Nadia Bolz-Weber has written a wonderful book called “Cranky, Beautiful Faith”. I highly recommend you get hold of a copy and read it. She’s refreshingly blunt and has a lot to say about grace and inclusion. So much so, that she reminds me of another recovering alcoholic, Brennan Manning. I couldn’t help but see many obvious comparisons between Nadia’s story, and Brennan’s collection of stories in The Ragamuffin Gospel.
There is one story in Nadia’s book that I keep coming back to, though. She tells of a time when her church – full of gay people, transgender people, homeless people and others who have been rejected by society – experiences an influx of trendy hipsters in the wake of her taking a service in front of a large audience.
She tells of her instinctive reaction to want to exclude those people. And then she says this: “the trouble with drawing a line as that as soon as we have drawn it Jesus is on the other side“.
It can be easy to sneer at Christians for their exclusivity. I find myself often fuming at the way in which people try to keep the club as small as possible. They often exclude women, non-heterosexuals, transgenders, those of a different (usually lower) social class, those with differing theological viewpoints, those who are differently abled, those of a different race, and so on.
Too often the Church has been on the wrong side of history when it comes to equality. Which is somewhat ironic when you consider that its founder was radically inclusive towards women. No wonder I frequently come to find Christianity wanting.
The challenge becomes not being like the Christians. Yet in saying that very sentence I draw a line between “us” (the welcoming, liberal Jesus-followers) and “them” (the conservative Christians). It’s the ultimate conundrum on being liberal – the whole philosophy is to be inclusive towards everyone except those being exclusive.
I’ve been mulling over this paradox for a few days and the conclusion that I have come to is that God likes paradoxes, especially this one. We are always going to find ourselves on the “wrong” side of Jesus, here, I think. I can’t see how it could be any other way. So perhaps this is God’s way of reminding us that we haven’t got it all sorted, and that there is always a bigger picture, and there is always a bigger love to grasp hold of?