Thursday, November 19, 2009

Radically Inclusive

I want the radically inclusive church. I mean, really radically inclusive.

A few years ago, the big buzz you heard at all the UU things was "Radical Hospitality." I went home from GA or Fall Conference or wherever it was, and looked on for a book about radical hospitality. Found one. Bought it.

Boy, was this NOT the book all the UU's were talking about.

Puhleease, we talk about radical hospitality and often what we mean is "don't ignore people when they come into your church." That's not radical anything.

This book I picked up was written by some missionary-type Christians. They talked about picking up homeless folks and taking them home with them. And that, my friends, is radical hospitality. Not that I'm recommending you (or I) do the same. Just don't pat yourself on the back because you engaged someone in conversation and think that you're radically hospitable.

So, forgetting missionaries for the moment, what do I think RADICAL inclusivity within a UU church would look like?

Well, I can thank The Husband for this. As I mentioned earlier, I recently preached a sermon on Isaiah 6:8 at my seminary. I said "God" - a lot. I talked about being convicted by the Holy Spirit.

I am not a Christian. My definition of "God" is most probably quite different from that of my classmates. But I tell you and mean it: I did not say a single thing I don't believe.

The Husband heard my sermon, a few hundred times. (Well, I practiced it a lot, I knew I wasn't using a script.) It's a great sermon, he said. You should give it at church.

Uh, yeah, with a whole lot of editing.

See, I don't understand that, he said. (He is often about UU things as I am about communion -- if you didn't grow up with them, they're odd.) "UUs talk about being so pluralist, so inclusive. We have banners on the wall from different religions. So, you should be able to stand up and do that sermon."

Rabbi Shaman and I were talking about this recently. About having a UU message from the pulpit, but utilizing religious language that is Jewish, Christian, Pagan, Muslim, all those cool symbols and flags we post around the church ...

I think that would be radically inclusive. I don't think radically inclusive means that you exclude anything that might push someone out of their comfort zone.

Of course, you could have a church where the vast majority love the sort of language used by Christopher Hitchens.

Maybe the next "radical" that we're going to embrace is "radical congregational polity."

Huh. Now that might be interesting.


John A Arkansawyer said...

Thin little book from the early eighties? I got that one via interlibrary loan. It didn't have a lot to offer me, though it may have challenged its target audience. I did notice one thing: It was published in 1983, and thus not one mention of AIDS. It took me back.

I did request our church library get another book with a similar title. It, too, was disappointing, though more useful than the other. A few parts I found downright offensive (but then, I would). I may someday critique it as "Radical (In)Hospitality".

plaidshoes said...

I really like this post. Have you read "Radical Hospitality" by Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt? I liked his take on the idea.

Lizard Eater said...

Benedict's Way? I just got it.

plaidshoes said...

"Bendedict's way of Love" is what my copy has. I imagine the same one. It tends toward a lot of personal introspection. I will be curious of your thoughts on it!

Green Monk said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. You have a keen eye for a bit of the dust that needs to be worked on in the UU. Thanks for posting!

John A Arkansawyer said...

The Hohman/Pratt book is the more recent one I was referring to, and I think I came down too hard on it up there. It's really pretty good in many ways, and pretty bad in a few that tick me off personally.

Elz said...

For me pastoral listening is the link between inclusive liturgical language and pulpit authenticity. I cannot infuse every symbol with equal power, because I am only one person. As a listener -- whether lay or ordained -- I can let their passion for other symbols transform my own heart.

Red Sphynx said...

Here's a challenge: Give the sermon from a UU pulpit, without any editing, but with a whole lot of tutoring.

A mature UU can listen to a sermon written in the Evangelical Christian vernacular.[1] He can use what he knows about Christian history as a basis for translating those words into the free-church tradition. He can find the the kernel of truth that applies to him, shorn of the trinitarian husk. And he can be uplifted, even transformed, by a tradition not his own.

HOWEVER, not everyone in our pews is mature in his free faith. Many are new to our churches, and have not had time to learn the free-faith ways of listening. We understand well that, if we use UU jargon (SWUUSI! GA! UUMF!) from the pulpit without explanation, then we exclude them. We exclude them similarly if we use Christian terminology (convicted by the spirit!) without telling them how to take it apart and put it back together again.

The best UU ministers I've heard, before they lay on the God talk thick, give prologues - "How to listen to this sermon if you're a pagan, or still on edge from your Pentecostal childhood" kinds of talk.

Yes, yes, we're not as inclusive as we our aspirations. Many in our fold are not mature in our faith. But tell your husband that our UU churches not only welcome UU saints; we welcome seekers, too. And some of those still have trouble with Christian language.

[1] Having trouble with my use of the male pronouns? You can translate it into your own path! Here, let me tell you how it goes... :-)

Tmothy Travis said...

Nice discussion.

"Radically Inclusive" is a term getting a lot of play (OK, I am giving it a lot of play) in my corner of the Quaker world.

You might find the discussion edifying.

ps I am headed for UU Christmas Eve tonight--right after our Quaker Christmas Eve gathering at the meeting house. We've been doing both for a long time because our daughters' step mothers are UU.

Timothy Travis