Church: Inclusion or Exclusion?

” Listen, here’s what I think. I think we can’t go ’round measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.” – Pere Henri’s sermon in Chocolat

***

Chocolat is one of my all-time favorite movies. I love the quirky, lovable characters.  I love the images of chocolate being sprinkled, melted, molded, and eaten. I love the movie’s wise and wonderful dialogue.  I love the setting. I love the… did I mention the chocolate? And I love the movie’s message.

If you’ve never seen the movie, Chocolat (or read the book it’s based on), let me give a brief summary: A young widow moves into a small French town with her daughter, and opens up a chocolate store.  During lent.  Yeah.  Kind of bad timing.  The mayor – a judgmental, and obsessively restrained and rigid fellow, inclined to want to control the behavior of everyone around him – is not pleased by her lack of obedience to the dogma of his church. He proceeds to make life difficult for her – trying to coerce the people of his town to shun her and her new business.

And this brings me to the gist of what I want to write about today: exclusivism; elitism; what I call “Country Club Religiousness.” In his wonderful sermon, The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond reflects on the Biblical analogy of the sheep being separated from the goats on Judgment Day : “I say the final test of religion at that great Day is not religiousness, but Love; not what I have done, not what I have believed, not what I have achieved, but how I have discharged the common charities of life. Sins of commission in that awful indictment are not even referred to. By what we have not done, by sins of omission, we are judged. It could not be otherwise. For the withholding of love is the negation of the spirit of Christ, the proof that we never knew Him, that for us He lived in vain.”

Why do you suppose we sometimes seem to have the need to cast judgment on others? Do you think we feel the need to put others down, shun them, exclude  them, and stamp them with labels because we don’t realize our own wonderfulness? – maybe we feel the need to put others down to somehow feel better about ourselves?  And do you think that maybe people who join organizations that promote exclusivity are people who have a need to feel like they belong to something “special?” I don’t know. I’m not a trained psychologist or anything, and I could just be (once again) full of baloney about this stuff.  Anyway…

We all know what Jesus said about judging others: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7)

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines “Church” as “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.” She writes: “The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick.”

Note that Eddy doesn’t say that Church exists as a place to promote dogma, or to judge others. She doesn’t say that the Church exists only for the people who attend service in a material structure, or who obey rules of a human organization. She writes that the purpose of Church is to elevate the “race” – not just some members of the race, but all.  She doesn’t write that Church exists to serve itself, but that its purpose is to “raise the dormant understanding” of the human race.

Science is inclusive: The laws and rules of physics don’t belong just to those who call themselves physicists; A geologist can’t exclude anyone else from studying geology – nobody holds exclusive rights to the study of the earth’s surface; The principles of mathematics are universal, and available to everyone who chooses to use them.  And, just as geology, physics, and mathematics are inclusive of all mankind, so the Principle of the Christ-Science is universal, and belongs to everyone – nobody has exclusive ownership of Truth; Love, God, doesn’t belong to some people, and not others; A human institution doesn’t hold exclusive rights to Love’s healing power, and can’t prevent any of God’s children from being one with their Father-Mother, Love.

The healing truths found in Christian Science are available to everyone – not just card-carrying members of the Christian Science church.  And what good news that is for humanity! 🙂

May our physical housings of Church – our human structures – be perfect manifestations of the “structure of Truth and Love,” and may they be filled with a happy fellowship, inclusive of all.

***

The members of this Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing or being influenced erroneously.” – from Church Manual by Mary Baker Eddy

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11 thoughts on “Church: Inclusion or Exclusion?

  1. Karen, I’m agnostic and haven’t been to church in years. I have lost a lot of faith, but am very Thankful, that on this day for Thanksgiving, I was fortunate to run into your blog. I don’t believe in organized religion, and see most of these church gatherings as cults. A biased generated image from being raised Catholic and such. However, I am pleased to have read this. My heart is filled with joy at this moment, and also of hope.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    • Thanks, Amy! This one just came pouring out of me – it was a really easy one for me to write. 🙂 I’ve never posted anything on Church Alive and am not sure how to go about doing that – but feel free to put it on there… 🙂

      • I’m not sure either, Karen… I’ll check it out. Yesterday I ran across a podcast there with Chet Manchester and the BOD that was quite interesting and got some REALLY interesting comments…some of them quite controversial. I’ll see what I can find out about posting a blog there…

      • OK, here’s the blog link with a link to click if you’re interested in writing for them, which probably means they’re going to edit your stuff…so you’ll have to decide if you want to go that route!

      • Thanks so much, Amy – we’ll see where this goes…
        I just read your latest blog post – I believe I have found a kindred spirit. And I really want to put a smiley face here – but I think I’ve used up my quota for the day…

      • OMG, there’s QUOTA on smiley faces? Nooooooooo!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
        p.s you know I read your first book and loved it, right? Now I gotta check out #2!

      • You, too! I’m glad we hooked up, for sure! And I’m not being a smartypants, but I know you’re gonna LOVE my book! I have a feeling it’s right up your alley.

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