Monday, February 15
John 1:45-46b – Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Mural artist Shane B. repairs his George Floyd mural in downtown Birmingham, AL, after it had been defaced. Image from Birmingham Real-Time News.
What’s up with Nathaniel’s attitude toward Nazareth? “Because it was a No place: it is never mentioned in the Old Testament, the Jewish Talmud and Midrash, nor in any extant pagan writing.” The College Press NIV Commentary on John. Nathaniel’s reaction exemplifies a very human mistrust of the other. The idea of race, constantly evolving and re-weaponized against people of color, is rooted in our acquiesce to otherness.
“Hunky” has a simple derivation, though with arresting complications…Josephine Wtulich’s American Xenophobia and the Slav Immigrant attempts interestingly to untangle bohunk and hunky. Wtulich allows that between 1900 and 1930, bohunk came to mean not only a Bohemian–Hungarian but also a “Pole, Slovak and even an Austrian” or “any uneducated, unskilled immigrant from central and east Europe.” Thus when a Texas planter fretted that “Bohunks wanted to intermarry with whites,” and added, “Yes, they’re white but they’re not our kind of white,” it is by no means certain to whom he refers.” From Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White, by historian David Roediger.
Action step: today, with brutal honesty prayerfully consider the racist epithets of your youth. While we may have managed to bury the words themselves, in powerful ways their shadow remains. The trope that asks “do you cross the street when you see a group of young black males” asks us to examine the vulgar and derogatory words directed at otherness of race, class, disability, gender, and sexuality we carried forward from youth. Ask God to cleanse you today of the remnants of cultural indoctrination to which all of us were subjective no matter where we were raised, or our own ethnic, racial, class, denominational backgrounds.
Prayer: A Prayer for One Flesh in Christ
My Lord and my God, I see you being torn apart on the cross still, as we persist in tearing the body from the spirit. You dared to penetrate the flesh of humankind with the presence of God. You took on the flesh of every human being.
Help us now, after all these years of denial, to finally embrace your incarnation, to feel, in the depths of our beings, that we are part of each other’s bodies in your body, may we clasp to ourselves the flesh of all persons, especially those whose flesh looks different from ours, whose language is strange to our ears, whose music sounds dissonant, whose sexuality offends our sensibilities. May we have the courage to hold the sick and the old to our health and our youth. Thus may we behold the glory of the Word become flesh as he dwells among us. Amen.
Paul Moore, Jr., from Race and Prayer: Collected Voices Many Dreams edited by Malcolm Boyd and Chester L. Talton (Morehouse Publishing, 2003), 141.