In our Sunday morning book study we are reading Bishop Willimon’s book, “Fear of the Other.” Early on, he defines exactly what he means by the book title:
Xenophobic, exclusionary fear of the Other is more than a matter of preference for people whom we enjoy hanging out with, or those with whom we feel most comfortable. In deep fear of the Other, we separate ourselves from others in order to better oppress, exploit, expulse, confine, hurt, or deny justice and access to others whom we have judged to be so Other as to be beyond the bounds of having any bond between us or any claim upon us.
I can’t help but think that this is what is happening across our country as State legislatures create more restrictive environments to limit care for transgender youth and vilify transgender adults and Drag performers. And there are other groups of people that we set up as Others to be feared. Republicans fear liberals. Democrats fear right-wing extremists. Fear is what divides us into groups of Others.
Bishop Willimon reminds us, though, that “Christianity’s default position is hospitality, even as we received hospitality on the cross of Christ.” As Christians, we extend hospitality to others as a way of overcoming the fear of the Other. It sounds like a good Lenten practice to me.