Wednesday Word: All?
When “All” doesn't mean all
There are churches who advertise, “Everyone welcome,” but experience has taught me that “Everyone” is often limited to, “Everyone who believes and behaves exactly as we do.” In response to this, I have often countered that when the Episcopal church (in general) and St. John's (in particular) says, “All are welcome,” we mean all – Democrats and Republicans, yellow, brown, black, and white, male and female, gay and straight, single, married, divorced, and remarried, poor and wealthy, saints and sinners, all means “All,” y'all.
However, with the recent rise and visibility of hate groups, the events this past weekend in Charlottesville, the news of the vandalism at Boston's Holocaust memorial, and the promise of these groups to become more active and visible, we should think seriously about what we mean by “All.”
Yes, all are welcome; and now, more than ever, we need to be outspoken about who is welcome. The list (or partial list if you can add to it) of who is welcome is in that first paragraph, and we should proclaim that as often as we can. I believe with my whole heart that St. John's is a special place where, as St. Paul said, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” is present and doing remarkable things.
At the same time, not all will be tolerated; and now, more than ever, we need to be just as outspoken about who will not be tolerated. We will not tolerate individuals who fight for segregation, removal, elimination, or degradation of others based on gender, skin color, sexuality, or nationality. We will not tolerate individuals who espouse a gospel of hate over the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will not tolerate individuals who believe the best place for minorities is under the boot of the majority. We will not tolerate individuals who twist the loving words of Christ and the Apostles into self-serving quotes of dominion and domination.
How might we be outspoken about this? Here are a few ideas. Refuse to accept stereotypes, name-calling, ridiculing, and belittling jokes by naming the offending acts, calling out the person saying these things, and ask pointed questions, i.e. “Is that really how you see/what you think of X?” Refuse to excuse bad behavior (“Boys will be boys”) and publicly name it for what it is – sexual harassment or abuse. Stop victim-blaming and speak up when it happens. Publicly question those who use the Bible as a club to beat others into submission.
And if you need some biblical help, here are a few places to begin:
“You shall love the alien as yourself” – Lev. 19:34
“Do justice, love kindness” – Micah 6:8
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, for all are one in Christ” – Gal. 3:28
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: care for orphans and widows” – James 1:27
“Love your neighbor as yourself” – Luke 10:27
By not bringing racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism and other hateful, sinful acts into the light, we are complicit in their spread through our silent approval.
Discipleship is hard. Speaking out against hate and bigotry is hard. But if we don't do it, who will?