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Gospel of Inclusion (23)
Christopher B. Harbin
The society and religious structures with which we live offer us security. They help us navigate the world, knowing whom to trust, whom to watch out for, who is worthy, who is unworthy, who will help us, and for whom we should care. So many of the messages we receive along these lines are deeply ingrained such that we are often unaware of them.
We know, for example, that drug addicts, homeless people, beggars, homosexuals, immigrants, and Muslims are to be feared. At least, that is the message we receive from so many cultural inputs. We learn these things from an early age at home, as we watch our parents' discomfort with people who are not part of our circle of society. We learn these things through Hmedia presentations that portray these classes of people as unworthy of the same attention we would offer others. We learn these things from Sunday school curriculum and sermons which fail to portray these others as loved by God in the same way we are.
We learn these things and so we miss the boat of the gospel message. Unlearning prejudices like these is very difficult.
Yes, I used the word prejudice, because that is what it is. We learn to pre-judge people based on various categories, whether it be skin color, clothing, cleanliness, employment, ZIP code, health condition, that cardboard sign that says ''will work for food,'' or some other datum. Then along comes Jesus and we have to go back to the drawing board to unlearn those childhood lessons.
We find Jesus on one of his journeys in chapter eight of Matthew. It would seem that he often had to travel outside of Israel proper but did not seem to be bothered that a good Jew would have avoided people along the way. After all, Jews were taught from birth that a non-Jew could contaminate them. They were taught that one should never eat the nasty things they put in their mouths, as God would not be pleased. They we ...
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