Supremely Inclusive

I’ve been mulling over the Supreme Court’s recent decision that a university has the right to tell official student organizations that they are not allowed to discriminate in their membership – they have to be open to any student.  In this particular case, that means that any Christian student organization that is officially a student organization of the school has to admit anyone – even non-Christians or those that conduct themselves in a manner that is not Biblical.

Various Biblical Christians are weighing in on this issue, since at first blush it seems like a pretty rude ruling.  It seems like another example of Christians getting smacked for attempting to hold true to their values.   If you want more nitty gritty details about the case, here is a good concise overview.  
This Christian student group argues that it shouldn’t be required to extend membership to people who disagree with it’s fundamental beliefs – Scripturally-based issues such as avoiding sexual misconduct (whether heterosexual fornication or homosexuality).  It sounds reasonable at first.  But is it?  Why don’t other student groups have similar issues?  Why don’t the Young Democrats, or other special interest groups have to ban certain types of people from joining?  
These organizations don’t have to attempt to ban membership because they have a strong sense of identity.  They know who they are and what is important to them.  And there are fairly uniform attitudes towards these things within these groups.   Neither of these types of groups worry about infiltration because they have a strong enough sense of identity that they can easily distinguish those who are on the same page from those who aren’t.  And while they may gladly tolerate the presence and membership of people who don’t adhere to their core values, there’s also no danger that those infiltrators will ever get to a leadership position.  The issues and sides are drawn very clearly.  Those who disagree are welcome to participate if they want, but they’ll never become a leader or pose a threat to the organization or ideology.  
Not so with a Christian organization.  Christianity is so badly fragmented that literally anyone can call themselves a Christian, it would seem.  Who defines what is Christian or not these days?  There are churches that decry homosexuality as unBiblical, and churches that declare that the Bible is not against homosexuality and neither are they.  Mormons call themselves Christian even though their theology explicitly contradicts many core elements of Biblical Christianity and the Ecumenical Creeds.  Christianity is being shredded from within, not just from the outside, so that we often find ourselves more often at odds with one another than with those who completely dismiss our beliefs.
As such, a Christian organization is likely to draw people with widely divergent views and practices.  And that organization won’t have any way of making clear what it considers to be truly Christian except by attempting to legislate it.  It has to specify exactly what it believes Christianity is or else nobody will know what it believes.  It has to be intentionally limiting because the central sense of identity of Christianity as a whole has been so weakened and degraded in the last 200 years (some would argue 500 years, and others could make a good case for 1000 years) that Christians often are ill-equipped for discerning what Christianity is and therefore who is appropriate for leadership.  
This is symptomatic of one of the core threats to Christianity.  We don’t know who we are.  Anybody can claim to be Christian and the old standards of evaluating this (the Ecumenical Creeds Ecumenical Creeds, primarily) are often no longer acknowledged.  The Bible has been the subject of reinterpretation and deconstruction to the point that many believers are unsure what they believe or why.  The disagreement between this student organization and the university is really a variant on the in-fighting that has been going on between denominations and groups of believers ever since St. Paul wrote his letters to address the disagreements between more legalistic, ‘Judaizer’ factions of Christians, and those who did not see the need to adhere to traditional Jewish practices.  
Given this fractiousness, the student organization can do one of several things.  It can attempt to devise an iron-clad charter that clearly states who it is and makes the changing of this charter almost impossible (like more conservative denominations with very specific doctrinal stances, such as the LCMS ).  It could give up on attempting to create any such a definition, and attempt to make Christians of any stripe welcome and open to discussions and explorations of what it means to call oneself a Christian (like more liberal denominations such as the Anglicans).  The organization could also – and I would argue should – quit ceasing to get university approval.  If it can’t abide by university policies, it doesn’t need to – and shouldn’t – expect to be an official organization.  Students are still free to gather together as Christians.  If they need resource assistance I’m sure  there are local congregations that would be willing to help them.  
Thoughts?  

One Response to “Supremely Inclusive”

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