I recall various times throughout my life when I found myself a part of a circle of Christians having a discussion about some other person or group of people. This discussion centered on the question: “can this group/person be a sincere or real Christian?”
I read a book recently where a sentence stated, “can a police officer be a sincere Christian?” My initial thought: Why not ask a police officer who is a Christian?
I have been in discussions where the question comes up, “can a gay person be a Christian.” (If that question sounds odd to you, it just means you haven’t spent much time around traditional evangelicals.) My thought has become, “can we find a gay person who is a Christian and ask?”
What has come to bother me about such discussions is that rather than inviting that group of people into our circle so that we can listen to their own story, we objectify them. We sit around and analyze these people as if they are not real people but are instead some sort of commodity just for analysis. You could almost say we dehumanize these people.
When I read the gospel stories, I don’t picture Jesus and the disciples sitting around the campfire discussing whether or not some group or other can really know God. Jesus appeared to prefer to interact and engage with people. Jesus never treated people like mere objects, he reached out to them with care and love.
For example, did the question ever come up over whether a Roman centurion, a member of the military force occupying the Jewish homeland, could know God? Maybe the disciples discussed such things among themselves. Maybe they asked Jesus. We don’t know. We do know that when a Roman centurion came to Jesus for help, Jesus helped. We know that Jesus never closed the doors to anybody. We know Jesus treated people like people and not objects.
What if we were better at this today.
On that note, I have really enjoyed reading popular blogger Rachel Held Evans’ “Ask a…” series. She has found all kinds of different people, many who are the types of people Christian evangelicals tend to objectify and not listen to. And she has given them a chance to answer questions. You could say that this post is inspired by reading these blog entries.
I encourage you to read some of these, listen to what these people have to say.
There are many more to choose from, if you’re interested.