Once I told a pastor friend of mine I thought he overtly favored “The Beautiful People.” You know, the athletes, successful professionals, the intellectuals, lovely women, handsome and fit men. I thought he went out of his way to befriend them. And I thought he had far less time and patience for those requiring a little extra grace, the folks not so pleasing to the eye, not so socially adept.
I still think I was right. And judgmental.
But that’s not the point.
In looking back I believe I was keen to this insight because I was in the latter group. I was not one of The Beautiful People. I was an “insider” because I was on staff. But if I walked in off the street I was sure I would not have received the same attention.
I grew up in a blue-collar family with an alcoholic father. I did not finish college, I’ve lived in a trailer park on welfare, and spent the first two-thirds of my life as a skinny, social misfit.
But over the years I have learned some things: I fell into a job I am good at. I learned what styles of clothing and hairstyles look decent on me, learned to speak to people and make friends. Now once in a while I find that I “qualify” as a member of the first group. Not all the time, it depends of course on who is doing the qualifying, doesn’t it?
When I find myself “qualified” it sort of feels good. Believing that even some people include me in The B.P. Club is both wonderful and disheartening.
And it feels wrong. Yet how common is this in American churches, among American Christians?
I am not so different from my old friend. He cultivated friendships with The B.P. perhaps to make his church more successful looking and more attractive to the surrounding upscale community. Perhaps he did it to validate himself. This strikes a chord (albeit, one played on an out-of-tune piano). It feels good to think others have placed you in The B.P. category. It feeds the ego, strokes the emotions. And builds bad character.
I think this happens in all kinds of communities. The qualifier is how alike you are to those doing the qualifying.
Regardless of the club in which you are qualified, it’s a relatively small club. It may seem kinda cool while you’re in it, but it’s shallow. Like the navel at which you’re staring, the benefits are questionable and you’ll probably find stuff there that’s really not that attractive.
And I wonder what people outside the club think.
Do they think, ‘Jesus’?
Do they think, ‘inclusive’?
Do they think, ‘welcoming’?
Or do they feel excluded, unwelcome, less valued? And when they learn you are Christ follower, what do they think of your Christ?
Don’t get me wrong: Having certain qualities—beauty, intelligence, financial acumen, professional savvy, athletic or musical talent—are good things, God-given gifts. It is the willing acceptance of, or seeking to gain entrance into, some kind of “better than others” group that is dark. It’s got satan’s fingerprints all over it.
My memory verse this week is Galations 6:2-3:
“Share each others’ burdens and in so doing, obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.”
I am reasonably sure Jesus wasn’t in The B.P. Club when He was here. He hung with the fringe. He lambasted the people who had their religion tight. He went out of his way to avoid those who thought they had it together and spend time with those who didn’t. I wonder, if he were in church this coming Easter Sunday, when people attend church once a year, with whom would He sit?
He would’ve visited me in the trailer park. He would’ve avoided me at The B.P Club.
If being in The B.P. Club means not being where Jesus is, I don’t want a membership after all.