Saturday, September 17, 2016

Missionary Work is not Exclusionary

The other night I had some people over. It was an interesting group and part way through the night I noticed something that made me uncomfortable as a hostess.

You see, I have different groups of friends: work, school, church, and folks I met socially. This night I had folks over from all of those groups. It was still a small gathering, though.

What I noticed is that the church people were dominating the discussion with very church centric conversation. What was going on with who at church, mostly. In a word, gossip.

Not only that, but every neutral topic I tried to steer the conversation towards got turned back to religion. I mentioned something about the lack of some books at the library and was immediately told,

“Oh, that’s a Mormon author.”

To which I responded that something like that doesn’t matter, and if that is the basis of the exclusion of those books why were other authors, who happened to be Mormon, represented at the library? (And yes, I named names and book titles.) Not only could the person who brought the religious leaning of the author into the conversation not explain this discrepancy, they couldn’t adequately explain why they brought it up in the first place. I mean, a fiction book is a fiction book, right? None of those authors are considered to be in the “Christian Literature” genre of writing.

As I thought this over, I think they weren’t doing it on purpose, and if they were perhaps they thought it was a missionary opportunity.

But it wasn’t. It was exclusionary.

And as a hostess I felt horrible that half of the guests had no idea what was being talked about, and had no way to contribute to the conversation. As sad as it is, I will not be inviting some of these people over again unless it is a church exclusive group. And it doesn’t look like that will be happening any time soon. I have friends outside of church who I value and treasure and want to be a part of my life, thank you very much.

I can’t help but conclude that it is behavior like this that can give the church a bad reputation. Not only were these people gossiping, and they tried really hard to get me to participate which really bothered me, but they were excluding a large part of the room. In other words, they were alienating people because they do not attend church with us. This is the same as excluding people based on things like gender, ethnicity, and even political leanings or education level.

And that’s NOT what the church is about. At. All.

So, I would like to ask you all to take a moment and reflect on your interactions in group settings. Are you perhaps excluding others in a way like this, purposefully or not? What can you do to change that?

Then go out and do it!

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