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  • Reverend James Squire

Swarthmore



I lived in Swarthmore for seven years before being called to the Episcopal Academy. I was on the staff of Trinity Church which was known then as one of the most progressive (liberal) parishes in the Diocese. The Rector who asked me to join his staff was a graduate of Swarthmore College as well. It may still be true, but it was regarded then as the best small college in America. Years later when my son was accepted at Swarthmore. We attended the yield event for those accepted. I asked someone who I knew who was conducting the process how a student who was not interested (at that time) in politics would do at his school. He responded with words which are still remembered by me today. He said simply, “Not very well!”


The Rector and the committee who chose me were interested in my counseling and academic tickets and could care less about my working-class background. I couldn’t figure out why until I became emersed in the culture of the town which claimed the best town/gown relations anywhere in the United States. When I would attend a party or other group function, there was not much talk about the Eagles. The currency of exchange was high level thinking by faculty, newspaper editors, authors, politicians, and people connected to the arts. I likened it to a seven-year swing through an intellectual jungle gym and, truth be told, I loved every minute of it. Every sermon or presentation received feedback.


But it was in that community that I first heard and discussed the upside and downside of a World Government. The people in the community saw the downside of extreme nationalism.

While a good part of our nation was focused on returning to what was best for America, World Government yielded thinking that I found consistent with descriptions of the Kingdom of God. We have many interpretations of what that Kingdom would look like but here are a few: faith, love God and love your neighbor, honesty and truth, peace and justice. We sometimes hear it referred to as the promised land. In the Christian tradition, it is ushered in by Jesus. Depending upon your denomination in Judaism, it would be ushered in by a future messiah or community.


One thing is clear is that the biblical writer thought in global terms like my friends in Swarthmore. In the last several decades we have been moving to a place where a good many have been seeing the world through a wider lens. Climate change and Aids are indications that no person can isolate themselves from what is happening around the world. But what has driven home the point is our recent challenge of yet a new variant that has entered the virus picture believed to have started in South Africa. A global village is mentioned often with now more seriousness and concern.


Whenever nationalism persists to the level of becoming malignant, we can see the problem more clearly in focus. Instead of seeing the world through the lens of nation, we need to see it through the lens of a world view.


But there is something else that we need to grasp. Right now, people can choose to be with people who look like them, think like them, and worship like them. We know that soon the white person will be in the minority for the first time ever. People will not be able to create a world where they can choose their group. This, in opinion, is one of the things that has produced the White Supremacy movement.


There are white people who know this and fear this and now are reacting to it. It is a fiction to think that we will not be required to live and work together in the future in closer relationships with those who are different from us. There is the aphorism that the most segregated places in America are in churches on Sunday morning.


Maybe the people I knew in Swarthmore had more vision than I had at the time on the way the world would be and how power could result in justice.


One of the blessings that I have had is to work in a diverse community particularly as it relates to religion and race. It was such a rich experience. I received a text on Thanksgiving morning from a former Muslim African American student who is working in the American Embassy in France to set up a zoom call. Diversity is increasing and the world is getting smaller and smaller.


Be an American citizen! Be a Global citizen! But don’t stop there! Be a seeker after peace, truth, and justice, when we see ourselves as Citizens of the Kingdom of God where we are ushered in by the Messiah or our God to find the holy in each other. It’s called the promised land. It’s a different kind of World Government governed by the power of the one who created the world and us in the first place.

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