Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor Neil Christopher, writing in the Huffington Post, has an interesting take on the meaning and use of the word “inclusive,” the current buzzword of choice among religious liberals to label the New Orthodoxy on sexual morality. He writes that being “inclusive” does not mean that a church does not have boundaries, but that it redefines them:
This brings us to the conundrum of inclusivity. In order to actually be inclusive someone or something is going to have to be excluded.
I wonder how he wrote that with a straight face.
We see examples of this a lot as well in groups or organizations that decide to become inclusive but then have people who wish to attack or have nothing to do with that which was then included.
One could say that this is a fair description of what religious liberals have done to the mainline churches over the last fifty years, as they joined institutions that had standards that they despised and set about changing. But of course they are in charge now, so they are no longer the attackers, but the attacked.
There was a time in our recent history here in America when certain races were excluded from dining establishments, dance or concert halls. When someone made the bold and just decision to make their dance hall inclusive to any and every race something happened: There were some people who still didn’t agree with this decision and felt excluded by it — excluded because they were not onboard with this new inclusivity.
By defining themselves as being inclusive, they had to make a conscious decision to separate themselves from and make a stand against those whom would disagree with this choice. Furthermore, they had to take steps to protect those people they have decided to now embrace. What good would come from saying that someone from a different race was allowed to dance in your establishment if once there they were abused and mistreated by the other patrons? No, in order to be truly inclusive, they were obligated to make sure that anyone there was truly safe and secure. To not do so would be actually excluding those people you say you are including by your non-action. By allowing them to be attacked, even if through silence, you are actually excluding those you just opened your doors up to.
The use of the racial analogy here is as flawed as ever. No where in Scripture is there any hint that having black skin is a sin, and in fact the New Testament specifically teaches the opposite, that in Christ ethnicity (or race) no longer matter. It ought not to be necessary to point out that certain kinds of sexual behavior are not the same thing as the amount of melanin in one’s skin, or the ethnic group into which one was born into, but some folks simply don’t get that. And Christopher would be more honest if he didn’t use expressions such as “safe and secure.” The issue isn’t safety, it’s approval. If a person cannot feel “safe and secure” unless everyone in a church approves of everything they do, including the stuff that Scripture calls sin, I’d say he or she is in the wrong organization.
Today there is a debate going on in religious circles over a similar matter concerning the LGBT community. There are certain churches or groups that say they have become inclusive to them, but at the same time the refuse protect them or exclude those who oppose the inclusivity or even attack them. They say that this is done in love — that to not include both the oppressed and the oppressor would be to cease to be truly inclusive, but this simply isn’t true.
For in order to be inclusive to both gay people and straight people one must by definition be willing to let those who hate the idea feel excluded, and to not offer aid, protection or have consequences set up for those who attack one part of your group is actually taking the side against them, driving them out.
So can we just get to the bottom line here? What Christopher is saying is that the church is faced with a choice: it can affirm homosexual behavior and tell gay folks that what they are doing is fine with God, and seek to bring them into the church without asking them to modify their behavior; or it can affirm biblical teaching and tell traditional orthodox believers that they are free to continue to proclaim biblical teaching. It cannot do both. It must choose between sexually active gays and orthodox believers, and that one or the other must go.
In other words, he is advocating an exclusivist church that simply excludes a different group of people than it previously excluded. In particular, it excludes the people who are the theological descendants of the people who founded the church. That is the new meaning of “inclusive.”
You know what’s really funny? Here’s how he begins his column:
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Not only is that one of my favorite quotes from “The Princess Bride,” but that also happens to be one of my favorite quotes of all time. It is also one that manages to be quite fitting when we talk about one of the many new buzzwords floating around in popular Christian culture today. That word: “inclusive.”
Somewhere, George Orwell is banging his head on his typewriter.
(Via MCJ, where Chris Johnson comes up with a new word to describe this view: “inclusivitiousness,” which commenter Whitestone says is misspelled, and should read “inclusiviciousness.” Take your pick.)