Joyce Shin is pastor at Swarthmore Presbyterian Church in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
As anthropologists have shown us, cohesive communities usually have narratives, traditions, and symbols that have shaped their collective psyches and have powerfully bound them together. These traditional practices make up their thought world, and when a person is displaced from that world, it makes less sense to carry on the practices. My father grew up in a clan society in pre-Korean War North Korea. His grandfather was head of the Shin clan.
From Paul’s letter, we can infer that the Corinthians tended toward the same bias from which many of us suffer: the belief that there is little collective wisdom in the church.
When our collective symbols and stories no longer make sense in our reality, we question who we are. After exile and liberation, the ancient Israelites were so devastated that images of overwhelming waters and fire speak to them.
As the imam spoke, it struck me that a whole generation of Muslim Americans would grow up feeling the weight of self-consciousness.