Reading: The Book of Acts 10-15
I grew up with a faith that was filled with boundaries, we often discussed, and agonized over who was in and who was out. People who swore, got drunk, went to night clubs, were on shaky ground. Muslims, atheists, liberal Christians (#AnyOneWhoWasntAsConservativeAsMe) and of course, Gay people, were out all together.
The popular narrative is that someone like me, at that stage in my faith journey, was just closed minded, bigoted, and homophobic. That maybe I hated the other, and was all about self protection and preservation of my privilege. The reality though – I think – was different.
I believed within the framework of faith I was given. I believed, and was afraid for those who didn’t share my faith, terrified that if someone didn’t believe the right things, or live in the right way, that they would be tortured for eternity. Not because God hated them, but simply because to reject God by not signing on to the set of conservative theological beliefs i once held, was to choose Hell.
The irony though was I didn’t even know most of the people that I had classed as other. I saw them from a distance, or through the lens of the dominant Christian culture I was a part of.
Over the years my faith has grown and evolved, I still hold to the Christian Tradition, there is still so much that I love about the Christian faith, and yet, I have also been confronted (and had to learn to acknowledge and accept) some of the more painful, and evil, parts of my Faith.
One of these has been the way my Tradition has othered and excluded those we don’t understand, and often, don’t even know.
How the Christian community has treated – and still does treat – the Rainbow Community is one example.
One thing I love about Peter and James’ response to this debate in The Book of Acts around Gentile inclusion is that they make it oh so simple. There was multiple reasons why Gentiles should be excluded from this new movement and expression of Faith, the Jewish Scriptures could have been used to argue for the privilege of the Jewish people, and the exclusion of the Gentiles, and yet Peter says “Hey, I dont really understand what’s going on here, but I see in them, the same Spirit, the same Divine image, I see in my Jewish brothers and sisters. And so “if the Divine has accepted them, who are we to stand in Her way?”
I think we sometimes get to caught up in the rules. We get to focused on the weeds, disecting this word, and that phrase, digging so deep into the past, that we miss what the Divine is doing in our present.
When I look to many of my friends in the Rainbow Community, I see evidence of the Divine. I see God in them, in their Love for those who persecute them, in their commitment to Justice, in their lives of service to the marginalized and vulnerable, I see evidence of the Spirit. The Divine image shining through.
And that might not make a lot of sense if examined in light of a Traditional Conservative theological framework, yet it is.
One of the things I’ve learnt, is that if you want to know what God is up to in the world, you need to be standing with those who have been forced to the margins of society.
Understanding what we believe and why is important, exploring theology, and having a sound and solid foundation for our Faith should not be understated, but the development of such belief should never be in isolation to what is happening in the world around us. You cannot meet God in a book. Books might point you in the right direction, but the Divine is in Her creation, She is in the world, in Her people.
If you want to get to know God, be with those who suffer.