A Travellerspoint blog

Switzerland

#7: Extremism

Just a tad over-the-top...

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ex•trem•ism [ik-stree-miz-uhm]
noun: a tendency or disposition to go to extremes or an instance of going to extremes, especially in political matters: leftist extremism; the extremism of the Nazis.

I have this thing for singing vegetables. It started during my childhood when my grandma bought The Toy that Saved Christmas on VHS. Yes, I am that ancient. Anyhow, ever since, I have had an affinity for Veggie Tales. It may be the Sunday-School-Teacher, Early-Childhood-Special-Education-Major, Babysitter inside of me. I don’t know.

One of my favorite classic Veggie Tale songs is a little ditty known as “I Can Be Your Friend.” This is a classic:

Have you ever seen a boy with funny clothes?
A girl with braces on her teeth
Or freckles on her nose?
Some kids call them "odd balls"
Some kids call them "weird"
Is it my imagination, or does Aunt Ruth have a beard?

God makes lots of people in all colors, shapes and sizes
He loves them very much and what we need to realize is
That calling people names because their different is wrong
Instead we need to look on them in love

And sing this song:
I can be your friend
I can be your friend
Any day, in any weather
We can be friends and play together

Yeah, we're all pretty different
Some are skinny, some are stout
But the inside is the part we're
Supposed to care about
Ay, that's where we got feelings
That are very much the same
And so instead of "weirdo"
I think "friends" a better name!

I can be your friend (la, la, la)
I can be your friend (la, la, la)
If your hair is red or yellow,
We can have lunch
I'll share my Jello!
I can be your friend (la, la, la)
I can be your friend (la, la, la)
It's ok if we are different
We can still play
'cause I can be your friend!!

These lyrics are a great reminder to kids that we shouldn’t look at the outward appearance of someone to determine if they’re worthy of acceptance or friendship (1 Samuel 16:7). We teach kids in school to be friends with everyone. We teach tolerance. But do we practice what we preach?

Centuries ago, witch hunts took place throughout Europe and America. Anyone accused of witchcraft would be burned at the stake (see photograph). Understandably, witchcraft was dark and not easily understood by everyday individuals. Things that we don’t understand threaten us, and we tend to try to escape such things.

While the practice of getting rid of those who instigated supernatural acts was logical, authorities soon began to ostracize and kill anyone who seemed the least bit threatening. If someone had an unusual habit, a noticeable intellectual disability, a wart, or anything out-of-the-ordinary, they would be grouped in the collection of witches. For a comical look on this, follow the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrzMhU_4m-g.

Similarly, the Nazis destroyed not only political enemies, but also the innocent, among them those with disabilities, gypsies, and most famously, Jews. What drove them to such horrendous actions? Perhaps a helping of arrogance with a dash of fear. They had come to revere these groups as being second-class citizens, referring to them in the same terms one would use to describe cattle. They felt that these groups threatened their well-being and the progress of their society.

For others looking on, these acts seem illogical. They seem extreme. That is because they are. Instead of detaining potential threats, the authorities completely destroyed those who seemed hostile. In their arrogance and fear, they elevated the potential damage such groups could inflict, and decided to destroy them.

We do the same thing today with immigrants and Muslims. We assume that their presence could only bring harm. Instead of entering into dialogue with them about their motives and actions, we at best ignore them, and at worst persuade the government to ostracize these “outsiders.” Instead of extending a hand of peace and friendship, we try to smack them out of our space bubbles.

If we are not careful, our natural prejudices and fears will begin to dictate our lives, leading us into extreme actions. As believers called to love our neighbors, we ought to be examples of how we can dialogue with people who are different, rather than scampering for our shotguns the second we see an “intruder” on our turf.

Posted by klewis91 12:43 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

#10: Hospitality

Going the extra mile for outsiders...

semi-overcast

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hos•pi•tal•i•ty
noun, plural hos•pi•tal•i•ties.
1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

I am convinced that hospitality is two pieces of thick white bread, filled with tuna and wrapped in plastic. It was simple yet profound, undeserved or expected yet appreciated.

Hospitality is the act of receiving strangers and treating them generously. In a world that frequently shoves outliers to the side, acknowledging and humanizing the “other” is a rare phenomenon. The easier, more comfortable action is to ignore those who are different, or, should fear escalate emotions and turn them into dark hatred, eliminate that which causes one to feel threatened.

The Nazis forced Jews into death camps, the South imposed Jim Crow laws onto people of color, and middle schoolers exploit those they deem inferior, nerdy, or just plain weird.

It is rare for someone to take the outcast, the outlier, by the hand and draw them close. It is unusual when someone deemed “different” is acknowledged as human.

Last weekend my class (fifteen of us total) took two rentals over the Swiss Alps to a small facility known as L’Abri. Francis Schaeffer, an American missionary who moved with his wife to Switzerland, founded L’Abri in 1955 as a response to the spread of modern thought. As a theologian and apologetic, Schaeffer desired to create a place in which individuals could come and both experience Christian community as well as explore their faith. L’Abri still operates on the same principles and constantly welcomes visiting seekers.

We were eagerly welcomed into the L’Abri community and set up in fine accommodations. Seven of us females were situated in the Schaeffers’ original chalet (house). As we had driven the four hours to the mountains at night, what a view the scenery created after the sun peaked over the Alps the next morning! What followed were two wonderful days of attending a lecture about epistemology, eating amazing meals, fellowshipping and playing cards and volleyball with individuals from Canada, New Zealand, France, and other locations, napping, and most of all, studying! There is something refreshing about studying out of an intrinsic desire to learn. On Saturday, a cold, drizzly day which covered the mountains in layers of heavy fog, I clocked in about eight hours of reading. With tea in hand and a pile of books on the floor, I sat…and sat…and read. Oh! How lovely.

The way we were welcomed most intrigued me, however. I love books, and I love people, but I had rarely seen the hospitality shown to us by the wonderful staff at L’Abri. This was a bunch that had intentionally moved to Switzerland to minister to people by running what was essentially a boarding house for searching people. Searching people in need of emotional healing, intellectual answers, spiritual rest, or a mix of the above. They welcomed us in, these American students from the middle of cornfields, to join the community and engage in conversation.

When we gathered to leave on Sunday morning we were handed two bags to take with us for our journey back to France – lunches for the road. When we unpacked our lunches after stopping around noon, we discovered massive tuna sandwiches, carrot sticks, fruit, and tinfoil-wrapped chocolate. I was surprised that we had been given something so thoughtful, that they had anticipated our physical needs that went beyond our stay at L’Abri. They had gone beyond what was expected; they had gone the extra mile. Not only were they welcoming and accommodating, but they were hospitable, being generous with their time, service, and supplies to ensure that we were taken care of.

Regardless of our being guests, we were outsiders, Americans on Swiss soil. We were in a diverse community, but still, we were newcomers, immigrants to a distinct location and culture. Yet we were accepted and cared for.

I wonder: Am I hospitable? Do I receive the stranger? Do I not only acknowledge the last, the lowest, the littlest, and the lonely, or do I also go beyond the level of simply humanizing them with recognition? Do I treat them generously? Do I, like the father of the prodigal son, run to the downtrodden and cover them with love and grace? How do I respond to those who make me uncomfortable, who I don’t like, who frighten me?

A tuna sandwich isn’t much, but it says so much. It humanizes the stranger.

Posted by klewis91 14:45 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

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