One of the big stories this past week had to do with Facebook and its move to be more inclusive of the various genders of people signing up for or using their accounts. In the past there were basically two options . . . male or female. Now people will have more than the two options . . . they will now have fifty different options to choose from to explain their gender. That's right . .. fifty! That is quite a list of choices of which I found myself hard-pressed to know the meaning of a good portion of them after checking them out for myself. I did not realize that there were so many different words or phrases that could define one's gender or gender choice. Now Facebook has gone this route to be . . . well, more inclusive . . . and, to allow people who do not fit into the so-called normal definitions of gender to let others know who they really are. Of course, as with any change that Facebook does, this move has brought more than its fair share of complaints and jokes. The jokes have been the worse because they make fun of an issue that is apparently important and vital to a group of people who do not feel included and accepted for who they are. Such humor is cruel and insensitive.
I am all for inclusion. I believe that God is for inclusion . .. after all, we are all God's children created in the image of God . . . and, God would love for us to be one big happy family. So . . . I am for inclusion. I think everyone should be loved and accepted for who God create them to be . . . no exceptions to the rules. I don't think that it matters what gender, race, age, ability or disability, nationality, income level, educational level, or even the size of someone's feet . . . everyone should be invited to the party. Yet, as much as I am for inclusion, the sad reality is that all of us still live in a pretty exclusive world where not everyone is welcome. If everyone was welcome, then there would be no need for such things as a list of fifty words to help assist us in defining our gender.
I think that the most basic human need is acceptance . . . to be accepted for who God created us to . . . to be accepted for who we are . . . to be loved and respected . . . and, to be fully included in this thing that we call life. I think that is what we spend most of our lives looking for . . . those people, places, organizations, and groups that receive us, embrace us, and allow us to be a part of the whole. We want to belong. One of my favorite all-time comedies has always been Cheers. It was that sitcom about a sports bar in Boston where the bar crowd seemed to be like a big family in which everyone was invited to the party and accepted for who they were. I loved the song . . .
Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
Isn't that what everyone wants . . . to be accepted and included for who God created them to be? Isn't that inclusion?
I would love to emphatically state that the "church" is such a place of inclusion . . . but, it is not. We all know that it is not . . . yet, at the same time, we would love for it to become that place of inclusion. And, why shouldn't it be? After all we are the religion that is based on love . . . love of God . . . love of others. We are the religion that is based on drawing circles that bring all in and not exclude anyone. We are the religion that claims to speak out for those who are on the outside looking in . . . seeking peace and justice. So, why shouldn't it be a place of inclusion?
I have often been told by those who attend the "church" that they attend because they feel like they belong. Isn't that the reason any of us attend a particular church . . . because we feel as if we belong . . . because we are included . . . because someone knows who we are . . . someone knows our name. I am thankful for the opportunity each Sunday morning to be able to come and worship with a group of people who know my name . . . it is a good feeling to be accepted and included . . . even though, and I realize this, I am the minister. It is a good feeling to be accepted for who I am . . . to be called by my name . . . and, to be included not because of my gender, education, race, wealth or non-wealth, abilities or disabilities, but because of who I am as created by God. I like that feeling and I want others to have it too.
Inclusion . . . that is what God desires . . . inclusion. Inclusion begins where we are as individuals as we look at own lives . . . who is not at the table that should be at the table (ours and God's). Inclusion grows beyond ourselves to desire to have others in the family with us. It won't ever be accomplished by creating a nifty list of adjectives to describe ourselves to other . . . though that might be seen as being at least a start. It begins opening ourselves and our hearts . . . just as God has done for us . . . to allow others to come to the party . . . to take their rightful place at the table (ours and God's). It begins by learning names. How biblical is that!