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Remembering my Citizenship

I am a dual citizen. I and others from my faith tradition hold dual citizenship.

I am a citizen of the United States of America and I am a citizen of what my Reformed-Presbyterian branch of Christianity calls “The Kingdom of God.” I was born and baptized as a child into that community of faith and it is my primary and deepest citizenship. My identity.

I was born in the United States one generation away from my grandparents’ arrival at Ellis Island fleeing the poverty and lack of opportunity in the Netherlands. All of us who are not Native Americans are sons and daughters of immigrants.

My citizenship in God’s Kingdom and my citizenship in the United States do not always go easily together. There can be conflicts between the values and practices of my faith country and the values and practices of my physical country and community.

But in matters touching on how I and others are called to treat our neighbors–particularly in the freedom to practice their faith–there is no contradiction between the values and demands of my citizenship in God’s Kingdom and my citizenship in this incredible country my grandparents selected for me, the United States.

Not only is there no contradiction, there are identical demands on my behavior.

This is not just a nice aspiration for those of us who believe it. There is a reason for the command. 

All of us in the Judeo-Christian tradition are familiar with the most fundamental requirement of human behavior: “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself.”

This is not just a nice aspiration for those of us who believe it. There is a reason for the command. Genesis 1:27: "And God made mankind in his own image….In the image of God created he them."

Every human beingevery human being without exceptionharbors  a spark of the divine. Because of this single fact every human being is loved by God and every human being is endowed with equal dignity and equal worth that cannot be forfeited or taken away.

This is the core tenet of my citizenship in God’s Kingdomin my community of faith.

Sound familiar? It should. The founding document of our country: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights…”

I am here this morning to publicly reaffirm the deepest values and demands on my behavior rooted in both my citizenships.

So I am here this morning to publicly reaffirm the deepest values and demands on my behavior rooted in both my citizenships: the right of every person to be treated by meby all of usas an equal and supremely valuable human being with God-given dignity. And the right of everyone to practice their faith in peace and in safety. In a time of increased threats to our Muslim compatriots, we must all reaffirm these values.  

I hold dual citizenship. And so with all of you here I call on my fellow citizens in my community of faith, and my fellow Americansespecially those who lead us and represent us in government—to reaffirm and act on the core values we share. The core values that hold us together.   

This is not a radical call in either kingdom. This is not a partisan call or a partisan act. It is a call to affirm and to act on the deepest roots of both our citizenships.

[Editor's note: These remarks were originally delivered at the Shoulder to Shoulder press conference in Washington D.C. in November 2016.]


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