How open are we?

We had a great time in Washington, D.C. and it was fun to get to visit different churches.  One church we attended for the first time in 10 years, and with it’s third change of pastors, we hope it will catch some new life.  It is an inner city church in an affluent neighborhood, and on the leading edge of many social justice ministries.  It was the new pastor’s second or third Sunday, and the sermon was on how hard it is for us to open our hearts to others and accept people as they are.  It’s a hard message for most progressive Christians to hear, because most feel like we are very accepting of others, non-judgmental and broad-minded.  Not like those other Christians who judge, exclude and have narrow views.  But that was the pastor’s point.  Those the congregation wasn’t very open to receiving were the people who don’t think as they think. How is that different from exclusivity on the more orthodox side of the theological beam?

The church for tomorrow must somehow learn to overcome the polarization which has become not only the political norm, but the social and religious norm as well.  Judgment is judgment, and when does it ever help us build bridges to those with whom we disagree?  It is fairly easy to be kind to children, dogs and old people.  (If it isn’t, email me.  We don’t cover those basics in our blogs!) The challenge is to learn how to be church with those who hold ideas and opinions that we find offensive.  I am preaching to myself here.  I struggle with this as well.

How do we create an atmosphere where people from all perspectives can feel welcome and included? How do we take a stand on social justice issues without alienating those who disagree with us?  It’s possible, but only with a radical focus on the person of Jesus.  The historical Jesus and the risen Christ are the only source of unity we have ever had really, and if we’re uncomfortable with that focus, true inclusivity will continue to elude us.