Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Last nite in the Land of Lincoln. Oh, Land of Hamuera. Um, Land of Luther?

At the Concordia Seminary in Fort Wayne today I met Bob, who is a very enthusiastic historian... fascinating and fascinated, he is like Lutheran Church Google On Legs. A really lovely man, and he is very keen to help figure out some of The Hamuera Story. He's hilarious, but also a kind of understated quiet man, so if you're not listening carefully you can miss the jokes until they're already a minute old... He also happens to know millions of things that help put things in place and flesh out the context... and he's also totally passionate about his own project, his own guy, a Lutheran pastor who was born 201 years ago, in that adorable way Trus Geeks have of seeing that every conversation clearly links back to their own research expertise! Awesome. I believe my cousin Daniel woudl call him a Classic.

As we talked, finally getting to meet each other in person after emailing back and forth about my trip and my research, he told me a bit about himself, and used a term which was hilarious but also kind of interesting. "I'm a naturalized Lutheran" he said, explaining that he grew up in a town where a Lutheran church was the nearest option and so he attended there despite coming from a motley crew of Protestant makes and models.

A naturalized Lutheran.

Describing the church in terms of citizenship is pretty fascinating. I'm not talking about faith here, or spirituality; that is a whole other talk show. I'm talking about the Lutheran church.

Generally speaking, people acquire natural or automatic citizenship on the basis of two basic systems of rights known as jus sanguinis (the rights granted by blood) and jus soli (the rights granted by soil, or presence, or perhaps - especially in late 2011 - we might say, by occupation). This doesn't mean that descent or location always guarantees citizenship - that depends on the rules of the nation - but citizenship will be granted because a person satisfies a requirement which is a version of either or both of these rights. (Some people argue that it is helpful to recognise a third category by which citizenship is granted, and this is particularly pertinent in the case of US Empire: jus meritum or citizenship on the basis of military service.)

The other way to achieve citizenship is naturalization, a process which is always far more involved and conscious than the other bases of blood and soil. If you haven't been naturalised yourself, ask someone who has. There's information to memorise, anthems to learn, background checks to perform, allegiences to be sworn, and so on. The naturalised citizen is always the exemplary citizen, in that they have consciously stated their willingness to be loyal to the Queen, learned the rules of baseball, demonstrated their political openmindedness (these examples are from the naturalization texts of three different countries) and so on... and despite this, theywill always hang aroud the edges of the nation itself. Most likely to be asked 'where are you from?' Most likely to be accused of 'buying up New Zealand land' when chauvanist bigots want to protect land for white ownership only and pretend it is in the 'national interest.' Least likely to be understood as someone from the nation. Ironically, then, the delighful person whose truck I saw yesterday which bore the sticker "American by birth, Southern by the grace of God" is likely to know far less American history than the person who naturalised last week or who will naturalise tomorrow.

My citizenship in the Lutheran church is probably a combination of jus sanguinis and jus soli. I am a Te Punga, and a Gose, after all! And I was baptised and confirmed a Lutheran and can find my way around the inside of a Lutheran order of service in any number of countries and places. I've talked a lot about privilege over the course of the blog, and I suppose this is my Lutheran privilege. I am able to walk into these archives, and not just be welcomed but be fascinating because I'm a direct descendent of 'the only fruit of the Lutheran mission to the Maoris.' Unlike Bob, I have the privilege of being thoughtless and unreflecting about my Lutheranness, and - like people who have only ever lived in NZ and don't cheer for the Lions but have an EU passport through a British gradparent - I can choose to exercise of claim  my being Lutheran regardless of my own personal faith or spiritual commitments.

I went to church yesterday (for the first time in quite a while, I'll admit) because I was in Missouri  and I figured it was the right thing to do. I went up to communion, and despite the Missouri Synod preferring non-Missouri people (yes, even other Lutherans) to refrain from coming to communion in a Missouri Synod church, I decided to go up. I did this respectfully, and didn't go just to break the rules (it's their tikanga, after all) but there was an option to go to receive a blessing instead (as a kind of compromise I suppose) and I figured I would do what felt right once I got up there: accept communion or a blessing. Communion felt right on the day. I realise now as I write this that as I knelt there, thinking about kneeling alongside Te Pungas at various altar rails my whole life, I felt a strong sense of citizenship in the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran church not on the basis of any process of conscious or deliberate decision (a naturalization of sorts) but on the basis of, well, blood and soil. Genealogy and land. Descent and occupation.   

I remember thinking about this when I was in Australia, too. The sense of thinking more carefully about being Lutheran from birth. Hamuera came here to the Land of Lincoln - this part of the midwest - because he was Lutheran, and my project has been more interested in his being Maori. And yet, now I'm here in the Land of Hamuera, I find it's inextricably the Land of Luther as well.

1 comment:

  1. Kia ora Alice. Trying to cyberstalk you re: entry on indigenous peoples. Wondering if you've been able to work on it at all. E-mail me at MCH, cheers Basil.