Today is Juneteenth, but do I have to acknowledge it?
My ancestors were not slaves or plantation owners.
Today is part of Pride Month, but do I have to acknowledge it?
No cops have ever raided my bar and arrested me for flirting with a woman.
Today is Father’s Day, but do I have to acknowledge it?
I have no children of my own and my Dad is dead, and so are so many others I know.
Today is Sunday, but do I have to acknowledge it?
Even though Jesus rose from the dead, I’m still alive and my beloved saints are still dead.
These holidays don’t revolve around me, so why should I care?
Pastor Martin Niemöller famously wrote of Nazi Germany:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.
His haunting reflection is grounded in the same truth later articulated by another Pastor Martin, writing from a jail cell in Alabama:
In a real sense all life is inter-related.
All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...
This is the inter-related structure of reality.
Our society, increasingly intoxicated with individualism run amok, has mostly forgotten this, but the early church understood.
The first followers of Jesus saw distinction as danger, social stratification as spiritual peril,
undermining the truth of our interrelatedness, disconnecting us from our foundational connectedness.
They were committed to defying and undoing the damage wrought by difference.
Historian Stephen Patterson explains:
The early Christians made solidarity the very focus of the new communities they
The first Christian creed said nothing about the nature of God or Jesus Christ or
It spoke of “the children of God,” and urged a spirit of “oneness” that could unite Jew
and Greek, slave and free, male and female….
You can find it today still there in Galatians 3:26-28.
Unearthing it from this context and restoring its original lines requires some exegetical spadework, and scholars will quibble on its precise wording, but none doubt its existence or its age.
When the first followers of Jesus were baptized, this (more or less) is what they heard:
You are all children of God: There is no Jew or Greek;There is no slave or free;
There is no male and female; For you are all one.
This creed was a riff on an ancient cliché, attributed by some to Socrates, others to
Thales, that went something like this:
“I thank the Fates every day that I was born a Greek, not a barbarian, free, not a slave,