Assimilation as Sin
Ah, the push and pull of the desire to blend into our environment and the crowd around us...it is both a source of anxiety and a siren's call to conform!
Anyone who has found themselves in societal environments where they don't fit in, where they are unfamiliar with language and custom, knows the pain of not fitting in. At times, this can feel like simple "high school" alienation. In an odd situation and among people we don't completely understand, we quest about for ways to fit in and our energy and imagination focuses on exercising our human skill to project a social camouflage that when deployed can keep us from being seen, singled out and picked on.
There are times, thought, when our very survival depends on being able to blend into the background. More than simply experiencing shame, when we find ourselves in an alien and hostile situation (social or otherwise), then assimilation can mean the difference between life and death. Blending in means a better chance for survival. If successful, then it might even mean prosperity.
How then do we gauge that impulse against God's continual calling to us to emerge from the background and commit to living lives set apart from (AND VISIBLE TO) others? It's terrifying. Add on to that the proscriptions noted in the Law that while we might sojourn among other nations, we are not to assimilate, or appropriate, other practices-particularly when it comes to our allegiance to, and worship of, God.
It means accepting the call from God to become exactly that, sojourners in foreign lands among peoples with whom we might have little in common socially or culturally...and yet at the same time we embrace the call to bear witness to these that God has placed us in their midst to be a sign and invitation to a being that is unbound to human desires to assimilate and conform into the shadows. It means conforming to a call that puts us in the world while keeping us from being of it.
That's challenging. Why? Because at base we are still wanting to fit in, to accept the culture around us and figure out ways not to stick out too much. And yet, if we are to walk with integrity with our God, then we are going to have to figure out how to break the cycles of temptation and indulgence that draw our eyes from the calling we share to live and proclaim God to a world that is distracted and distant from the grace and peace of the kingdom, from the fulfillment of the Promise and from the willing abiding in Covenant that is our heritage and our true way of being.