Monday, September 27, 2010


What keeps people out? Any group, doesn't matter. If there's a group, then some are necessarily in the group, and some are out. What keeps people out? We tend, in our desire for (politically correct) inclusiveness, to want to make sure everyone in welcome in every group. However, some groups - maybe even most groups - ought to be exclusive.

Professional sports teams (nfl, nba, etc.) are groups, but not everyone should be in these groups. Imagine me trying to play professional basketball - I'd get beat up beyond belief. And please don't imagine me in an nfl jersey. Those athletes are elite, special.

Not everyone should play in the (insert local metro area name here) symphony, either. Those musicians are expertly fluent with their instruments. I can play a few of the instruments that they play, but for me to play in the symphony would be disastrous.

I'm willing to say that perhaps everyone could be in the group 'athlete', or that no one should be excluded from the group 'musician'. But not everyone should be in the groups 'professional athlete' or 'symphonic musician' ~ these are special exclusive groups.

So I come back to the question, 'what keeps people out'? The exclusive groups, where one needs to have particular skills or personal characteristics, I can understand. But what about those broader groups, 'athlete' and 'musician', for instance? How do people stay out of those groups? Mostly, it seems, it's self-selective. You don't have to be good, but anyone can exercise. Anyone can play an instrument or sing, even if you're not in tune.

But for us in the church, who are so captivated by the Gospel we have experienced, wish that our group - church - could include everyone. So, what keeps people out?

We can understand that the group 'church' could be self-selecting - some people just don't want to be in this group. But surely, out of the hoards of people who aren't part of church - even if we only consider those who aren't part of any faith tradition (we can respect the faith of non-Christians, right?), surely there are some who long to hear and know and experience what we know to be so life-giving. Surely there are some who yearn to be part of this community, this group called church.

What keeps people out?



  1. I think some of it is unconscious bias - so people in the church may not know it even exists - but those who come from the outside can feel it.


  2. This is something I've felt keenly ever since I was a kid. Some of it was based on an internal negative perspective that I'd internalized via bullying.

    I've always felt that there are some people that I 'click' with and some that I don't. But it's not something static. People change, situations change, places change, and the click is no longer there. It's been hard this year, living in a different place, moving in and out of feeling at home.

    Sometimes it's about people excluding themselves, or rejecting the idea of belonging to a certain group. Sometimes it's about being consciously excluded by the group. It's not easy, and usually extremely painful. What one of my friends in Buffalo has suggested is remembering that each person is exactly that: a person, with wants and needs and joys and sorrows and struggles. That person deserves to be treated with respect. And being who we are, we aren't always consistent in behaving that way.