CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…
The church we attend is really inclusive. Not as much as we would like. We have a few people of color, but not many, a few single young adults, but not many, a few conservatives… well, not really. Unless you include anti-violence, anti-racism, pro-gay, pro-choice, anti-nastiness conservatives.
A young adult or person of color might not feel immediately comfortable when walking into our church building on Sunday morning, though, for two reasons. First, they won’t see many of their own kind, at least not right away. Secondly, they will be swarmed by mobs of inclusive-minded well-meaning old white people who want to make them feel welcome.
Each week our preachers and other worship leaders do a wonderful job of encouraging us to be Christianly inclusive. Problem. How could that be a problem? It’s a problem because we are already inclusive, as individuals and as a congregation.
It’s actually easy to be inclusive. You just include everybody. And thus we think we are being Christian. But I have atheist and agnostic friends who are just as inclusive, just as anti-racist, just as pro-everyone as we are at church. Being inclusive is not exclusive.
All Christians are inclusive [except those who are Christian by self-identification but not by deed], but not all includers are Christian.
I’m not opposed to being reminded that I need to be inclusive. Any of the good stuff we do, we need reminders once in a while. But I also need to be reminded that I am a sinner who needs to be saved, that I can be in a cell of bondage to myself at the same time I am advocating and working for freedom for others.
The Gospel, the Good News, really is about personal salvation as well as social salvation, personal holiness as well as social holiness. Sometimes we hide our sins, our needs for forgiveness and restoration, by concentrating on the sins suffered by others. People of color, and gays, and young adults—they need more than inclusion, they need salvation, just like the rest of us.
I am not saved by my acts of mercy toward others. I am saved by God’s acts of mercy toward everybody.
John Robert McFarland
“Faith is not believing without proof; it is trusting without reservation.” Wm. Sloane Coffin
“All we ask [in old age] is to be allowed to remain the authors of our own story.” Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, p. 140.