Thursday, July 19, 2012

All Things to All People: The Challenge of Inclusivity

TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN In this sermon, I will use the term progressive in lieu of liberal, in that liberalism more accurately refers to the revolutionary moment begun in France and became the philosophical force behind the American revolution. The battle today appears to be between the progressives who advocate what is called inclusivity--welcoming of all people and behaviors--and the conservatives who are accused of exclusiveness—bringing judgment upon those who differ from themselves in ideology. I think that inclusiveness and exclusiveness are two sides of the same coin--neither of which is fully representative of our Christian identity. GOD WHO IS RULER OF ALL AND MERCIFUL Psalm 145: The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. AND. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God is mysterious. Our human language is limited in its capacity to describe God. One attempt to capture the essence of God is to bring together opposite expressions, such as the ones from Psalm 145. 1. God is ruler of all and gives commandments that must be followed. 2. And, God is faithful and the divine mind will change with the plight of humans. Conservative Christians capture the sovereign nature of God well, and point to the need to follow God's commandments, but at the expense of the merciful nature of God. Progressive Christians capture the faithful nature of God well, and point to the need to be merciful as God is merciful, but at the expense of the sovereign nature of God. Rooted in each ideology is fear. Both ask, "What must we do?" If the proscribed actions are not performed, chaos. Three sections of the brain: Reptilian (earliest part of the brain that we share in common with reptiles), Mammalian (later development that is shared in common with other mammals and includes the capacity for compassion) , and Human (the most highly developed that includes logical capacity). 1. Higher the level of anxiety, the more the primitive section of the brain dominates. 2. Reptilian section of the brain dominates. 3. This is part of the brain is concerned with survival. 4. Fight or Fight Instinct Kicks In. Either vitriolic aggression against others in violent forms (fight), or taking offense/being offended and using that as an excuse to walk away from the problem. PROTESTING FROM THE PIT Psalm 40 Paraphrase. "I waited patiently for the Lord, he inclined and heard my cry. He lifted me up, out of the Pit, out of the miry clay. I will sing a new song." (U-2, "40") Notice the sections of the paraphrase. Pit. Cry. Act of Uplifting. New Song. The metaphor of Pit is used in scripture to capture a moment in the life of a human being in which a person is in a desperate situation. Progressive. The problem of acceptance. The Pit, instead of being a place where one is found unjustly, is seen as a condition that calls for empathy. This empathy accepts people for who and what they are. The end result, their situation is acceptable. That is just the way I am. Max Lucado raises a concern about this function. If we have a broken arm, we do not say, that is the way it is, and refuse to seek out a doctor. Conservative. Highly moralistic. The Pit, instead of being a place where one is found unjustly, is seen as a punishment for wrong-doing. Thus, allow for the ranting of pundits who claim the problems of a person are due to her political leanings, immoral lifestyle, or even punishment by God for the sinfulness of life. Both replace protest--demanding from God, that God do what God has promised. In doing so, block the possibility of the situation being set right. SCARCTY IN A TIME OF ABUNDANCE Psalm 85. "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good and our land will yield its increase." Notice the abundance in this psalm. Compare this notion of abundance with that of scarcity found in our current ideologies. For conservatives, we are at the point where every decision we make is about survival. If we don't recapture what made our country great, we will fail. If we do not hold onto core values, all will collapse around us. Fear is the missional energy that opens the door to Tea Party candidates; those who over-arm themselves; and those who stockpile necessities in their homes for the day that might come. For progressives, we are at the point where compassion has been replaced with empathy. Empathy is less about seeing the suffering of the other person and walking with the person in the journey to restoration, and more about one's own inability to live with the feelings in oneself brought on by the struggles of others. Thus, the need to rescue, helicopter in, save the day. Empathy needs people to be weak, so that they may be continually rescued. This need for weakness--I only feel better about myself if I am helping another person--is a theology of scarcity. Progressives claim they love all people, but there appears to be a lack of love for conservatives and others with whom they disagree. The missional energy in either one is rooted in scarcity. CHILDREN OF GOD, IDENTITY OVER INCLUSIVENESS OR EXCLUSIVENESS Our inheritance as the children of God leads us to a new place theologically. In our anxious need for dichotomy, we adhere to the standard categories of progressive or liberal, and thus, inclusive or exclusive. In doing so, we diminish our capacity to function as human beings, and at the best show no higher function as animals or reptiles. As children of God, we have the capacity for wisdom. In Scripture, wisdom is the capacity to see the world with its limits and its possibilities. A guard against legalism and puts into check any notion that refuses the restraint of values. Imaginative capacity to take positive initiatives for the well-being of creation. Counters the immaturity of following one of these ideologies, which diminishes the capacity of human beings. (Bruggeman, An Unsettling God) As children of God, we have the capacity to protest. In protest, the human being treats ones troubles as serious, and unacceptable, refusing to be silent, instead raising a cry to the Lord, a protest to God that demands to be taken seriously. God hears these cries and restores the fortune of the person. In thanksgiving, the person expresses full trust that God has acted. (Bruggeman, An Unsettling God) As children of God, we have, in abundance, all that we need. Jesus tells us, "I came so that you could have life, and have it abundantly." What moves and motivates and is our missional energy is the abundance of the kingdom of God. And, we, as God's children, are inheritors of that abundance. These are free gifts, given by God, to us, not out of any sense of worth rooted in pride of place in life, hubris of being ideologically pure, from a better race, out of a higher socio-economic class, or from a certain country. These gifts are cemented and promised through death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Give to Washington, what is common to Washington, the two sided (perhaps two faced) coin that is divineness cloaked in inclusiveness or exclusiveness, and give to God, what comes from God, a new age, where all people live in the presence of God and justice flows down like an unending fountain. Amen.