Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tolerance & inclusion: blessings and unintended consequences

Why notions of tolerance and inclusion are so vital:

The Iranian Parliament is moving to mandate death for "apostasy" - that is, leaving Islam for another faith or philosophy.

Our Western political notions mean that ideas proliferate - even ideas we don't like - and that they are to be protected from suppression. This makes work hard for the church but it also strengthens it. Converts are more likely to be sincere than nominal - they must really be convinced. And the church is protected from its own corruption when it is not able to force people to join or obey.

Where notions of tolerance and inclusion get off track:

They can fall victim to the law of unintended consequences. Tolerance and inclusion can become a code for entitlement and elitism.

Our Minnesota neighbor, Anglicat, reports that St. Mark's Cathedral in Minneapolis is using October 12th to celebrate a homosexual "National Coming Out Day."

Now, here's a fact: St. Mark's, unlike many Episcopal Churches, has grown robustly . St. Mark's stats are here, and they are impressive.

But, this is the Cathedral of an entire diocese. How is that diocese doing while St. Mark's bulks up on ministry to the well established, very "out" gay community of Minneapolis?

Not so good. The diocese of Minnesota stats are here. Membership is in free fall; Average Sunday Attendance is withering (and would be even worse if not for the "blip" of St. Mark's growth.)

In other words, tolerance and inclusion of a small, geographically limited interest niche might be good for this or that congregation. But for the whole church, "tolerance and inclusion" of just one faction means hoarding and deploying resources for the factional few while sacrificing others.

This says much about why the Episcopal Church is so intent on declaring itself a centralized "hierarchy" and grabbing up real estate and bank accounts wherever possible. It is positioning itself to serve a small niche group and abandon any "inclusion" of other folks.

I've commented before about how the homosexual community's most familiar social model is the "pink ghetto." Having suffered rejection and hostility, many homosexuals congregate in certain districts, usually in larger cities. These neighborhoods become a safe haven for a homosexual culture and lifestyle. It makes sense and works because it is just one manner of life in a pluralistic (there's another word!) society.

But to take that model and impose it on a more diverse organization (a religious denomination, for example) destroys the very "tolerance and diversity" that are proclaimed to gain entrance to the organization. The larger organization might be able to carve out a niche for a subgroup, but once the subgroup defines the organization it can no longer tolerate and include others.

The architects of American Democracy feared "faction" (rule by elite) as much as they feared oppressive majority. Tolerance and inclusion can become a means to elitism and entitlement, pretty much what we are seeing in the Episcopal Church under homosexual direction (don't look at who holds public office, look at who controls the budget and bureaucracy. Katharine Jefferts Schori answers to Louie Crew and the homosexual Integrity organization, who are over-represented on the Executive Council of the denomination and now make pretty much all decisions about church policy, spending and all else of consequence).

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