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My People

johnmcclartyMy People

(A column I wrote for our church newsletter.)

No. I will not. Don't bother asking. I will not do it. I know what the rule book says. I know about tradition. I know all the Bible texts. I know those who are urging me to do it speak from longstanding, venerable conviction. I understand all that. But I will not do it. I will not shut the door on my kids. I will not say to any of them, “not my people.”

Over the decades my parish has included adults who never left diapers, never mastered language, and were never baptized. Still, they are my children. If they go to hell, I'll go with them. If heaven has no place for them, I have no interest in heaven. How could any place be paradise if my children were excluded because they could not master the required tasks, could not obtain the required credentials?

My parish has included people who were abused beneath religious art hanging on the wall and in the kitchens of people employed by the church. The lingering effects of that abuse created barriers to the kind of faith we rightly celebrate. These victims of abuse are not “model Christians.” But surely you do not imagine that I would add the final word of abuse: “not my people.” “Not welcome here.”

I have also known in the wide circle of the holy family called, church, abusers. Men and women who grievously mistreated children, sexually and otherwise. Some have rightly gone to prison. They break my heart, these misshapen sons and daughters of God who damaged youngsters. I sometimes wish I did not know them, had not seen their faces knowing their deeds. You might imagine that I could justify disowning these abusers because I know and love their victims, but I refuse. They are all mine.

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