I am a hybrid. A half-breed. Unlike those from some backgrounds, I don’t immediately appear to be, and so have never suffered from racial abuse. Both my parents (and all my ancestors as far back as we’re aware) are white Europeans.
I am half-Norwegian, and half-British*. Technically, English is my second language, although I’ve used it more in my life, having been here most of my 31 years.
My dad used to joke with me and my brothers that we were mongrels. We’ve never, as far as I’m aware, been ashamed of our mixed heritage, but as anyone from a culturally-mixed family can tell you, there’s a strange sense of dislocation that can sometimes arise from being half one thing and half another: Wholly nothing.
When I’m in Britain, I feel pretty much at home, although I’m aware of the Norwegian influence in me, and my name marks me as an outsider. I may have been born around here, but the fact that my family weren’t will, to some locals, make me an ‘offcomer’ still.
When I’m in Norway, I feel less at home than in the UK, but still have a love and affinity of it as my motherland. Its culture is, at least partly, my own, and when I’m over there, I tend to think as well as speak in Norwegian.
But wherever I am, in the UK or Norway, I’m never quite “all the way” home. I’m always an outsider. Always a little bit foreign, a little alien. My accent is never quite right, my mannerisms and thoughts slightly off.
This bothered me more when I was a teenager – just one more thing to make me feel awkward and out-of-place. Since I became a Christian, however – since the day Jesus saved me and transferred my citizenship to the New Jerusalem, I’ve been able to make more sense of it:
Whatever cultural dislocation I might feel – whatever sense of not-belonging – whatever alien-ness – I experience as a half-English-half-Norwegian**, is just a pale shadow of the dislocation every Christian ought to feel living in this world.
We still live ‘in’ the world, but we’re no longer ‘of’ it. We don’t belong to it (John 15:19). We might not be that visually out-of-place (like me in Norway with my blue eyes and blond hair), but our behaviour doesn’t fit – we talk and think differently to the people around us. We’re in an alien culture.
It can be upsetting to feel like you don’t belong. You can feel like there’s something wrong with you. But the simple fact is that if you’re rejected for your cultural or ethnic background, the problem doesn’t lie with you but with the person doing the rejecting. This is something Christians need to remember whenever we’re told there’s something wrong with us for belonging to Jesus.
I pretty much expect to feel a little bit out of place for the rest of my life. I’m always going to be Anglo-Norwegian – a foot in both camps, not quite at ease in either. That’s the nature of human culture and my own neurotic personality.
But as a Christian, I have the hope that however out of place I feel in this life, that dislocation will not continue forever. Whatever my ethnic or racial background, my identity is in Christ, and he has promised me and all my brothers and sisters, a home (John 14:1-4).
Like the old song says:
“This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.”
Let’s not get too distracted by opposition on the road, but fix our eyes on the destination. That is this hybrid’s hope.
*Although the British part is a good mixture of English, Irish and Scottish, with a little Swiss thrown in.
**I appreciate that Norwegian and British culture aren’t that radically different. The wider the cultural gap for someone of a mixed marriage, the bigger the sense of dislocation will be: Where skin colour or facial features become significantly different, people may experience a greater rejection by any particular group or culture, especially when they don’t look like they ‘belong’ to either their mother or their father’s ethnicity. I’m willing to admit my ignorance of the struggles some people have.