Recently I have been listening to a number of conversations in and around our church about inclusivity…and I have found myself thinking about inclusivity as a spiritual practice. Many who endorse the title of “progressive Christian” also endorse the virtue of inclusivity and endeavor to be a haven for those who may have experienced discomfort or injury in the context of religion. And, almost everyone who aspires to inclusivity sooner or later runs into a brick wall where she or he might think “I can include everyone except…” It is almost as though the intentional practice of inclusivity involves encountering Russian nested dolls–until one appears that we can’t “un-nest.” One that we can’t include.
Where is the place for limits, for boundaries? And where is the place for unconditional inclusion? Is there ever a place for unconditional inclusion? If we proclaim “all are welcome” in our churches (and in our hearts), where is the place when we say “except”? How do we find balance in this place–can we? Is this the place where we might ask (along with our evangelical friends) “What Would Jesus Do?”
It seems to me that communal spiritual practice might be best supported by individual spiritual practice. If we proclaim an inclusive community, are we also each called to be inclusive persons? If so, how do we practice inclusivity, not just at church but at work, in our neighborhoods, in our families?
Reflecting on inclusivity, it occurs to me that:
- It is a longitudinal organic and dynamic process–hearts change in relationships over time. We change each other and are changed in our connectedness. Our experience of each other today will not be our experience of each other tomorrow.
- Our particular contexts of inclusivity are always imbedded in a larger (sometimes much larger) context where Spirit is active and alive. We are not likely to be aware or conscious of all the implications of our decisions in the larger web of our communal life.
- Many spiritual teachers (in A Course in Miracles and other resources) have suggested that all our experiences come down in the end to allowing ourselves to choose to respond in any moment from love or from fear. The question arises whether those of us who name ourselves followers of Jesus are called to exercise a preferential option for love.
In chronos time, we are faced with our perceptions of reality and we bump into obstacles to the practice of inclusivity, many of which can be described as reasoned and reasonable.
In kairos time, we remember to consider the Kingdom of Heaven, the one that is right here, right now. The kingdom that is wild with apparent grace.
When we reach our limits of inclusivity–and being human, we will–instead of standing in critical judgment of another, perhaps we can humbly acknowledge, in a context of grace, that we ourselves fall short in our capacity to love, and that it is our own lack of wholeness that keeps us from reaching out to our brothers and sisters. Perhaps we can pray that our own hearts be changed, that we ourselves can be healed and forgiven in our very humanity.
In the end…maybe we can seek wisdom as we remember that hearts change in relationship over time, that our context is always embedded in a greater context beyond our knowing, and that if we listen, we are quietly beckoned and invited to choose love over fear, every time that we can. May we know the blessings of open hearts and open minds and joyfully accept the challenges of being human, in the knowledge of grace that abounds–apparent grace.