I’m way late posting this here, but for online posterity, here’s the text for the 31 May 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Owain Wyn Evans on BBC Radio 2. Listen here.
Earlier this month, my neighbour and I knocked every door in our street to invite everybody to a Queen’s Jubilee party. Our neighbourhood is very diverse: Eastern European, African, Caribbean, South and East Asian, Greek and Turkish Cypriot, English, with at least one very yappy Yank. Some people were born here, some like me have immigrated here, some have relatives who arrived in previous generations. With so many cultures, it’ll be a fabulous party.
A few days after the door-knocking, the Home Office informed me that I’ve been approved for British citizenship. Now this has nothing to do with my Jubilee-party-planning or any work or merit on my part, except for living here seven years and being married to my lovely British husband, which only occasionally feels like work.
So next week, I’ll bear allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As I’m remaining an American citizen, too, I’ll do that alongside my allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and “no foreign prince”, as the US citizenship oath requires. I’ll have dual-citizenship: somehow I’ll be British and American at the same time. No idea what that means, really, except that parts of my identity will align easily while others will contrast or even feel contradictory.
But I think that’s the case for every person: we can be many conflicting things at the same time – believer and sceptic, liberal and conservative, compassionate and cruel. Most countries have dual-histories, too: sometimes doing justice and sometimes causing great harm.
This Sunday, during Jubilee Weekend, many Christians will also celebrate the day of Pentecost, remembering a Bible story when God poured out into a multinational gathering. Apparently God loves a diverse party. The 1st century book of Acts describes the Holy Spirit radiating through people as different as Parthians, Medes, Elamites, folks from Mesopotamia, Pontus, Pamphylia, and loads of other countries no longer on our maps.
Over the 2000 years since that first Pentecost, our borders have changed. I imagine they’ll continue to, just as our self-understandings will. That doesn’t mean our national and personal identities are unimportant – just that they’re temporary, they’re always shifting. Our only permanent identity, I believe, is that we’re citizens of the kingdom of God, a realm of justice and joy that we’re included in not because of our bloodline or merit, but only because of the generosity of a God who sees us all as beautiful immigrants and absolutely loves to welcome everybody in.