Are neither fully of the world
Nor fully of religion… You can a half-breed, A citizen of both
Or you can be an envoy of another kingdom.
Caught in the crossfires between ideologies
To survive the Borderlands You must live sans borders, Be a crossroad.
With apologies to Gloria Anzeldua for my rewriting of her La Frontera (194)
Yesterday afternoon I got sidetracked after reading a review of Borderland Churches (Gary Nelson, Chalice Press). It wasn’t so much the content but the title that got me sidetracked and thinking about how we as Christians are called to live in the Borderlands. The real action of our Christian living doesn’t take place in our churches, bible studies, and the like, but in the Borderlands between God’s Kingdom and the Kingdom of the World. It is here were that heavenly host, as the Apostle Paul says, “Cheers us on.” A better translation is “spurs us on,” as in sometimes giving us that needed kick in the butt to get us moving. Thinking about that got me thinking about what the Celtic Church had to say about living in the Borderlands, or for that matter, even Celtic legend and myth. In both, as in all Christianity, it is in the Borderlands were we humans meet God. It is significant that Jesus’ ministry was conducted almost entirely in the Borderlands. Think: Jesus in the desert meeting Satan, Jesus and disciples conversing in the wilderness, even Golgatha was considered by both the Jews and the Romans as a “borderland” between This-World and the Other.
Like the people of Israel, God calls us to sojourn in the wilderness, i.e., the Borderlands; remembering that we are both pilgrims and ambassadors. Today the “wilderness” is contemporary culture, particularly post-modernism. It is when the people of God partook of the culture as if it was their due, that the lost their way and the Blessing. Following captivity, they spent years in the wilderness and then when they arrived in the Promise Land they wanted to be just like those around them, with a king. Not all that long after, they reentered captivity. (Note that it is the “Promise Land,” e.g., land full of promise, but to realize the promises, Israel had to live as the People of God. There was no guarantee that the promise would last, otherwise. (Modern Evangelicals and many Jews make a mistake here, thinking that it is the Promised Land, thus it is Jews right to reclaim it even today. Regardless of whatever human governments do in regard to the land called “The Nation of Israel,” Scripture nowhere awarded perpetual rights to the land (now called “Israel”) to the Israelites.
It is important that we understand that living in the Borderlands is not the same as living on the border. Living on the border implies that we have a bit of identity and characteristic of both sides of the border; on conformance and non-conformance. Living in the Borderlands is different; it is where non-conformance is the rule. For Christians it is as the Apostle Paul writes, ” “We are in the world, but not of the world.”
In the Borderlands, genuine people of faith “hang out” with those kinds of people that Jesus called “friends.” It is in the Borderlands that we meet the grotesque, in the form of “the chaotic” and the “ugly.” In the eyes of the “Good Jew,” Jesus’ friends were the grotesque. It is also in the Borderlands that we build our physical grotto and battle within the spiritual grotto,* the “Dark Night” of our soul. Remember, it was in the garden, a symbol of the Borderland, where Jesus struggled with his mission. “Gethsemane” literally means “oil press.” The place where the olives were pressed to release their oil, their essence.” Gethsemane was the place where Jesus’ spirit was pressed between the vise of “I wish this cup would pass from me” and “Your will be done. “Today, the Garden has been made beautiful by Christian monks; no longer the place of struggle, the place where Jesus entered into the grotto of his being and struggled with the “Dark Night.”
It is in the Borderlands that the veil between this world and the other becomes thin. It is in the Borderlands that Life meets death, where hell meets heaven. It is in the Borderlands that the battle between all that is Holy and all that is Evil is fought. It is in the Borderlands where the face-to-face struggle between our divine and earthly natures takes place. It is in the
Borderlands that we find our true God-Imaged Nature or continue in the hell of our own making.
* Grotto and grotesque are etymologically related.