On another blog I left a quote from the very interesting Buddhist writer Reginald Ray on the inherent inclusivity of the Buddhist outlook. Lately I have been reflecting more deeply on this notion of inclusion, and in a sense I see it now as central to my own personal spiritual vision.
Put quite simply, I think that any religious belief is pointless and, indeed, poisonous, if it isn't at heart based on radical inclusion. Reading the Gospels, there seems no doubt at all to me that this was Jesus' position: all were deserving of God's love, regardless of how repugnant we fellow humans might find them. This is a very difficult teaching, and one on which most religions fail - most particularly the mainstream Christian denominations.
Naturally my position as a gay man brings this whole idea very much alive. I have spent a lifetime being guarded around - and at times afraid of - avowedly "religious" people, knowing that for the most part the institutions they represented were actively hostile to, and rejecting of, the very notion of my right to exist. My queerness was - is - the ultimate point of religious rejection. And I am not exaggerating. This is still the position of ALL mainstream religious congregations in Australia. It seems incredible, but there you have it.
Of course I know hundreds of individual Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostalists et al who completely reject this idea. Blessed with the gift of grace, and having faith in the agape that is meant to be at the heart of Christianity, they know deep in their souls that God's love is all-embracing. It's just those in power who still have something to gain by basing their ministry on rejection of the people they have never sought to know or understand.
But I too, struggle with true inclusion. Certain types of people aggravate me beyond belief, and I have a very rigid set of criteria around the way I think people ought to behave. These are failings I must address, and I will be doing so for the rest of my life.
It occurs to me that working on inclusion - such a simple word and idea - might be enough spiritual work to last me a lifetime.