Christians Are An Inclusive Bunch!

… as long as you think and speak and act and believe exactly as they do.

Thank you, homogeneous white men.

It’s a cartoon, but that’s really the attitude you see from a lot of church leaders. The rebels who buck the trend quickly get branded as unChristian.

That intolerance in the face of dissent is a scar the church has to deal with. Just look at this comment I saw on a Christian blog yesterday. The lady in question was explaining a “rule” she’s learned about blogging:

… Don’t publicly disagree with your church’s teaching on an issue, especially if you are a church member, you or your spouse are fairly “visible,” the church takes firm black & white positions on those issues, and they believe in church discipline.

For me, this means I cannot write about the role of women, homosexuality, Rob Bell, who is “really saved”, or whether doctrine matters for our eternal state. They didn’t even like my post on sex within marriage — that my husband reviewed and approved.

*sigh*

I don’t know how anyone could continue being a part of such an awful church. I don’t know why any church would deny members the opportunity to be open about who they are and what they think… or to “forbid” public disagreements with the church’s actions.

Stronger groups — both inside and outside the religious world — ought welcome people like that.

Churches that demand inflexibility sound like hell to me.

(via nakedpastor)

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Interestingly, there is quite a bit of diversity within the whole of Christianity but each specific denomination (or sub-denomination) is quite homogeneous. This is particularly true within the Protestant churches. On a movement level, if you don’t like something about church A, just splinter off and form church B with like-minded people. On an individual bases, if you don’t fit in with church A, drop out and go join church B. This practice ends up with each individual church being full of like-minded homogeneous people.

    I’ve been told in bible study (for a Baptist church) that all members of all competitive churches are not real Christians and are all going to hell. We found the door, left, and made that church more homogeneous by our absence. That is just the way it works.

  • Silent Service

    They didn’t even like my post on sex within marriage — that my husband reviewed and approved.

    Did anybody else find that part disturbing? If you need your spouse’s approval to express yourself you’re doing it wrong.

  • Nick

    That cartoon could easily be a commentary on any one of the male dominated groups including Atheism.

  • FredMan

    “Churches that demand inflexibility sound like hell to me. ”

    I would say of course there has to be ‘inflexibility’ that a group or organization has to have against individuals that don’t share the same beliefs of said group.

    You have to understand that to have unity in any organization or group of people, it has to be held together by a shared or common belief. No movement could go forward without unity among its members. There is a certain point beyond which an individual member could not advance or contribute to the group if their beliefs are no longer congruent with the collective. So there’s a certain point at which things become ‘inflexible’ and a point at which the group is challenged to reconsider their beliefs.

    Obviously, a theist could not advance or support the cause of the atheist movement; atheists at the forefront would not necessarily be ‘inflexible’ towards the theist, rather it would just be an incompatibility of the theist individual to the atheist group.

    That’s why a site like friendlyatheist.com exists, for (mostly) members of the atheist movement to gather online anonymously to share their beliefs (or non-beliefs), and, advance their cause. Any person who is not an atheist could be on the site, but being unable to support the cause (due to whatever belief), would not be considered ‘inclusive’ to the movement. They could do what they wanted, whether read the posts, challenge the status quo, comment or not comment but that’s really all they could do. But they could not support or advance atheism being the non-atheists they are.

    For this reason of advancing their beliefs, Christian groups (nor any other group) cannot under the pretense of ‘inclusivity’. Inclusivity for the sake of inclusivity is like giving one’s self a pat on the back for being…inclusive. You can’t just accept everyone into your group and be ‘inclusive’ if it doesn’t advance your cause, whether that cause is evil or good or everything in between.

    This is the rationale behind the apostle Paul referring to the ‘body of Christ’, the ‘body’ referring to all the members of the Church. Obviously, a body is a set of disparate parts united together to form just that, a body. They don’t work at all on their own, rather each part works to support and advance the human as a whole. Take a spleen out of someone, and it is useless on its own. It has a unique function to support the body and it has to be a part of the body support it. Anything that does not support the body (i.e. non-symbiotic bacteria), must be flushed.

    The atheist movement has a ‘body’ and the parts to support it, this blog is one of the parts of the atheist body, anything that sickens the whole body has to be excluded. An atheist cannot be inclusive to beliefs they do not agree with. Does it follow that they are not inclusive to the people who hold said beliefs? I think so. It is the same with every group.

  • http://hewhothinksaloud.blogspot.com/ Emaj Cirtap

    Why are churches so afraid of dissent? Is it because they think they might be wrong? I think it says quite a bit about them.

  • Gregory Marshall

    Hemant,

    You state “I don’t know how anyone could continue being a part of such an awful church.”

    Well, sadly the answer is simple, these people believe that if they stay there it will eventually land them in the land of eternal jelly beans and gum drops.

  • GG
    They didn’t even like my post on sex within marriage — that my husband reviewed and approved.

    Did anybody else find that part disturbing? If you need your spouse’s approval to express yourself you’re doing it wrong.

    If you’re writing about the sex life of yourself and your spouse, it seems only right to run it by them first. Anything else would just be rude.

  • Erin

    I think it is sad that she thought she had to seek the approval of her husband, it’s (I’m assuming) an anonymous forum, so why should they be worried about being “found out”. It’s still her sex life, the husband is just a part of that, so shouldn’t she be able to speak freely about it? Her body, her words.

  • mkb

    I agree with GG on sharing intimate details that reflect on 2 people, not just 1.

    On the larger point, I’m feeling a bit stifled in the humanist community these days by the assumption that we all share the same beliefs and politics. It’s not just an issue for churches although some of them do carry it to extremes rarely found elsewhere.

  • synergy

    I agree with Erin. If it’s an anonymous site, there’s no need to get approval from your sexual partner.

  • Chris

    Un-inclusiveness cannot rest solely on the shoulders of “white males”, although it seems some people here would like to think it’s just us white men who ostracize anyone remotely different. I think Jeff hit the nail on the head: people with similar attitudes and ideas will tend to congregate and exile (whether passively or actively) anyone who isn’t “like them”.

    I live in the Bay Area in California, one of the most diverse places in the country. The church I used to attend was a microcosm of the local demographic. But, you could also go to an all-black church, an all Japanese church, all women’s church, etc. If there is a culture or race, they have their own church here.

    Nick’s comment, “That cartoon could easily be a commentary on any one of the male dominated groups including Atheism.” seems incredibly sexist to me, but maybe it’s because I happen to be a man. I would venture to say that most feminist groups are composed of mostly women, many of who don’t want men in the group. I have personal experience with this, but that may be anecdotal.

    I’m sure many who read this will label me as sexist or racist, neither of which is anywhere near the truth. I just find it ironic that people who hate sweeping statements in general have no problem making sweeping statements about white males.

    Obviously this is a frustrating subject for me. I’m being judged, not for who I am, but for what I am. Is there anything I (we) can do about it? Probably not as long as there are the multitude of white-male-dominated groups. I just don’t like being the “spokespeople” for intolerance when it’s not who I am.

    I have a feeling I’m about to have a shit-storm sent my way.

    Side note: Wasn’t there a big argument/discussion about whether the term “female” was sexist? If that term is in fact sexist, can the same be said for “male”? If not, why?

  • Brian

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to have a group where it’s frowned upon to disagree with them publicly if you are a member. The problem with regards to the church’s demands is that their positions are not set with the consent of the members. Instead they are set by a ruling class of clergy.

    It might not be bad to have a group where official positions of the group are debated openly within the group and voted on democratically, then once the positions are adopted by the consent of the members, each member would work towards the goal set forth. It’s actually a powerful way to build a movement that is both able to make change and democratic.

  • GG

    For me, the phrase:

    Don’t publicly disagree with your church’s teaching on an issue

    indicated that this isn’t an anonymous site. Plus the whole issue is regarding blogging, which also suggests it’s not anonymous.

    If it were me, I’d prefer that my partner ran any detailed public discussions of our sex life by me before posting them – it’s certainly a courtesy I would extend to her, and neither situation implies that one of us is the boss of the other, IMO.

  • jose

    Nick,
    “That cartoon could easily be a commentary on any one of the male dominated groups including Atheism.”
    You’re right. Not only religion and atheism, but the entire human civilization. Kinda makes you want to get out of this failed planet sometimes.

  • Vas

    Femalegate… That’s the first thing I thought of.

  • TRex

    @ Nick,

    “That cartoon could easily be a commentary on any one of the male dominated groups including Atheism.”

    or any group that is made up predominently of one gender, race, religion, interest, etc.. Why must one be singled out?

  • http://girlofthegaps.blogspot.com/ Nicole Schrand

    Heh, first thing I thought of was when I was first on the youth committee at a new church (my family had recently moved to a smaller and less diverse parish) and I suggested we go play lazer tag sometime — something my previous (same-denomination) youth group had done frequently.

    The old lady who ran the youth group was aghast and offended at my “suggestion of a violent activity.”

    Don’t know how really on-topic that is, though, other than as evidence that acceptance doesn’t just vary between denominations, but also between parishes.

  • CanadianNihilist

    (not so) little known fact. Religious people can’t stand free speech. They hate it. It’s like putting salt into the eye for them.

  • JSug

    Emaj,

    Why are churches so afraid of dissent? Is it because they think they might be wrong? I think it says quite a bit about them.

    Because they set themselves up as a proxy for god, the authority that must not be questioned. If people start questioning what the church is telling them, that status evaporates.

  • Blacksheep

    CanadianNihilist,

    (not so) little known fact. Religious people can’t stand free speech. They hate it. It’s like putting salt into the eye for them.

    You might be right about religion sometimes not fostering free speech, but I think in terms of sheer number of human beings who have been denied free speech over the past 100 years the vast majority are first of all not Christian, (Islamic nations are notorious for squelching free speech) and second of all non – religious, (or openly anti-religious) namely the old Soviet Union, China, Cambodia at one time, North Korea, etc.

    I think that vastly more humans have had their personal liberties and freedoms squelched by regimes and nations that claim to be humanist and scientific. Not sure why, but that has been the case.

    There have been events like the inquisition, but the numbers of people affected are tiny (albeit no less tragic) by comparison.

    Don’t all of the existing nations founded by mainly Christian governments and ideals have the greatest amount of free speech today?

    Even the Magna Carta, the great human rights document, starts as a religious document concerned with the “health of the soul” and “Honor of God…”

    Christians, as a whole, love free speech and have always fought and in fact died for it.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

    Knowing the author of the quote a bit (she actually guest posted on my blog today), her piece was not anonymous. She definitely has her picture and name associated with both her blog and the site where the piece ran. To me, checking with your spouse/partner before posting about something so intimate is, at the very least, courteous.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    if you bear in mind that these cultists used to torture and burn each other over differences of doctrine, why are we surprised by the sheer viciousness of them today?

  • Blacksheep

    if you bear in mind that these cultists used to torture and burn each other over differences of doctrine, why are we surprised by the sheer viciousness of them today?

    You’ve heard the song, “don’t know much about history…”

    In terms of “Sheer Viciousness” nothing has ever come close to the practices of non-Christian and non religious societies on earth.

    You can start with the ancient practice of blinding entire captured armies, of ritual sacrifices, of concentration camps – spending the time on the stats aren’t even worth the effort because they’re so overwhelming.

    I’m not sure where your “Sheer viciousness” evidence comes from. For example, when I look globally at charities, relief efforts, and local soup kitchens. Despite the spin thet FA tries to put on it, those activities are also overwhelmingly religious.

    That may change, and it may shift. But for now, that’s the way it is.

    A recent Hoover / Stanford University study says,

    “The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior. For example, among those who attend worship services regularly, 92 percent of Protestants give charitably, compared with 91 percent of Catholics, 91 percent of Jews, and 89 percent from other religions.”

    I think there is a lot of “Sheer viciousness” in the human race, for some reason, (although plenty in lions and tigers, and apparently the Honey badger as well :) ) but it’s Christianity that brought powerful doctrine of love and forgiveness into a world – that if you know some history – was a shockingly vicious place to live at that time.

    Again, did Christians “own”, “invent” or simply lay claim to those ideas? That’s a different topic. One thing for sure, though, it stopped my ancestors (Who were known for their sheer viciousness) from burning down villages, raping, and pillaging.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @Blacksheep,

    I grant you that one of the good things about Christianity is that (in theory) it is not “tribe-based”. It is belief based. Anyone can join if you adopt the “right” beliefs.

    The irony of Christianity, though, is that Christians have a concept of God that is very “un-Christian”. It is believed that God has set up a situation where most people end up being infinitely punished for not adopting the “right” beliefs.

    One code of ethics for mortal people. A different code of ethics for God.


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