Am I a "Cool Kid?"
I've noticed that human nature is all about exclusion. It's "us against them", it's my state against the next state, my city against the next city, my neighborhood, against the next neighborhood. It's in sports, extracurricular activities, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, car brands, cars vs. trucks, cars vs. motorcycles, social media sites, political parties, skin color, etc. The list would be quite exhausting if I continued to provide examples, but one huge problem is that exclusion has become a major part, a poisonous part, of a group that should be completely focused on inclusion. Exclusion has corrupted the minds of many whose hearts should be drawing them to being open and loving, reaching out to those that they think are different. Exclusion has caused a love to go cold. Exclusion has caused a man to despise his neighbors, every neighbor around the world.
That group that exclusion has become such a major part of is...
When we study these traits we find that the above examples could be a fruit of ethnocentrism. You see, ethnocentric individuals judge others based on their own group or culture, this manifests itself in affecting their outlook towards language, behavior, religion, and even customs. They are completely focused on a unique cultural identity, and if someone or something doesn't share those things they exclude them. Ethnocentrism may be overt or subtle, it is as I began stating, considered a natural proclivity of human psychology, or human nature. It's a act of the flesh, not the Spirit. It's not to be a part of a group to be know by their love for all.
In the book "Us Against Them: Ethnocentric Foundations of American Opinion" by Donald R. Kinder and Cindy D. Kam, http://www.amazon.com/Us-Against-Them-Ethnocentric-Foundations-ebook/dp/B003NUS8TY/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=, they state "Ethnocentrism is a deep and perhaps even irresistible human habit." They also mention that "ethnocentrism is pervasive in American Society today." They continue by stating the following, "Ethnocentrism is a mental habit. It is a predisposition to divide the human world into in-groups and out-groups. It is a readiness to reduce society to us and them. Or rather, it is a readiness to reduce society to us versus them..." "...Members of in-groups (until they prove otherwise) are assumed to be virtuous: friendly, cooperative, trustworthy, safe, and more. Members of out-groups (until they prove otherwise) are assumed to be the opposite: unfriendly, uncooperative, unworthy of trust, dangerous and more. Symbols and practices become objects of attachment and pride when they belong to the in-group and objects of condescension, disdain, and (in extreme cases) hatred when they belong to out-groups."*
Now that I have established that I'd like to proceed further. In studying the church and it's members for years I've noticed a few distinct camps. This is both internal and external of church leadership. This human nature, which Christ's nature should be overcoming, is pervasive. We witness cliques forming, "the cool kids" if you will, this is as I said both a part of a church, as well as in it's dealings as a whole with those outside. It's become normal for those involved to share scriptures or make statements that are exclusionary in nature, but yet, it seems to always exclude those not in their cliques. Those in their group of cool kids are "A-Ok." I've always found this interesting. I'm not surprised when I see those that don't know Christ at this moment in time behaving this way, but those that do know Christ to behave like this is almost anti-Christ in nature.
I'd like to clearly state that when we share or speak exclusion, we are not speaking from the Spirit of Christ, we are speaking from the flesh, and in many cases, from darkness. Exclusion is not a part of the Gospel. Exclusion is not the message of God or Jesus. The message of God and Jesus is as follows: "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." This invitation, and the saving Grace is for all, not just those in your denominational camp. Whether fundamentalist, evangelical, Baptist, Presbyterian, or Catholic. Whether the 43,000 denominations, all are included. Even Mormon, Atheist, Muslim, and Hindu are a part of the "world" Jesus defeated sin and darkness for. This invitation, this victory, set all free. Jesus truly did set the captives free, and His invitation rings out to all in every group, every nation.
Nothing disqualifies someone from this invitation, some may not realize this in the "here and now," but even those will be included in the every knee bowing to our Lord. They will face God's cleansing fire of Love, that will burn away the dross and remove all impurities, they will be made clean, white as snow. This will all occur when darkness and it's works, it's poisoning of our minds and body, are thrown into the lake of fire. Read here for more information: http://theocentricmusings.blogspot.com/2014/03/four-reasons-early-church-did-not.html. Instead of banishing all who don't believe how we do to Western Christianity's Dante's Inferno inspired version of hell, for a misinterpreted, mistranslated "eternity" when the Greek word αἰώνιος was never originally translated, or meant, eternity, but an "age," share a love with them. Stop the words and use your actions. Stop shutting yourselves into buildings giving the "stink eye" to those outside, and start going out and including them, show them how much Christ cares for them, every interaction doesn't need to be a sermon. People don't want to deal with "used car-salesman Christians," no offense to used car-salesman, but people don't want to feel like you care because you want to sell them a bill of goods, they want to feel like you care, simply because you care.
I know that goes against most preaching in this country, but it's not really the heart of Christ to care for someone to get something. Christ's heart was to not condemn, He may say to not do something, but it wasn't to appease Him, it was because He knew that those actions cause destruction and harm in the person's life, He wanted them to not face that harm and shame. Getting them to simply stop doing wrong wasn't what motivated Him, He was motivated by Love and compassion. When our every interaction with people is to figure out a way to slip the "sinner's prayer" in, something that's not even in the Bible, yet it is usually used by those that use the Bible as a weapon and scream about it's inerrancy, that's not Love anymore. When Love becomes a "work", it's no longer Love. When we share a fear based false gospel so that people make an emotional decision to know Christ, that is not how a healthy relationship is established, that is how an abusive, unhealthy relationship is established. Did you "fear" your husband or wife into a relationship with you? Of course not, but yet that's how many Christians think a relationship with Christ should begin. It's completely absurd.
And all it does it bring another group of people that don't fit in, because their reason for being there is based on fear not Love. Then they simply put on a garment of falsehood, they pick up the narrative preached, they learn the christianese buzz words, and they begin to exclude, they do what they see. Then they are led to serve, they become internal components of the church building, they become parts of cliques, and the cycle begins anew. They get taught to follow emotional highs, they worship, but not by Spirit, they worship from a place of lack, they bow, and kneel, and beg, yet they always hunger, they always thirst, they always want more. Jesus said we will not hunger, we will not thirst, we will have His all when we know Him. Yet the leaders and the flock all preach this seeking, this chasing, this hunger. This fleeting god that is mysterious and no one can truly know. Why? Because they got it all wrong, and they just draw more and more into a mistake. They look at good works and think that works is the fruit of their relationship with Jesus, but it's a fruit of their will-power, their flesh. His yoke is easy. Why so much effort? So much crying? So much distance? He is near, He is in them, but why do they not feel this? Why do they not realize this?
Because their hearts and minds are consumed with exclusion. Exclusion for others, which leads to them feeling exclusion from Him. I feel a sadness because until they learn that it's God's way and will that all are included they will always feel deep down excluded. Even when they believe they are in, their subconscious will doubt. They will then seek out the cliques, or even the anti-cliques, they will go deeper into believing that they are the only ones who know scripture, that their interpretations are the only true ones, that their beliefs are the only one that are right, that everyone else is a heretic, everyone else is a false Christian, everyone else doesn't know how to study, everyone else has bad beliefs, everyone else is wrong. They will ultimately believe that the voice in their head is the true voice of God, no matter how much different He sounds than Jesus. They will exclude those who don't see things as they do. That is the fruit of exclusion, it poisons you, poisons your beliefs. Causes the words I write to fall on deaf ears. Causes the words I write to feel offensive. Causes the words I write to make them mad. Causes the words I write to make them feel attacked. I feel a sadness because exclusion breeds mistrust, exclusion breeds paranoia, exclusion breeds abuse, exclusion breeds loneliness. Above all exclusion breeds all that Christ is not.
Exclusion shouldn't be in the hearts and minds of those who know Christ.
*Quotes from "Us Against Them: Ethnocentric Foundations of American Opinion" by Donald R. Kinder and Cindy D. Kam are property of the authors and University of Chicago Press. Use of quotes does not convey an approval or support of the words or topic written hereof in the Theocentric Musings blog.