I like language. Those of you who know me understand that I find parsing verbs to be fun. I have followed for some time the career of a certain word: "inclusive". I have watched how it has been used by various groups. I'm fascinated at how contexts slowly but surely grind away at the expansiveness of meaning and a word becomes, in certain contexts, less than what it was. I find myself watching this word "inclusive" on the ropes of meaning sometimes.
Some of my old thoughts on a word I like:
What is “inclusive”? It is a buzzword that has been floating around Christian circles for some time now, and particularly in the Anglican Church.
The most inclusive community I have been privileged to be a part of is one in which brokenness is most up front and obvious. It is the faith community of the mentally disabled as I have encountered it in L’arche. What makes for a Christian vision of inclusiveness? True Christian inclusiveness admits two things: an acceptance and profound awareness that each human being bears the image of God, and an acceptance and awareness that each human being lives with a brokenness which can only be healed by the person of Jesus Christ.
If we take the first thing seriously, we cannot but offer that reassuring truth to each human being we meet. To see another human being is to see that which is nearer to myself than anything else in creation. A fellow human being is the most glorious thing I will encounter outside of God. I have more in common with a fellow human being than with anything else in the universe. I am kindred to every person. That is the beauty of the faith community of L’arche.
We need also to take the second point seriously. For that is also close to the heart of the Christian faith. True Christian inclusiveness, and hence true community, happens when we acknowledge our brokenness before God and one another, and center ourselves around Jesus. The most fully inclusive Christian community I have been a part of is one where brokenness is so obvious that it cannot be denied. There is no point in trying to hide it. Because it is not hidden, it is not shameful. Hidden or denied brokenness often results in shame. It is simply there; to be lived with, to be acknowledged, and to be offered up to Jesus for healing in his fashion and in his wisdom. To have true inclusiveness, we must look to Jesus.