In the midst of all the busyness of the past two weeks, I have been musing a lot on differences of beliefs. As a second-generation Disciple of Christ, I feel like this is part of my DNA, i.e. to be present in community with those who hold similar and dissimilar beliefs from myself. This is something our community values as well, in fact we speak to this inclusive attitude almost every Sunday. It is interwoven into our liturgy and mixed into the foundation of our community. Yet, it is one thing to have discussions in Sunday School gatherings or conversations with like-minded or similarly-minded individuals about how to "live into an inclusive community" but is something completely different when you encounter a person who actually disagrees with you.
When perspective meets sticky life situations things get…complicated. Take for example this “real life” situation, which slapped me across the face during Lent this year. Several elements played into this experience. First, I had decided to take the train from Fort Worth to Dallas during Holy Week to save on gas, wear and tear on my aging vehicle, etc. Second, I had decided to wear a clerical collar on Wednesdays during Lent. As I got on the bus, the driver called out, “Heya, Preacher!” I had outed myself. For the next 30 minutes we engaged in a theological conversation about the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, role of women, and the Truth of the Gospel. Our options were like oil and water. At my stop, we agreed to disagree and I got off the bus thinking about what had just happened.
I am not sure we had a genuine conversation. I am almost sure there was not time to build a level of respect or create the foundation of relationship within that 30 minutes. Yet, it made me think. It made me wonder about how we segregate ourselves into groups of like-minded individuals, sheltering our thoughts and beliefs and in turn “other-izing” those who do not agree with perspective. Thus when we encounter the “other” we assume we have nothing in common with them. Inclusivity turns into control and demand for uniform thought. Perhaps the bus driver and I did not make any headway with the other, convincing the other to come to the “right and true” side. Yet, for me the conversation challenged my uttered stance of welcome and dared me to actually embody that belief.
In the end, all I know is that this inclusive gospel thing is far more difficult and complicated than I truly understand and that this welcoming and embracing gospel thing is truly unattainable without a committed community to journey alongside.