O Rex Gentium,et desideratus earum,lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the Nations, and the one they desired, keystone, who makes both peoples one, come and save mankind, whom you shaped from the mud.
For our verse today, I want to reach back in to the dark recesses of Internet history… well: 2005. Philip Turner did a great essay over at First Things commenting on what’s wrong with ECUSA. It was nearly prophetic because it’s what’s wrong with just about every liberal, mainline denomination now, 9 years later. There are even creepy corners of Orthodoxy where this seems to be the message:
The Episcopal sermon, at its most fulsome, begins with a statement to the effect that the incarnation is to be understood as merely a manifestation of divine love. From this starting point, several conclusions are drawn. The first is that God is love pure and simple. Thus, one is to see in Christ’s death no judgment upon the human condition. Rather, one is to see an affirmation of creation and the persons we are. The life and death of Jesus reveal the fact that God accepts and affirms us.
From this revelation, we can draw a further conclusion: God wants us to love one another, and such love requires of us both acceptance and affirmation of the other. From this point we can derive yet another: Accepting love requires a form of justice that is inclusive of all people, particularly those who in some way have been marginalized by oppressive social practice. The mission of the Church is, therefore, to see that those who have been rejected are included”for justice as inclusion defines public policy. The result is a practical equivalence between the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and a particular form of social justice.
I am thinking of this tonight in response to the verse for two reasons: the current round of protests and reading Eve Tushnet’s Gay and Catholic. (I just blogged a two-part reflection on that work, here and here.) How often we come close to making a practical equivalence between the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and a particular form of social justice. Mind you, that particular form varies: there are some that want a libertarian world with no poor people. There are some who want a socialist world where there are no poor people. There are some that want a world with no differences between the races and there are some that want only one race. There are some who want their political party to be in charge of everything and there are some that want their country to be in charge of everything. There are even some who image there are no countries at all.
Today’s verse, however, offers us a different idea:
Will Campbell once got called out by liberal, Yankee church folks for preaching the Gospel to the KKK. His response was to remind us that God doesn’t allow us the luxury of having enemies. Orthodoxy says the same thing. It sounds like the “Gospel of Inclusion” doesn’t it? It sounds like all we need to stop doing is pushing people out. Heresies are always just a mite off: the tinge of Hell in our human lies. Campbell wasn’t saying you should let in the racists: he was saying racists can be saved. Of course, they won’t be racists anymore… Yet in Will’s story, it was the church folks who were further away from the Kingdom.
The problem with the Gospel of Inclusion (that was being preached, you can be certain, by the liberal Yankee folks) is that it forgets there are rules. Love everyone means everyone. Forgive everyone means everyone. Sin no more means no more sin. Sadly there is also a Gospel of Exclusion that remembers that last rule, but forgets that we are all sinners or, as Campbell put it, “We’re all bastards but God loves us anyway.” We are always in danger of confusing our politics with the Kingdom. Jews wanted a Messiah who would free them form Rome. They missed the boat. We want a Messiah that will free us from the Police and CIA torture. Jesus, however, wants to reach the hearts of the Inclusion folks as much as the Exclusion folks. He wants to save the Muslims, the CIA, the Police, President Obama, and you.
I’m not a person of color: I’m as white a male as you’re going to find. I don’t equate gay issues with racism, but it is the only “minority” status I have, so let me go with it for a moment. There are some folks who act as if the only sin left is “The Gay”. Trust me, there’s nothing that makes me want to beat up my fellow Christians so much as hearing someone who functions that way. Listening to a conservative Orthodox priest who supports phyletism get bent out of shape because he things another jurisdiction is being a little to easy on the gays really makes me want to call him a liar. In public. In front of the heathen.
Instead, I have to remember that God is saving him too, and certainly before me. The Gospel isn’t saying “let in the gays” but rather that we can be saved. But probably none of us without the prayers of Will Campbell. If you want to read more about him there’s this wonderful obit at First Things.
God’s in the process of making us all one in Christ. I don’t override free will when I say that: choices can take us further away from God, as well as closer to God. But that is God’s purpose and God’s function in this first Advent. And he tarries the judgement, his second Advent, to make it so.