A Welch Church sign provided Jack’s quote of the day in his Jack’s Winning Words blog today – “At the end of the day, I’d rather be excluded for who I include, than be included for who I exclude.”
It is a sad commentary on our times that there are those who exclude anyone who includes members of the LBGQTI community in their circle of friends. Some churches and entire denominations have put out the welcome mat to members of that community by declaring themselves Welcoming churches – the Southeastern Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is one such welcoming synod. Other churches or entire denominations continue to exclude, rather than include.
Do you have a list of “those people” whom you explicitly exclude from your circle of friends? Have you ever rally stopped to ask yourself why? When you were a child, you may have excluded a few other children for reasons that you couldn’t really explain. Maybe someone said that they have “cooties” and you just accepted that without even knowing what “cooties” were. As adults we sometimes exclude people based on nothing more substantial that the adult equivalent of “cooties” – some vague, unexplained, and unsupported rationale that we picked up somewhere. It could be something as trivial as how they dress or look. Maybe it’s how they act or talk. Whatever the reason is they are put into the “THEM” group of people that we avoid or, at least, don’t accept within our circle of friends.
Of some, an unspoken fear of those who do not accept and welcome people who are different from them is that, somehow, by welcoming the, you may become “infected” by whatever it is that makes them different. For a while, in the 90’s, that “infection” from the LBG community took on the very real concern about the AIDS epidemic that swept through that community. That fear has subsided as treatments become more effective in controlling the disease; however, for many, there is still an unfounded fear of those in the LBGQT community somehow “infecting” our children and causing them to choose that lifestyle.
Others may choose to exclude based upon race or ethnicity. People and groups to exclude the unwanted have used even social standing or wealth. Most of the time the criteria used to exclude has no bearing whatsoever on what type to person is being excluded, it’s just that they are one of “THEM”.
The sad truth is that we are shortchanging ourselves more than we are hurting THEM. We are limiting ourselves to the narrow point of view on things that is defined by those whom we have decided to include. We allow our narrow, excluding view of the world to define all sorts of things that could enrich our lives, if only we knew about them. Instead of a life full of rich sights, sounds, tastes and experiences, we confine ourselves to the grey, muted and bland world defined by our prejudices. We think we are being safe, but in reality we are just being dull and boorish.
So, start your week out by examining your list of people that you exclude – you avoid or you choose not to associate with – and ask yourself why? Other than some imaginary case of “cooties”, what reason do you have for excluding someone that you’ve not even met? What are you afraid of? Is there the possibility that this person might prove to be fascinating or provide you with new information or insights? Is there a different point of view on things that this person might introduce into your thinking? Have you ever considered things from that perspective? Is your inability to deal with the differences that you encounter protecting or limiting you?
Wouldn’t you really rather be defined by who you include than who you exclude? Do you really want to go through life using only the 3-4 colors that you now allow yourself to see; when God has put the entire box of Crayons in front of you and invites you to see and experience the entire spectrum of life that He has created? Life can be so much more beautiful when you are inclusive, rather than exclusive.
Whom do you exclude? Why?