Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Hospitality and the Latest "Bun Fight"
Wow. Who knew that an incident in which a person was refused service at a restaurant because of the principles of the owner would spark a nation-wide discussion on civility in the United States -- an often uncivil debate I might add.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Press Secretary for President Trump, was seated in a small eatery called The Red Hen in a town in Virginia which is divided politically. The owner is accustomed to providing meals for people from across the spectrum and keeps away from making an issue about allegiances. But staff members called the owner about Huckabee Sanders' dining party and asked what they should do. The owner came to the restaurant, took Huckabee Sanders aside to another room and asked her to leave, letting her know that the rest of her group were welcome to stay. Sanders said that she would leave and her party went with her. There was no charge for what they had already eaten.
That might have been the end of it, a discreet expression of protest by someone who profoundly disagrees with the Trump administration's horrendous practice of separating migrant parents and children as they arrive at the Mexican American border. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been a strong defender of this policy in her role and has been less than civil in responding to reporters who have challenged what is an illegal and immoral policy. She has also claimed that it was biblical to do this because of passages about obeying the law, a gross misrepresentation of the spirit of scripture and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I find it fascinating that there are Christians who are questioning the choice of the restaurant owner because she was inhospitable and that she only deepened the divide which is so apparent in the United States at the moment. Some have used the example of Jesus sharing a table with tax collectors and sinners as an example of the Christian response. This is an odd example in my estimation because Jesus and those tax-collectors chose to have this meal together and Jesus is pointedly joining with those who are seen as outside the pale of religious acceptability.
Of course it was Huckabee Sanders who used her official Twitter account to reveal what had occurred, and the President once again stooped into pettiness in his response. They both used the power of empire to call out the restaurant owner who acted according to her own moral and ethical lights. By all accounts she was not uncivil, nor was Huckabee Sanders in the moment, but this became the issue.
Surely there are times when we chose to act against what might be a facile notion of hospitality? When I was a prison chaplain intern I spent time with sex offenders and murderers and did my best to respond to them with the grace of Christ. It wasn't always easy to do because of the nature of their crimes.
At the same time I might refuse to break bread with an elected official or representative of a movement that is racist or homophobic. Would that be inhospitable or a matter of principle grounded in my notion of justice? In my last congregation we decided not to give space to a Christian youth organization which was openly anti-LGBTQ in its literature. It wasn't an easy choice but it was prayerfully made. The owner of The Red Hen must have known that there was the potential for backlash to her decision and decided to act just the same.
Ah well. This "political bun fight" as someone has put it will pass and judging from the current political climate in the US the next incident will soon be upon us.
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