Ever since I actually started working for a church people are much slower to talk to me about God and faith and spirituality and stuff like that. This saddens me so much that sometimes I think it might be worth going back to a marketplace job.
When people do actually dare to risk the inevitably obnoxious, narrow minded, offensive opinions that I as a churchman must surely hold one of the most common angles on Christianity offered goes as follows:
Christianity is all well and good but the idea that Jesus is the only way must not be right. People much prefer the more inclusive idea that life is about being good and everything will work out in the end. If you live a good life and look after the people around you, then surely things will be fine.
It won’t come as much of a surprise to you that I am not convinced by this line of reasoning. But in preparation for a sermon this Sunday I came across a new way of phrasing it.
One of the most commonly raised objections to Christianity is that in its love of Jesus it is too exclusive. The desire to be inclusive and tolerant is a good one. And the solution to the problem is apparently found in believing that all good people will get on ok in the grand cosmic scale.
But that is not inclusive! That’s an extraordinarily exclusive club that has just been created. Another way of describing it is to say: No bad people are allowed in.
If you are content that you are actually a good person then all well and good. But have you ever met a “bad” person who wanted desperately to be good but couldn’t manage it because of their upbringing or their biology or their circumstances. I surely have. And this apparently inclusive group counts them out.
Of course the more pressing problem is that I am not a good person. If you feel like protesting that statement then I’d love for you to stop patronising me. Even when you are just reading my words on a screen I can feel your condescenion and it doesn’t feel nice.
Plus, it makes you a bad person.
If you really knew who I was and the things I do and the things I think then you would not dispute it. In fact, as the world expert on myself, knowing that I am actually a bad person, I sometimes wonder how self-reflective people who say that they think they are good really are. Am I such a freak or is just that they don’t really know themselves?
In the Christian Gospel we are presented with an extraordinarily exclusive proposition. It is Jesus and Jesus alone. No other name under heaven can save us. But while the form of the offer is exclusive, the content is radically, almost irresponsibly inclusive. The fact that I am a rotten egotist doesn’t bar me from relationship with God. Your perversion or the next reader’s greed don’t limit them. It doesn’t matter where you were born, how smart you are or whether or not you are only on this site because you like the bright colours. Everyone is invited and everyone is welcome.
Which is a more inclusive model? Which encourages a more tolerant, humble and embracing lifestyle? The belief about the ultimate things that say you have to attain a certain standard of moral performance before you can get in or the one that says that faced with the awesome beauty, goodness and mercy of God, we all look equally decrepit?
Your Correspondent, Ready to kick some Christian keister