Say what you mean, mean what you say…
What I want to introduce into this is the idea of radical inclusion. I know I’ve talked about it before, but I don’t know if I’ve really talked about what it means. Here is part of the definition from the City of Refuge SF website:
City of Refuge UCC and The Fellowship define radically inclusivity as “the intentional inclusion of every person in the community of faith.” Inclusivity challenges major fundamental, deep-seated Christian beliefs, doctrines and theologies of the center of society which characterize people on the edge as enemies of God and routinely mistreats, oppresses and excludes people from the community of faith and its institutions. It is our purpose and aim to provide a safe place of refuge for persons who have been wounded by oppressive theologies and to provide a place of nurturing and training for those who feel called to this shared ministry.
At the heart of it is: “the intentional inclusion of every person in the community of faith” (emphasis mine).
Did you catch the “every person” part? They mean it. Heck, I go to this church, and my being Wiccan as well as Christian doesn’t stop me from being a member.
But the way I understand radical inclusion, it means that everyone is included and given the respect to be who they are, even if I don’t like them in some way. I have to respect that they are a person with beliefs, feelings, and their own truth. Do I have to agree with them? No. But if I come at them with the same oppression that I’ve been shown, then dialog can’t take place. And if dialog can’t take place, understanding can’t happen. And if that can’t happen? Well, people become more marginalized and nothing gets done about it.
The problem that really gets me going, though, is when someone says: “Oh, all people are X, but…”
Let me give you some examples:
“All beings are from the Goddess! But, X people can’t come to our circle because…”
“All bodies are beautiful! But, obese people need to…”
“We are all God’s children! But gays are going to hell!”
Do you see the pattern here? What it ends up translating into for most people is that they are not included. They are not welcome into the community. Then it gets written in stone in their mind that “I can’t go to X community because of Y, so all communities like it must not welcome me.” For example: several transgender women I know won’t bother with women’s circles because they feel that they won’t be welcome, even in circles that explicitly state transgender inclusion.
The hardest part of radical inclusion is in the practice. We’re human, right? I’m not going to like everyone, and not everyone is going to like me (no matter how much I wish everyone did). But what I say, in real life or on the internet, matters. This was one of the very first things I learned as a witch: words have power. When we were inviting authors to write for our anthology, we tried to invite as many different groups of pagans, witches, and heathens that we could think of, including the Dianics and a Christian. By doing that, and allowing others to read all of what was written, we’ve been able to help others open up more dialog.
Do I always get it perfect? Of course not. I’m perfectly capable of saying really stupid things in anger, grief, fear, and ignorance. Believe me, I have, even to those I love. But I try, every day, to be radically inclusive in thought and action. Some days it’s easy, and some days I have to stop and count to 100 before I say something. I know my words have power, and I know I need to really think about what I say, particularly as a priest and minister.
But if I mean what I say when I talk about my belief that everyone is welcome at God’s table, that everyone is welcome to any ritual, event, or type of ministry that I do, then I can’t have qualifiers. I have to accept that I’m just as welcome to the table as Shirley Roper-Phelps, no matter how much I can’t stand her beliefs. If I say that all bodies are beautiful, then I have to mean it, and allow for different bodies to exist in any community I’m involved in. If I say that I am radically inclusive, then I have to accept that each person exists in their own right, and that they have to be free to believe and choose as their Will and Spirit reveals their lives to them.
But the most important thing is that I have to accept the consequences of what I do, to myself, and others, and be able to say “I was wrong, I’m sorry.” Or accept the apology from others.
The Wiccan Rede, the Golden Rule, at least the ones I follow, didn’t have a “but…” after them. They had a period.