Hospitality as Resistance
Although we often think of hospitality as a tame and pleasant practice, Christian hospitality has always had a subversive, countercultural dimension. “Hospitality is resistance,” as one person from the Catholic Worker observed. Especially when the larger society disregards or dishonors certain persons, small acts of respect and welcome are potent far beyond themselves.
We don’t have to look far for examples in today’s world of hate. Whether it’s presidential candidates spouting racist obscenities, religious communities demonizing people of other faiths, or legislators threatening the basic human rights of transgender and non-gender conforming people, there is not shortage of hate. Many communities are driven by fear and exclusion, where everyone must look, believe, or act a certain way in order to be accepted. Any attempts to create space for the “other” is viewed as threatening, compromising, and being unfaithful to one’s own beliefs. In these communities, hospitality is unwelcome.
“Hospitality as resistance” seeks to create space at the proverbial table for everyone —regardless of someone’s labels, beliefs, or background. It is a way to fight for justice and reconciliation in communities marked by hate. Henri Nouwen writes of how hospitality means creating the space where the stranger can enter and become a friend rather than an enemy. Instead of condemning or excommunicating someone because our world views and convictions differ, it allows us to come together across ideological differences in hopes of learning from one another.
This way of hospitality insists on the sacredness and dignity of all people. It upholds the beauty of diversity, where our differences capture the very heart of God’s rainbow creation.
Join us on April 16, from 9:00am-3:30pm at Scarritt Bennett for retreat “Hospitality: A Way of Doing Justice.” During the retreat, we will explore the topic of hospitality and seek to unpack the hostility pervading our world towards refugees, LGTBQ folks, communities of color, and people of other faiths. To register click here.
Sarah Stell is a 2015-16 Belle Harris Bennett Fellow. She graduated from Belmont University in Nashville in May 2015 with a major in Social Work. During her college career she studied abroad in the Middle East, served as an orphanage caretaker in Uganda, worked with women involved in the commercial sex industry, and was a social work intern at End Slavery Tennessee. She feels a calling to create space for the voices of the oppressed, engaging churches on issues regarding race, sexuality, power, and oppression.