Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. – Genesis 12:5-6 (NRSV)
“Ugh, you can’t say anything without getting in trouble nowadays,” people in some of my circles say. “Why have people gotten so sensitive?”
For me, the answer to this question is another question: “Have other people gotten too sensitive, or have I just spent my life thus far not being sensitive enough?”
There was for sure a time—long ago, but still—when I would have read the passage above and only noticed Abram and Sarai, maybe Lot. I would have plowed right through and not even noticed that they acquired human beings. Wouldn’t have even stopped to wonder what that meant for the persons “acquired” or for us today. Would also have read about Abram and his entourage moving into the land, and would barely even have noticed that it was already occupied by other people. Wouldn’t have even stopped to wonder how such stories might have affected the indigenous people, or later world history.
Others, though, read this same passage and are gut-punched by these lines. Don’t have the luxury of not noticing them. And—thank God—have not kept silent about it. Which has allowed people like me to take another step toward the kind of noticing, the kind of attention, that the God who notes the fall of every sparrow is so famous for.
For every important line I have failed to notice, forgive me. That this person is getting so sensitive nowadays, thank you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.