The Profound Act of Simple Inclusion (Lent, Day 13)

Look around. It’s no secret that many people are vying for attention.

Colored hair. Piercings. Expensive clothing. A totally muscular body.

Tattoos or a luxury car. A huge home, kids who are worshipped.

There are all kinds of ways we get others to say, “Look at me!”

Even this, just a blog, innocent though it may be, is a way to grab attention:

It whispers, I have something to say, and I want you to listen.

I want you to…

hear me,

see me,

know me,

like me,

accept me.

All humans want to be accepted.

They don’t want to be abused.

They don’t want to be ignored.

They don’t even want to be tolerated.

Deep down, what we all want is true love, the real kind, the good kind.

The kind of love that says, I see that you’re what the world calls different, and I love you just the same.

The kind of love that says, you’re normal, and I know there’s really no such thing.

The kind of love that says, I will stick by you come hell or highwater, and we will make it through.

The kind of love that says, I created you, came down for you, and gave up all my glory just for you.

The kind of love that says, skin is skin and circumstances are circumstances, but your soul is what I see.

What’s funny is, when we know that something isn’t for us, it’s hard for us to accept that kind of love, isn’t it?

When we’re hurting someone else by our words or actions, it’s hard to accept that love.

When we’re choosing to malign our own souls, it’s hard to accept that love.

When we’ve been so low that we see nothing but darkness–or when we’ve been so high the pedestal is waiting to topple–it’s hard to accept that love.

Human brains weren’t meant for the high highs or the low lows. There’s a reason we were told not to eat from the proverbial tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We’re not meant to be beaten down.

But we’re not meant to be worshipped, either.

It’s why the severely abused and the psychotically adored tend to behave the same.

We’re meant to meander through the gray area, the color that makes us think.

It’s in the gray that we look up.

It’s in the gray that we lean on others.

And that’s where we find our peace, in the looking up and the looking around, the reaching high and the reaching out, the singing and the serving.

Science tells us this is so:

Recent research suggests yet another way our well-being can benefit from practicing pro-social behavior: helping others regulate their emotions helps us regulate our own emotions, decreases symptoms of depression and ultimately, improves our emotional well-being., “In Helping Others, You Help Yourself”

What I’ve found in my own life is that empathy is the path to inclusion.

When I place my feet in the shoes of another–rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, religious, non-religious–I’m better able to understand who they are.

Understanding who they are always seems to lead me back to my Creator.

And the road to my Creator leads me right back home to my heart, where He dwells within.

That’s the way I believe He wants it to be.

I don’t pretend to speak for God, and I certainly don’t think the entirety of the Bible is Him speaking literally. Oftentimes, when the Bible says “and God said,” I believe it’s probably what the Jewish people “interpreted,” you know, like if you told a friend, “I believe God was telling me…”

I believe God says throughout the pages of the Bible that when we truly flip the script on this whole dog-eat-dog way of the world, instead choosing to love and serve one another, those actions are what point others back to Him.

In other words, it’s not a mandated list of “don’t behaviors” that point us to Christ, it’s loving and serving one another, meeting each others’ needs.

Recently, a Southern Baptish Church, Calvary Baptist, in West Jackson, Mississippi, was kicked out of the SBC because the church is being led by a female pastor.

picture credit: Clarion-Ledger Newspaper

This church matters to me because it’s part of my husband’s family. His father attended as a child, his mother and father attended after they were married, and his sister was baptized in the church. She married there, too.

It also matters to me because the area surrounding it is special to me. West Jackson specifically is a part of Jackson that borders my hometown of Clinton. Clinton was such a small community when I was growing up that if we needed something big, we drove into Jackson.

Calvary’s motto is quite literal. “In the heart of Jackson, for the heart of Jackson.” This is a one-hundred-fifty-year-old church with a once thriving congregation and a still beautiful building, that is loving and serving an area where all the “better Christians” fled.

If you don’t believe “White Flight” is a real thing, y’all, visit the area surrounding Calvary.

According to their own website, they write:

Calvary has been around since 1901. We can look back and see all that God has done…we can also see Him move in great ways today.  We know that he has been so faithful in the past and the present, but we also know that He has a beautiful plan for the future of the community and for the life of our church…

I can’t imagine kicking a church out for allowing a female pastor, but then again, the SBC does things in a very wonky way. They’ve managed to keep countless child molesters protected under privilege, but hey, SBC, you do you.

What kills me is that, if you want to know where the treasure is in the hearts of the SBC leadership (and, let’s be honest, most of the hearts of the men in Evangelical Christianity), look no further to what they cherry-pick from the Bible to practice.

The numerous verses about caring for the poor, the needy, the orphan, the widow? Maybe a little.

The verses about loving the foreigner as if he’s a part of your own tribe? Ummm, not really.

The verses about how it would be better for you to be thrown alive into an ocean with a millstone around your neck than it would be for God to find out you’re mistreating a child? Only if you’re referring to the Catholic priests.

But a female preaching to men? Holding a position of power in the Church? GOD FORBID!!!

This tiny little snippet of a verse right here is the verse that the SBC hangs the entirety of their patriarchal views on:

Isn’t it odd, however, that Paul (NOT JESUS!) uses the same verbiage in the next set of verses, yet, somehow, the SBC doesn’t believe these are worth following anymore?

Boggles the mind. Except, it doesn’t. They don’t want to see a woman with her head covered. That’s unattractive.

Even more unattractive than a female pastor.

You would think an entity like the Southern Baptist Convention could find something else to focus on when it comes to Calvary Baptist Church in West Jackson.

Not but a few miles away, for instance, is the Jackson Zoo, where at one time, there was a watering hole and beach area known as Livingston Park. This was a respite to the children in the area surrounding the zoo, mostly white, who came to play and swim after school and in the summer.

scene of Livingston Park in the 40s from an old post card

It closed soon after forced integration of schools and pools.

The area surrounding the Jackson Zoo has been in a steady decline for decades.

All of Jackson is now reeling from the destruction of public schools due to segregation academies, the loss of income due to white flight to suburban neighborhoods like Madison, and the crumbling infrastructure, due in part to both of the previous problems listed.

Get a white person to admit that Jackson is about anything other than “Black people’s cultural behavior,” however, and I’ll show you a flying pig.

By all means, Christians, let’s focus on whether or not the person behind the pulpit has a vagina.

Let’s focus on how “dangerous” it is for a man dressed in a gaudy dress, huge wig, and a full face of makeup to encounter a child.

Let’s focus on throwing every young black male in jail for the pettiest of crimes while the rich white kids hire lawyers and get off Scott free.

Let’s focus on anything other than the real issue, which is that Christians have a serious problem with inclusion.

And until we fix it, we will continue to crumble.

See you soon,


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