Embracing Diversity - Salvation Army Canada

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    Embracing Diversity

    God calls us to break down the barriers that foster discrimination and intolerance. May 22, 2012 by Rochelle McAlister
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    Feature
    One of the interesting things about Christianity is that you can spend your entire life studying it and still not exhaust its riches, yet even a child can grasp the essence of the gospel. Basically, following Jesus is about loving God with everything that we are, and loving our neighbours just as much as we love ourselves.

    When questioned about the greatest commandment, “Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

    If we want to follow Jesus, we have to love our neighbours. All of our neighbours. It's the most natural thing in the world to want to spend time with people who look like us, think like us or act like us. But it's the most Christian thing in the world to want to spend time with people who are different from us. The family of God is, and should be, diverse.

    Society may require us through laws or norms to show tolerance to all, but Christ requires us to move a step beyond tolerance to reconciliation and love. Jesus Christ preached and lived love, compassion and inclusion for the excluded, and yet somehow in his name, the Church throughout the years has been known to promote discrimination against those who are different. Religious views and select Bible verses have been invoked to support racism, sexism, religious intolerance and homophobia. I wonder if using God's name to defend discrimination embarrasses, infuriates or hurts him?

    As Christians, we're meant to live, breathe and express love for all of our neighbours. There is no room for discrimination. While it may take us out of our comfort zones to speak with people from different backgrounds or cultures, it's essential that we seek to engage with others. As we do so, we will find that we have more in common than we thought and much to learn from each other.

    Take Action
    What can individuals, families or corps do to end discrimination?
    • Pray
    • Check your heart, attitude, thoughts, words and actions for discrimination and seek change
    • Speak up when your family members, friends and co-workers make discriminatory comments
    • Get to know people who are different from you
    • As a corps, look at your leadership team and assess how you can be more
    representative of your community

    Embracing Diversity
    God has used amazing creativity in his design of human beings—making us in different colours, sizes, personalities and abilities. Human diversity is a reflection of God's joy. God wants us all to live in unity with himself and with each other. As Christians there cannot be any room in our hearts for discrimination, whether based on gender, colour, ethnicity, language, ability or disability, sexual orientation, illness, age, economic status or any other factor.

    As The Salvation Army, we believe that all people are made in the image of God and are thus of equal intrinsic value.

    For more information about the Army's position on Human Dignity, visit SalvationArmyEthics.org/positionstatements/human-diversity.

    Comment

    On Tuesday, May 29, 2012, Eric said:

    Jesus said: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." But, the Christian church's traditional interpretation of these scripture passages that they believe pertain to homosexuality do anything but set homosexuals free. Instead, homosexuals are confined to a life of loneliness, or life with a spouse they are not physically attracted to.

    Jesus also said: "Come unto me all you who labour and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest." But the Christian church, with it's traditional stance on homosexuality does anything but give a homosexual rest. Instead, they offer prayer for them to 'turn from their sinful ways.' and when that doesn't work, they send them to therapy where they are mentally abused to the point of depression. Then, when that doesn't work, they are sometimes sent to repairative therapy where they are subjected to things like electric shock.

    Jesus also said: "Do not judge, lest you be judged likewise, for in the same manner that you judge, you will be judged." But, the Christian church has decided that it has to judge homosexuals.

    Jesus also said: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Is love that is shown really love if the person it is shown to can't recognize it as such?

    And to go further into the results of this interpretation of scripture, there are those who use the Bible's apparent condemnation of homosexuality [which was not known in Biblical times as we know it today] to justify actions such as bullying children, beating adults, and murder. In some cases, children who are bullied end up committing suicide. Some homosexual young people as young as 10 have committed suicide because they saw that as a safer option than telling their 'good Christian' family and friends about their sexuality, or having it discovered by them.

    Now, tell me, how can a proper interpretation of scripture cause so much death and destruction? What other interpretation of scripture does this? How can an interpretation of scripture that is in line with the gospel do this?

    Jesus said: "If I am lifted up, I will draw others to me,' but when it comes to the homosexual community, they see Christ lifted up, they see what He stands for, they see the love He has for them, but, when they see the church, they see the opposite. I realize that the intentions of many people in the Christian church is not to be seen as bigoted towards the homosexual community, yet, that is the way they are seen. So, while drawn to Christ, [whom they can really identify with,: despised, rejected, murdered] they are repelled by the actions of people who have judged them guilty and see it as their job to pronounce not only judgment, but pass sentence as well. This is not our job.

    Paul tells us that we are God's ambassadors. We are a reflection of Christ. We are supposed to show His unconditional love to all people that we come into contact with. It isn't always easy, especially with people we do not agree with, but as we grow closer to Him, loving others unconditionally becomes easier.

    This article is about breaking down barriers, and yet, when it comes to homosexuals, we are quite happy to leave the present barriers in tact.

    Our objective is to win the world for God. With its present stance on homosexuality, the Army will never be able to win that portion of the world for God. The position statements on homosexuality have been around for nearly 30 years, and in that period of time, the Army has not won very many gays and lesbians for Christ.

    On Tuesday, May 29, 2012, Juan said:

    Interesting to see an edited version here. I kind of preferred the original.

    On Tuesday, May 22, 2012, Royal Senter said:

    Love must always characterize every aspect of our lives and our attitudes and we must always have open doors for all people. We must, however, be careful how we communicate this.

    By grouping sexual orientation in a list with gender, ethnicity, age, etc. and that in the context of celebrating God's creative design in human diversity, it makes it sound as if The Salvation Army is accepting homosexuality as part of God's design for humanity and that it should, therfore, be openly accepted. This is not the position of The Salvation Army. We accept the Bible's position that homosexuality is the result of humanity's fallen state and that same-sex sexual activity is sinful and not acceptable to God.

    The world says that if we are to show love then we must not condemn same-sex relationships but we must never let the world dictate truth to us because it does not know truth, it only tries to justify itself. Love demands that we uphold the truth because the truth sets us free.

    We are called to discriminate in its most positive sense which is to distinguish between differences - in this case, between truth and error. At the same time, we must not be guilty of bigotry. Bigotry allows us to treat with disrespect (or worse) those people with whom we disagee. That is a violation of the law of love.

    On Tuesday, May 22, 2012, Eric said:

    "God has used amazing creativity in his design of human beings—making us in different colours, sizes, personalities and abilities. Human diversity is a reflection of God’s joy. God wants us all to live in unity with himself and with each other. As Christians there cannot be any room in our hearts for discrimination, whether based on gender, colour, ethnicity, language, ability or disability, sexual orientation, illness, age, economic status or any other factor."

    This is a wonderful statement that embraces what the gospel means when it comes to loving one's neighbors. However, in regards to sexual orientation, the position statement on gay & lesbian sexuality still places the members of that community on the margins, still sets them apart, and still judges them guilty.

    On Tuesday, May 22, 2012, Shawn Washington-Purser said:

    I think it is wonderful that the Army is actively addressing the issue of diversity vs. discrimination within our churches as well as our communities. Often in our roles as Community Service Advocates it is taken for granted that our hearts are right; however, we should always take the opportunity to pray on it and keep our thoughts clear within our own backyards, so to speak. Congratulations on the efforts of our leaders in addressing this sensitive area!

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