HOUSES OF WORSHIP
Who is In and Who is Out?
The older I got and the more I served as a pastor, I found myself becoming intolerant of intolerance. A lot of the religion I encountered seemed focused on who is in and who is out. I call some of what goes under the name of “faith” simply security-based religion that is based upon the certain feeling that a person has to know that they are a “card carrying” believer who is most sure that those who do not carry the proper credentials are and will be on the outside.
These days this same kind of thinking seems to be very prevalent in our political rhetoric that leads to policies. We become afraid of those who are not like us. We label them so that they lose their human status and become members of groups. In my opinion, this is not only bad “policy,” it is unhealthy religion.
Healthy religion begins with a good dose of humility. Balanced religion is based on the realization that life is a gift. It was not ordered out of catalogue. No one “deserves” to be here. We are created from a Creator who wanted us here.
The Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, supposedly stated that we are all born and then given sealed orders. Life then becomes a process of opening those orders to discover why we are “here.” So what do you think would be in those sealed orders?
I think one of the orders that might be common in each of our “packets” is a phrase that comes from Judaism, “Tikkun Olam.” It means “to heal the world.” Yes, we only have to watch the evening news to be reminded that the world is broken but it seems that some religious and political perspectives want us to curse the darkness and allow it to settle into our souls. This kind of thinking breeds the security-based perspective in which certain people are “in” and others are “out.”
How about we open our orders and realize that one reason, and maybe the main reason, we are here is to help God heal the world. As a pastor, I had countless people come to me saying something like, “Pastor, why is there so much darkness in my life?” I would listen first and then gently remind them that it has always been dark.
According to the latest scientific discoveries, the cosmos is made up of 95 percent darkness – dark energy and dark matter. Only 5 percent of the universe is made up of light.
Creation is full of darkness, so it is no wonder that our lives contain darkness that includes tragedies, illness, dreams that die, and the constant reality that even nature creates havoc and destruction. So, what are we to do?
In my tradition, we are told from our sacred scripture that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.” That does not mean that is not real dark out there. It is. But we are to be light bearers. We are to help the Creator heal the world.
That healing begins with the recognition that we are all in this together. It continues on a path that refrains from labels and choosing who is in and who is out.
Another phrase comes to mind from a different tradition. In that tradition, you do not reach your hand out and shake another hand with the greeting like “How are you.” In this tradition you cross your arms over your heart and bow to the person in front of you and say, “Namaste,” which means “the divine in me greets the divine in you.”
So to all of you I say, “Namaste….let us be about the healing of the world…together.”
Dr. Jody Seymour
Jody Seymour retired after serving Davidson United Methodist Church as Senior Pastor for 13 years and being a pastor for forty-six years in the Western North Carolina Conference. He is the author of six books and resides just outside of Davidson with his wife, Betsy.