Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We're NOT Inclusive Unless EVERYONE Is Included

Rev. Tim Miner  M.Div. OUnI
Okay, let’s cut to the bottom line right away.  We are NOT inclusive unless EVERYONE is included.  Period.  That means we have to include faith paths that we don’t agree with (practices) as well as paths we don’t believe (truth) into our scope of influence and to send invitations to them for our spiritual events.  This includes religious fundamentals.  There are several reasons why I think this is the only way.
The first is to provide logical consistency in our “theology.”  In my beginning apologetics class in seminary we learned about the “self-defeating argument.”   The fundamentalist’s argument against the inclusive theologies is that “your inclusivity doesn’t include me.”  For example, in the book Integral Life Practice: A 21st Century Blueprint for Physical health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening the authors state that one could be “attuned to an Integral spirituality” so long as one believes that it will “subtract (and there is no way around this) ..the belief that one’s own path is the only true path to divinity” (199-200).  Since there are fundamental paths that claim that they are “exclusive paths to a relationship to God” then their argument goes something like this.  “If your path doesn’t include my path then you are not really inclusive and therefore you are an illogical contradiction—a self-defeating argument.”  But what if we did accept the fundamentalist position as part of the included families of human spirituality?  While they may not feel their position is welcome, we would welcome them and we would be the ones consistent in our theology.  Author Samir Selmanovic, who wrote the book, It’s Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian,”  told me that to keep the fundamentalists from being afraid of the inclusive movement, we will need to be ready to rebuild the mosque or church of a fundamentalist group when it is destroyed in the next disaster.  I think he is quite right.
The second reason to include everyone is that practices and spirituality within the fundamentalists’ religions offers us some lessons worth learning.  The “centering prayer” of the Christian faith and the Charity of the third pillar of Islam are only two of the ideas that I think we can all benefit from in our spiritual lives. 
Third, and finally, fundamentalists are spiritual people that we are called to serve in our inclusive ways.  As a chaplain I recently performed a Christian baptism at the request of the young parents.  A woman was crying in the back of the ceremony.  Later I talked to her in a private context and she had a story she needed to share with me.  In a private place she confessed to me that she had been brought up in a strict Christian background.  She was now living with a married man.  It was obvious that she was feeling guilty about her situation.  I asked her what she thought she should do and she said that she needed to get right with Jesus and God.  The act of declaring one’s life for Jesus Christ and accepting the salvation that comes from that is as sacred as any event in fundamental Christianity.  We were on our knees together and I led her through the text of the Christian Bible that would be her guide toward that event.  We prayed together.  Later that evening I called a local pastor of a Christian church to ask him to take this woman under his wing for the “discipleship” that she needed to return healed to her root tradition.  Had she been a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or any other path, I would have done what I could do to heal her according to HER traditional path.  She hurt as a Christian and it took a Christian fundamentalist ceremony to heal her. 
So we are not going to be inclusive unless everyone is included or at least invited to participate in our movement.  If they make the decision to not join us then we aren't the ones being exclusive. 
Peace and Shalom and Al-Salam and Namaste.
Rabbi Dr. Rami Shapiro OUnI
Let me be very clear: 1) Tim is right; 2) I hate that Tim is right; 3) Tim is still right.

When I first read this I thought the solution was to burn down all the religious institutions I disagree with and then offer to help rebuild them again. Slowly. But that isn't what Tim meant at all. He meant we have to sit down and chat with people who think we are spawn of the devil. We have to make room for them in the Big I of Inclusivity and Interfaith.

Actually I like talking with fundamentalists. They are clear about what they believe and not hesitant to share their beliefs. So on the chatting level I have no problem. My problem (and that is all it is MY problem) is that sometimes when we welcome those who disagree with us we end up catering to them as well. This is especially true when liberal Jews seek to engage truly Orthodox Jews in joint events.  Suddenly we, the liberals, have to live as Orthodox Jews so that we can enjoy the company of Orthodox Jews who have no appreciation or respect for our liberalism at all.

The challenge is to create a gathering where no one has to cater to anyone. Is this possible? I have yet to see it in the Jewish world.  What would this look like? What could such a gathering accomplish? If there is a constituency that will not budge, will the rest simply surrender? That is what seems to be happening with the Democrats in Congress vis a vis the Tea Party folks. The two party system is dead; we are all Conservative Republicans now. Except for Bernie Sanders.

The point is not to support one side or another, but simply to note that the most intransigent seem to win. Will this happen to the Big I Tent as well? And if not, why not?