Inclusivity, a Lenten Contemplation

During the past week or two, I’ve been reading lots of meditations regarding “including” everyone at “Christ’s table.” We hear a lot – a Lot – about not turning our backs on the unfortunate or seedier characters in the world during sanctimonious and squeaky clean Sunday sermons. I think that, especially during Lent, many of us stride out of church after mass or services and think, “I’m going to be kinder and more inclusive to those I meet in my life.” And then, within a few hours of running into someone different – perhaps someone poor, or gay, of with a different color skin, or a different religion, or just different manners – we usually shy away and back off (and that’s when we’re being polite; if we aren’t being polite, we mutter – or shout – names and epitaphs of condemnation and judgment).

Despite one of the maxims of Christianity being “don’t judge other people” and another being “be kind and charitable to everyone,” lots of self-proclaimed Christians hand out judgment much more readily than they hand out bread or companionship.

Shame. Shame, I say. For if you retreat behind your comfortable legalism and the security of what is “clearly” right and wrong, you miss the entire point of Christ’s ministry – whether or not you yourself are a Christian.

I have friends who are Catholic (I am not; I am Episcopalian) who have told me that while I am most certainly welcome at Mass, I cannot take Communion during service because I am not Catholic.

I think that this exclusion defies the very symbolism of Communion. Who is any one person to say what the state of a relationship between an individual and God is? If I’ve made my peace with God, how can you deny me a place at his table? In fact, anyone who does so directly contradicts Christ’s own message of welcoming everyone. In its most fundamental symbolic ritual, no human being has the authority to determine who may take Communion.

We are instructed to welcome and care for everyone, and to not deem any person worthy or unworthy, because as people we cannot know what is in someone else’s heart. That is solely between God and man. We are, however, told to keep all doors open and welcome with generosity and kindness every single person.

Good God, if we can’t include members of different churches at our table, how on earth can we pretend to be living the principles we claim to believe?


About Shannon Blue Christensen

Storyteller. Author. Editor. Literary Critic. Director. Teacher. Knitter. nascent Musician. Student. Operations and Quality. Marketing. Historian. Lear's Fool. View all posts by Shannon Blue Christensen

4 responses to “Inclusivity, a Lenten Contemplation

  • eab

    As a life long Catholic (who was married in a Episcopal church) I understand all too well the short comings of my religion. We do not ordain women or welcome the gay community. With scandal and abuse abound I find it odd that closed communion would be the selected offense. You only mention the Catholic church but I think it is also worth mentioning Catholics are not alone in closed communion. Eastern Orthodox, many Lutheran and some strict Presbyterian also follow this tradition. Everyones relationship with god (or lack of one) is deeply personal and should not be judged. I believe the same goes for other religions. To evaluate and consider is a good thing …but to judge does not often bring anything positive to the table. In the spirit of Lent perhaps we would all be better off to focus on the positives that come from each religion. Each day of Lent we can celebrate something positive in religion or humanity. We already spend too much energy talking about the negative. In the spirit of the season …lets celebrate the good.

    I think you are wonderful and brilliant. I want to keep you challenged 🙂

    • Shannon Blue Christensen

      You do keep me challenged; it’s part of why we’re friends.

      You have brought up several excellent points here. What I would like to do – will do – is address them more specifically in future posts.

      Then, we can continue to keep each other growing 🙂

  • JT

    Apparently I am not alone in my dissatisfaction with our two faced spirituality. I say this not in judgement but rather as an acknowledgement that we are all susceptible to using a different prism when we look at others faults and shortcomings instead of our own. Nice Post 🙂

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