The small restaurant was centered around a long bar, deep with customers pushing to get their orders taken by one of the workers. We were dining at “La Cuchara de San Telmo.” It is located in the heart of the pinxtos district of San Sebastian, the gastronomic capital of the Spanish Basque region and arguably the world. Pinxtos is the Basque word for tapas and carrillera, or braised veal cheeks, is the specialty of this restaurant. Painstakingly braised in sweet red wine for several hours, it is served on a bed of local vegetables. The intoxicating aroma filled the small restaurant as we watched numerous plates pass us by to the eager patrons who arrived before us. Finally, our dish arrived and it did not disappoint. Glistening with a savory sauce, it was succulent and falling apart as we positioned our fork into the steaming dish; it was worth the twenty minutes and pushing crowds. We were offered a glass of a bracing txakoli, the local white wine, as we toasted the chefs and complimented them on their amazing creation. The gentleman next to me ordered the same dish and as we ate, he lifted his glass and toasted me. My new dining companion smiled and laughed, “Where are you from?”
“Ahh…American!” As I nodded in agreement, he put his arm around my shoulder and proclaimed, “Today, you are a citizen of San Sebastian!” I was loving it and proud to be identified with this group of people.
Food binds us together in a way that transcends culture and geography. Yet, in spite of the many things that can bind us together, there is a divisive and xenophobic clamor spewing from all sides of the political spectrum in the United States and the world. Certain groups of people and/or countries have been singled out as the source of immigration problems and crime. It is true that heinous acts have been committed by some members of these groups against innocent people. The truth, however, is they represent a very tiny percentage of the people of that culture or country. Yet, this small percentage is branded as the face of an entire population, leading to the shaming, ostracizing, and accusatory language directed against all of them.
Christians may face similar discrimination. Because of the hurtful or thoughtless actions of a few Christians directed against another, all Christians may be indiscriminately lumped into a faceless group of religious hypocrites and bigots. This is unfair and unjust but is an extension of the xenophobia that grips many people. What is the Christian response to these accusations?
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 John 4:20 (ESV)
Are there problems in San Sebastian? Undoubtedly. It is no different from any city in the world, culture, or group of people. Let’s chose to focus upon the positive and uplifting, shared interests like food, that can bring us closer together, rather than erecting barriers and exclusion. Ultimately, it is the only God’s love through faith and belief in Jesus Christ that will be able to end this cycle of hate and blame toward specific groups of people.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.