How Do You Connect to Your Heritage? Do you feel connected to your family and cultural roots? Or do you feel distant or cut off from them?

I feel like my heritage has been shifting ever since I left high school and the small town in Western Pennsylvania where I grew up. If I use my mother as an example of my family and my cultural roots, I would say that I feel more and more distant from her ideologies, biases, paranoia, and prejudice.

When I think about our disagreements, I think we are stuck in a conversation where I say, “Ma, it’s you who has moved away from the bedrock of our faith’s belief in love, justice, and caring for the stranger.” She will respond with something like, “Who are you to preach to me?” because I no longer — haven’t since I was 19 — profess to be a Christian.

But as my wife and friends can attest, I can still be a fundamentalist in the way I think or react to things, and I have to be careful of this because there is a lot of self-aggrandizement, pride, judgement, rigidity, and lack of empathy in a fundamentalist perspective. And this is part of who I am. But in my family and culture there is also a commitment to principles, to anti-materialism, to a global perspective, to centering people on the margins, to caring and justice that I proudly take with me into the future.

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