Stay at Home Colonialism

Earlier this week I tweeted the following:

It stems from a realization that despite my best efforts at keeping colonialism at bay, I often hold it so closely, I can’t see it.

In our day and age, colonialism takes on a negative connotation. It refers to the domination and resulting subjugation of one people group to another. It is the overwhelming of the weak brought about by the strong. The destruction of many a native culture has come at the hands and viewpoints of colonists as we have sought to make them like us. (It should be noted, however, that this transformation was and is usually not a complete one. Often “we” make great efforts to ensure “they” don’t actually become exactly like us. Who then would we dominate?) As such, many folks have brought out this darkness perpetuated by the West into the light. Our collective history is one of expanse, wealth, and freedom – yes; but it is not one innocent of racial, ethnic, and socio-economic atrocities.

Intimately linked to this exercise of domination – a global exercise of military, technology, and industry might through governmental agencies – is the religious (specifically Christian) justification pronounced over it. As was recently demonstrated by Sarah Palin, the intermingling of historical Christian identification with the brutal, dehumanizing torture of water-boarding is more or less the natural continuance of colonialism. As has been said elsewhere, in a cultural battle of ideologies, force must be introduced to propagate and legitimize where words and viewpoints will not. Palin’s words are nothing new; much (yet not all) of the colonial tendencies of yesteryear were often both abhorrently thought of as carrying the mantle of Genesis’ imperative to subdue and dominate while being obedient to Jesus’ call to make disciples of the nations. And that is where the problem lies: coalescing the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus with an Empire and its ideology. (This has not always been the case and isn’t a wholesale condemnation of missionary endeavors. Please don’t it read it as such.)

So as eyes have opened and the pendulum has begun to swing the other direction, reflective practitioners have attempted to stay conscious of this colonial posture handed down to us. Be it in the inner city, across oceans, or within the workplace, we have been told to be aware of our tendencies to make the other like us. This form of evangelism (regardless of said evangelisms’ content) is to do violence against the supposed inferior, the unenlightened, the marginal. (Again, let me say that I’m not arguing against evangelization; I am arguing against coercive, dominating evangelization, which really isn’t evangelization at all.)

In my imagination, when it comes to “them”, I generally picture those unlike me. It is generally an image of those outside of my immediate likeness: white, male, educated, middle class, etc. Generally speaking, it is an outward facing thing emanating from me towards those on the edges of my existence. I (wrongly) assume it passes over those nestled within the inner rings of my life: family and friends, children and co-workers. However, as the above tweet gets at, I’ve been realizing the ease of being blind to my stay at home colonialism.

When I don’t listen

When I bulldoze over

When I believe I know the correct fix for another’s problem

I colonize.

When I assume

When I believe the way I feel is how you should feel

When I play the victim when you are hurt

I colonize.

It might not be as overt in appearance compared to governmental colonialism, but the method and result are the same: dominance resulting in homogeneity. I destroy any possibility of unity within and because of diversity.

This stay at home colonization hit directly at home within the past few weeks. My wife was dealing with some of the situations life has handed us in a manner I deemed unfit. I felt helpless in fixing the situation because her reactions were not the way I would have reacted, dealt with, and pushed through. Instead of listening there was assumptive silence; instead of love there was coercion; instead of space given there was space taken. In short, rather than allow room for mutuality, I had inserted my unshared view as the correct, proper one.

Once we actually discussed things and I opened my ears to her voice and heart, things made sense. Reconciliation was made; forgiveness was handed out en masse. In this case, my extroversion (along with other factors) had blinded me to her introversion. And in the process, I have been brought further down the road of love and mutuality.

To be honest, I don’t know how to eliminate these colonizing tendencies and postures – both at home and elsewhere – beyond confessing them and asking for forgiveness.

And within that, I look forward to the day when my stay at home colonialism will be no more.