Despite recent trends the U.S. is still pretty much an inclusive society. As the saying on the plaque at the Statue Of Liberty goes we welcome all others to our shores. The resulting diversity is in my mind one of the primary reasons we have been such a strong and prosperous country. Elitism is by definition exclusive. It wants more and more for a smaller and smaller portion of society. It celebrates that fact that more than half the wealth of this country is in the hands of the top one percent of the population.
The advantages of inclusiveness and diversity are equally true for our religious institutions. Unfortunately most religious organization are exclusive. When they can’t even agree within themselves about something they call “religious” they far too often split over their differences. Each of the currently 39,000 different versions of Christianity today go out into the secular world to proclaim that they alone have it right when it comes to God. But then again, many don’t actually go outside their doors with any seriousness. Instead they tell us to come and see them and if we jump through all the right hoops and proclaim the right beliefs then they will let us join their group. To me that pompous attitude is not the message of Jesus. Jesus didn’t put conditions on his welcoming tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans and such; he welcomed them all without conditions.
I realize the above words are somewhat critical. No, they are actually very critical! This criticism did not come lightly upon me; it evolved for many years of observation and study. I have come to truly mourn the fact about what much of Christ’s church has become. Thank heavens I have also been exposed to an evolving Christianity that has allowed my view of Christ to grow and not die as a result of this all too common church exclusiveness.
I have been exposed to numerous authors who tell me a different story. It is a story of celebrating Christian diversity. It is a story of getting back to the words of Jesus and putting all the various man-made beliefs about him on the back burner, and in some instances completely off the stove. It is about welcoming all people to our midst. It is about actively going into the community to be our brother’s keeper. It is about being a Christian instead of just proclaiming certain belief, man-made beliefs. It is not self-focused but is about helping others.
My religious evolution was somewhat similar to when I went deaf. Before I met others who were deaf I was convinced that I was the only one out there. Before I was exposed to the other side of Christianity, the inclusive version, I was very distraught about what I saw in the church. Now I have hope for the church of Jesus. Will some of the current church institutions step away from their practices of exclusion or will they be simply sidelined to an ever decreasing minority? In some ways I really don’t care as there is now an alternative on the horizon to take their place if they stubbornly insist on the pompous belief that they are the only true Christians out there.
The emergent church movement gives me hope that the messages of Jesus will not be lost to mankind. All of Christianity will not be deemed irrelevant to the world and discarded. The idea of actually following Jesus will be resurrected, or I might say rescued, to return as a mantel of morality in this world.