Monday, June 21, 2010
There are those who feel like outcasts because their congregations are increasingly choosing to move in directions that seem to exclude them (i.e. once they sang hymns with an organ and now they sing Taize chants with a flute.) Some feel like outcasts because they don't use email. And some feel like outcasts because no one seems to believe what they believe anymore.There is an interesting flip-side to this. Consider the remark about change in music. You know, the whole reason the music style changed to begin with is because another group felt "outcast" and we wanted to make them feel welcome. In other words, somehow, somewhere, probably democratically and bureaucratically - so no one can be directly "blamed" - a decision was made to make one group "incast" while rendering another group "outcast." I think there is something inherently wrong in rendering our definition of outcast in a fashion that makes our own actions, whether direct or indirect, appear not responsible for the outcasts perceived status.
Who are the outcasts in our churches and what are we doing about it? Do we insist that everyone believe the same thing theologically? Where do we draw the line?
Do we trust that everyone is trying to follow Jesus, even if we are in different places spiritually? Do we begrudge the ones who don't look anything like us? Do we assume we have nothing in common? Do we judge each other?
As the church continues to evolve in the 21st Century, one of our huge challenges will be showing the world how we who call ourselves "Christian" treat people - especially people who are not like us generationally, politically, spiritually, culturally. Like it's always been, people will notice how we treat the lepers among us.
In fact, I think the challenge for the church is not how to deal with outcasts, but just as the church has worked with great care and deliberateness over the centuries in support of medicine to actually do away with leprosy - we need to find a way to create transition in the church without making ANYONE perceive themselves as outcast.
I don't pretend to have all the answers here, but some include things like more democracy, not less. People generally do not feel outcast by majority decision where they feel like their concerns have been heard and addressed. Gradual, not sudden change also helps - it may even help discover a happy medium where no one feels outcast.
Certainly an admission and confession that such choices, by their very nature, will result in someone feeling hurt is the place to start. You know how the doctor says, "This might hurt a little" before the set the broken bone? We don't often do that. We go to change things and we try to tell the patient that if they are feeling pain it is their fault, or that it is not really pain at all. BS only adds anger to the pain - it certainly increases the alienation described as "outcast."
Yes, we are judged by how we treat the lepers among us, but we really ought to be doing everything we can not to make lepers to begin with.