Creativity Magazine

Cupcakes for Congress?

Posted on the 31 January 2013 by Wendyrw619 @WendyRaeW
Cupcake Mojo

Cupcake Mojo

I am here to tell you that there is a lot of Christian  radio in this country.  Despite the fact that I am a marginal driver—on a good day—I seem to find myself behind the wheel an awful lot, often driving long distances between remote airports and rural communities.  On those trips, I flip between radio stations–listening to public radio when I can find it; if I can’t, then to stations that play that weird mish-mash of country and pop; and finally to Christian radio if that’s what’s available to keep me company.  And often, that’s what available.  There are times when 3 out of 4 stations are filled with sermons and Christian folk-rock.  The other is blasting heavy metal.

Last week, as I was driving from North Bend to Gold Beach on the far southern Oregon coast, I got came across a sermon in progress.  I’m actually not even sure what the sermon was about, but I was struck by a digression the pastor took into the Biblical notion of hospitality.  He explained that the Greek word for hospitality –philoxenia—means “love for strangers.”  He talked about the importance of hospitality in the “ancient world,” about the Jewish and early Christian expectation that folks would open their homes to strangers, about the obligation to provide refreshment and respite to wayfarers.  He referred to Hebrews 13:2, which admonishes: Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

And while I am not sure about the angels—though I love the idea of offering buttermilk pie to winged travelers—it got me thinking again about our obligation—and our failure—to cultivate a sense of civic hospitality.   As Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam made clear in his groundbreaking book, Bowling Alone, civic participation and hospitality are somehow linked.  As civic participation declined, so did hospitality, even at the most rudimentary level.  As Americans became less likely to vote, to write letters to the editor, to give to charity, they also became less likely to entertain friends in their homes or even to eat dinner together as families.

But what about the Biblical notion of love—or even care—for strangers?  That’s a tall order when we have a hard time even inviting our friends into our homes.  But, isn’t that at the crux of many of the questions we are struggling with right now?  As we talk about welfare reform and tax rates and service levels, aren’t we often talking about just how much care we are willing to offer to strangers?

So, what do you think?  What is our obligation to our neighbor, to our fellow citizen?  It sounds so cold when we talk about “entitlements” or the “social safety net.”  But what if we ask the questions in terms of hospitality?  That’s a much warmer word, a word that conjures up steaming loaves of bread and fluffy pillows.  It connotes a sense of reciprocity – I’ll offer you a bowl of soup as you pass through my town because I know you will do it for me or my daughter or my grandfather when one of us is passing through yours.

Philoxenia.  Hospitality.  If we cast our citizen-to-citizen relationship in those terms, I think we can up our game.  I am not exactly suggesting that we need to invite strangers into our homes for pot roast—though maybe I should be—but rather that we need to cultivate  a deeper sense of responsibility for one another,  a belief  that if we can offer respite to someone in need, we should.  That notion not only enriches Christianity—or Judaism—but  it enriches the Republic.  It warms up our sense of citizenship.

Truth is, I’m not sure what to do about it.  For sure, I think it gives us a new way to think about our relationship to strangers.  But, what else?  It’s Meeting Planning 101 that food makes everything go smoother.  So, maybe we should serve pie in the subway, give out sandwiches at the mall, invite a stranger to tea.  Maybe we should have Democrats serve Republicans cupcakes in Congress or have potlucks at City Hall.  Let’s take this notion of hospitality seriously, but let’s have some fun with it, too.  Let’s get busy.  I’ll call you from the kitchen.


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