One of the recent criticisms of Christianity is that because the faith requires particular beliefs in order to be members of its community it is socially divisive. Communities should be open to all. This was the basis of the UC-Hastings v. Christian Legal Society case, in which the latter was booted off campus because it demanded that the members and officers of the Christian Legal Society be…well…Christians.
The U.S. Supreme Court actually ruled that as long as UC-Hastings was consistent then it could demand such radical “inclusivism” from various campus clubs. Thus, if Ted Nugent enrolled at UC-Hastings, he could run for president of the Vegan Society, I guess!
Are such ludicrous actions really necessary?
Dr. Tim Keller doesn’t think so. He writes in The Reason for God:
“Any community that did not hold its members accountable for specific beliefs and practices would have no corporate identity and would not really be a community
at all. We cannot consider a group exclusive simply because it has standards for its members. Is there then no way to judge whether a community is open and caring rather than narrow and oppressive? Yes, there is. Here is a far better set of tests: Which community has beliefs that lead its members to treat persons in other communities with love and respect – to serve them and meet their needs? Which community’s beliefs lead it to demonize and attack those who violate their boundaries rather than treating them with kindness, humility, and winsomeness? We
should criticize Christians when they are condemning and ungracious to unbelievers. But we should not criticize churches when they maintain standards for membership in accord with their
beliefs. Every community must do the same.”
Communities that truly understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ are inclusive in the sense that they welcome anyone. I believe that homosexual activity is harmful but I have neighbors engaging in such activity who are friends and are welcome in my home. They know I am there for them if they need anything at all. Communities truly formed by the grace of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (and, unfortunately, not all institutions that call themselves churches are), will welcome anyone into their midst and seek to care for them. But a person is not a Christian until they place their faith in Jesus. Such “exclusivity” is obviously a net positive for society.
For example, in my own community, one church mentors students in government housing every Wednesday, has a Single Parents Fair where they give away free oil changes, hair cuts, school supplies & dental cleanings and have built a well for an orphanage in Uganda. Another church hosts Celebrate Recovery meeting every week for those struggling with addiction. My own church challenges our members twice a year to clean out their closets of all their extra clothes to give away to the less fortunate.
Such actions are products of holding “exclusive” beliefs. We respond to the exclusive way to God through Jesus Christ by showing love to others as a way to show our love and gratitude for God’s grace.
Shouldn’t such love and care be the true test for any community?
But some object that Christianity is culturally stifling! To that we will turn tomorrow.