If Christianity were a dance club, then it would seem to have a lot of bouncers lately. First it was Franklin Graham, questioning the authenticity of President Obama’s Christian faith and implying that he could be a closet Muslim after all. Then just the other day, there was that Catholic priest in Washington, D.C. who denied Communion to a lesbian- no matter that the woman happened to be at her own mother’s funeral.
And the pronouncements aren’t just a monopoly of the so-called “Religious Right,” either. Think Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert, for example, as Margaret Aymer notes in her recent reflections on The Huffington Post. (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-margaret-aymer-ph-d/john-3-14-21-bouncers-and-the-in-crowd_b_1343187.html.) Aymer suggests that these conjectures about “who is in” and “who is out” typically belong to communities under siege. She may be right. But I also have to think they are part and parcel of the human condition. We’re all in some sense awkward teenagers on the dance floor, secretly hoping that we won’t be left out while taking measure of our own “coolness” based on the person next to us.
And this sort of thing has been going on since the very beginning of Christian history, when a carpenter named Jesus picked out a few imperfect men and women to follow Him.
The funny thing is that it doesn’t take a lot of time hanging out in the Word of God to recognize that there really aren’t multiple bouncers. There may be bouncer wannabes, but they’re just that. Nothing more. As Ayres, reflecting on the testimony of Scripture, puts it, “when it comes to admission to Christianity, the ultimate bouncer, and indeed the only valid bouncer, is Jesus.”
And Jesus, I’m discovering, has remarkably low standards for admission. Just consider, for one thing, whom he chooses to follow him. Judas, who would have been carrying a license with the words, “Traitor,” underneath his name. Peter, the guy who always sticks his foot in his mouth, gets violent and then lies about his associations. Mary Magdalene, who would have been wearing something promiscuous and pole dancing or hitting on all the male customers- or at the very least using birth control, which apparently makes her a “slut,” anyway, according to Rush Limbaugh.
If it’s true that “anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [Jesus] will be saved,” as Scripture tells us, then Jesus is letting in a whole lot of people we don’t want to hang out with. They’re there on the dance floor under the strobe lights grooving to the beat. And, I can’t help but laugh when I think about what that picture might look like. Franklin Graham doing the macarena with Barack Obama. Marcel Guarnizo (the homophobic Catholic priest in Washington, D.C.) surrounded by not one but two lesbians moving to the beat of “Dancing Queen” while playing with his clerical collar. Maybe even an avowed atheist like Christopher Hitchens getting down with Billy Graham.
You and I might be there, too, surrounded by all those we would most prefer not to see.