ago.

I am often overwhelmed by the willingness and spirit that most immigrants have to work and learn. The loyalty to family, religion and culture that I see as so prominent in their communities actually parallels quite well with conservative tradition. So, while we express our values in different ways, we are all remarkably similar at our core.

Finally, I have come to realize that they came here for the same reasons my family came here.

I am reminded of president Roosevelt’s words from 1936. While looking upon the Lady Liberty, the same statue that greeted many of my ancestors, he remarked, “Here they found life because here there was freedom to live.”

Jesus teaches a valuable lesson in John 4. One that is extremely relevant today. I encourage everyone to emulate Jesus’ willingness to go outside of his cultural bubble and welcome the outsider.

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