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"Can We Go Home?" - Monday Moment - January 15, 2024


Happy Monday, my friends! This week we continue drawing inspiration from one of my courses at MTSO. A fundamental theme in the course was the idea of place. In fact, one of our papers asked us to reflect on, research, and discuss the place in which we live our lives and experience our vocations and callings. Place is simultaneously an elusive and concrete reality, but, as that paper meant to show us, place has a defining power on our lives and work. Take a moment and think about whatever you call “home.” If home is more about people than a physical place (as it is for me), think about a place you have or do currently experience “home.” What does this place look like? Who is there? What characteristics does this place exhibit that make it feel like home? All the aspects you are considering add up to a description of a place. What might appear to most people to be another nondescript house in another nondescript American subdivision may be the place that you first experienced the love of family. What might have been classified as a small apartment in the “wrong” part of town might be the place where you learned how resilient you really are. Place and how we define place can be very powerful for us.


Unless you live or have lived on property which has been in your family for generations, what many of us don’t consider in thinking about place is the history of the place. Who lived here before us? What had to be moved or destroyed to create our homes? It has been increasingly common for institutions, companies, congregations, and individuals to acknowledge the Indigenous people and groups who first inhabited the land where they live and work. A fantastic resource to this end is Native Land Digital (https://native-land.ca) which curates a searchable worldwide map of the traditional lands of Indigenous groups. For instance, my apartment sits on land once inhabited by the Myaamia (commonly called the Miami Tribe), the Kaskaskia (commonly called the Peoria Tribe) and the Hopewell Culture people. Throughout my life I have lived on the ancestral lands of 25 different Indigenous tribal and cultural groups. While that’s an interesting fact, we need to remember that in almost all cases that land was either never ceded to white settlers or was done so in unfaithful treaties often negotiated by force.


Exploring the history of our homes and the places we inhabit does not always come with fascinating historical facts or without the sins of the past. It should be obvious that the purpose of a resource like Native Land Digital is not to satisfy the curiosity of those of us who are white. Rather the resource is meant to help us begin the process of acknowledging and amending the sins of our heritage which includes the theft of Indigenous land and the genocide of Indigenous people. It’s not a coincidence that place and identity often overlapped. Areas of cities and towns are often still known for one identity or another: Chinatown, Ukrainian Village, and Little Italy in New York, the Gayborhood in Philadelphia, and German Village here in Columbus to name only a few. Is your home or a place you’ve called home part of such a neighborhood? Many neighborhoods have been defined by legacies of racism and housing discrimination where People of Color, particularly Black people, were excluded from purchasing homes in certain areas through a practice called redlining. In fact the developer and innovator of what would become the American subdivision, William Levitt, once said, “As a company our position is simply this: ‘We can solve a housing problem, or we can try to solve a racial problem. But we cannot combine the two.’”


What is the history of the place you call or have called home? How does that history intersect with your identities?


Let us pray: God, you gave us the earth as a common home, but our appetite for power and wealth led some of us to take advantage of others and create a world where home became a commodity to be bought and sold. Forgive us, dear God, and bring us back into relationship with the land and each other. We ask this in the name of your child who died that we might live into our fullest humanity. Amen.


Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.


Faithfully,


Ben


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