The term “citizenship” is in the news now, with the U.S. Congress struggling with immigration law reform. What does the term mean for people? Why make the distinction between citizen and non-citizen?
One reason for the concept, and a reason some people care deeply for it, may be because of our thirst for connection, belonging, for being recognized and included in a group of fellow human beings. Many people put great personal importance in being an acknowledged member (citizen) of a family, a club, a fraternal organizataion–or of a country.
I find fulfillment and a sense of comaderie in membership of my church and its local congregation, and in the Sierra Club where I’m very active. However, I’ve realized that I am also a member or citizen–at the deepest level possible–of God’s community of all creation. I’m blessed and grateful for this greatest gift of all. It’s knowledge that God has acknowledged and accepted me completely, warts and all. This trumps everything.
The concept of citizenship may also come from the history of medieval warring city-states. The rulers needed to know if someone was a trusted member of his own city and not a possible spy or saboteur from an enemy.
However, times have changed. We now live in a global world of movement and commerce. My first three roommates after I became the prime tenant of my apartment were graduate students from China. A later roommate was recently arrived from Iraq. The community college where I used to work was like a little United Nations–I worked with and alongside students from Iran, Vietnam, China, the Caribbean and Peru. When I ride the bus I often sit among people conversing in other languages.
In the fall of 2011 I was privileged to visit friends in New Zealand for a month. I Boarded a plane in San francisco and twelve hours later stepped out in Auckland. The air was fresh, people were friendly and easy to talk to, and I felt right at home with my feet on the ground–nearly half a world away.
I now believe the concept of “citizenship” of one country or another is becoming increasingly irrelevant. We’re all world citizens. What’s even greater and broader, we’re all citizens of God’s grand, wonderful and always suprising universe!