This morning I had a short discussion with my gastroenterologist. He was born in the US, has full American citizenship, and a Middle-Eastern name. He told me that during the 10 years after 9-11, when he had a connecting flight, the attendance would see his name, and without even looking at his face or his identification papers, require him to check out of the airport and go through security a second time before boarding his next flight. He is changing his name. I expressed my sorrow that he felt compelled to do so, but he said, “There’s a history here, that you just can’t get around. For my kids’ sakes I need to do this.” On the way home my wife reminded me that her maiden name, Cone,” was an anglicizing of “Cohen,” done for the same reasons. I think of the long family history from which he is cutting himself lose and it just hurts inside.
Over the weekend my Presiding Bishop co-led a gathering in Washington addressing “issues ranging from the rise of white nationalism to mistreatment of and violence against women, to LGBTQ inclusion to immigration reform, the spreading of falsehoods and the normalization of lying and moves toward autocratic leadership,” reports the May 25th edition of the Episcopal News Service. It is a timely and timeless message. Jesus talked with Gentile women, touched lepers, threw a fit in the Temple, healed people that others thought were cursed, and otherwise broke with convention to include rather than exclude. Evangelical Christians are won’t to quote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” The very next verse is just as important: “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
How can we call ourselves a “Christian nation” when we so condemn those whose names prick our consciences that they feel constrained to cut themselves free of their historic moorings?