A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with a man named Alexander Shaia (if you don’t know who he is, you should go read everything he’s ever written). On Saturday, my friend Cory and I got the opportunity to record a podcast with Alexander where we talked about everything from sexuality and 6th century art, the KKK taking control of Birmingham in the 40s all the way to a conversation about USC football. The whole day was incredible but there was one moment that stuck out to me and I literally have not been able to stop thinking about it since.
Alexander was talking about the rich history and traditions of the Christian faith and he said that Christianity was the first tradition (at least that we know of) to make the claim “it doesn’t matter who your mother is”. Now, context is everything here. This statement means it doesn’t matter where you came from or if you own land or if you are a slave or free or rich or tall or anything… it means that whoever you are and wherever you are, come. He went on to say that Christianity was the first tradition to suggest that everyone has a seat at the table and how powerful those words were back then and how powerful they still are now.
Ok, so literally at this point I had actual tears in my eyes because for the first time in long time… well, maybe for the first time ever I felt a deep sense of pride for being a part of the Christian tradition. I literally felt proud to be a Christian. Hearing these words and knowing that I am a part of a tradition that revolutionized everything simply by suggesting “it doesn't matter who your mother is” felt so deeply empowering.
But it didn't last long.
About five seconds later I remembered that it does matter who my mother is, in my experiences with church and with Christianity it has mattered that my mother is Mexican, it has mattered that my father is Black, it has mattered that I am a woman and it sure as hell matters that i’m gay.
I wanted to feel moved and empowered and proud so badly but I could not get over the distance between what he was saying and my lived reality.
I said those words to Alexander. I told him that I want to believe what he was saying but that there have been tables in church my whole life that I have not been allowed to sit at so how is it true that Christianity is built on the idea that everyone has seat?
Now, before I tell you what he said to me I need you to imagine Gandalf the Grey speaking these words over you… because that's what talking to Alexander feels like.
He very sweetly said to me “oh Brittany, that is not the table. If there is not a seat for everyone then it is not the real table.” He went on to tell me that every faith tradition in history has had to make a choice at some point whether they will align themselves with the ancient traditions of their faith or with the empire of the day. He explained to me that maybe, understanding our own lives as a table, we then have the choice every single moment of every single day to reclaim the ancient truth that everyone is welcome or not.
The choice is ours.
I am still shook from that conversation. It has changed so many things for me. I do feel proud to be a Christian and I feel absurdly convicted to ask myself in every moment I am aware whether or not I am living in a way that suggests to everyone that they matter. Whether or not you identify as Christian I think the fact still remains that we have the opportunity to reclaim truth with our lives. Maybe there has never been a seat at the table for you in church but what if that wasn't the table? What if we are meant to live our lives as if we are the table and make room, make room for everyone!
This is the narrative of Christianity that gets me excited and I want to commit to living a life that sweetly whispers to the whole world ‘you matter’.
What if we stopped feeling proud because we were right or powerful and what if we started feeling proud because we are fighting the hardest for all people to matter. Can you imagine that world? That church?! I believe we can get there and I believe it starts with all of us finding small moments to ask ourselves if we truly believe that it doesn’t matter who someone’s mother is.
oh, and by the way if you live in the LA are and want to have dinner with Alexander TONIGHT 7/10 then click here and don't miss this chance!