“On Xenophobia and Hope, and the Meaning of the Incarnation”
Theologian Jürgen Moltmann remarks that “Christian hope cannot cling rigidly to the past and the given and ally itself with the utopia of the status quo. Creative action springing from faith is impossible without new thinking and planning that springs from hope” (“Theology of Hope”). Henri Nouwen connects Christian hope with value and meaning and interpersonal relationship. He informs us that “Without hope, we will never be able to see value and meaning the encounter with a decaying human being and become personally concerned” (“The Wounded Healer”).
For Him, Christian hope is not abstract or theoretical, but practical, existential, and incarnational. Accordingly, “This hope stretches far beyond the limitations of one’s own psychological strength, for it is anchored not just in the soul of an individual, but in God’s self-disclosure in history” in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Christian hope “is grounded in the historic Christ-event, which is understood as a definitive breach in the deterministic chain of human trial and error, and as a dramatic affirmation that there is light on the other side of darkness.” The drama of the incarnation fosters practical hope for our every day’s troubles and challenges. It compels us toward kindness and generosity for the greatest act of kindness in human history was the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Hence, hope is something that Christians know and hope is also a person Christians experience. God is kind and hope.
To be generous and kind to everyone is to act like God in Christ. Generosity and hospitality are human virtues to be praised and coveted. By contrast, xenophobia or the fear of the “other” or even the immigrant is the antithesis of human kindness, generosity, and hospitality. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (James 6:10). Xenophobia is the antithesis of the incarnation; it refuses the presence of God in the world and in our community. The presence of God is manifested through our interaction with the stranger, the immigrant, and the poor. Xenophobia not only kills kindness; it murders God in the flesh and it is certainly the greatest enemy of divine hospitality, presence, and compassion. May we become the Gospel we proclaim!