by Bil Aulenbach

Do You Have a List?

do-you-have-a-listIt seems to me that too many Christians have a list of people or groups unworthy of unconditional love. Part of me thinks that being human without having a list is almost impossible. But my guru, Jesus, says to his true Followers: “No lists. Period.” My list used to be fairly long, but I junked it as a Follower. It wasn’t easy.

Let me share my list from when I was in my twenties. I was a white boy raised in a black neighborhood. One day, when I was about ten, I was playing football with a few white friends in a park, and some black guys took my football. I threw some pejoratives at them and the wars began. Next on the list probably were Jews. Now, mind you, I didn’t know any, but someone taught me in Sunday school that the Jews killed Jesus, so it must permissible to refer to them in negative terms. In prep school I had a Jewish classmate who didn’t match the stereotypes. That really confused me.

Back in the 1940s, World War II was raging, so it was okay, even patriotic, to hate all Germans (even though my family name was German) and all Japs. Unfortunately, I thought all Asians were Japanese, so that got me in trouble. I went to an all-boys prep school, an all-male college, and an almost-all-male marine corps, so I had my list of favorite names for people who were homosexual. In those days, I had never heard of the word “lesbian,” so lesbians weren’t on my list, but I’m sure they would have been.

Of course, Roman Catholics were on the list because they had their know-it-all pope and Protestants weren’t allowed in their church. In those days women weren’t list worthy, but we all knew they were second-class citizens who, if they worked hard enough, could only grow up to be secretaries or school teachers. Even at a college level, my list was long and getting longer. As we grow older our prejudices and biases can take over and control us. Unfortunately, once a group is on the list, it’s not very easy to remove it.

Then I went to seminary, where I learned about the Greek word “agape,” which means unconditional love. Unconditional? That means no lists. Then I studied the actions and reactions of Jesus, who was agape in action. He partied with the hated tax collectors, hung around questionable women, recognized and touched lepers (which was totally forbidden at the time), respected women (who were considered simply property), ate with disliked religious leaders, touched those with disabilities and gave them new life, forgave the unforgivable, dealt lovingly with people who were insane, and even accepted gentiles. That doesn’t mean he liked everyone, but he accepted them as they were. He loved them unconditionally.

So now I become a little confused when I see professed Followers with lists, some very long. Those in the LGBTQU community are often at the head of these lists because they are considered to have made bad choices. But when some males figure out they might be members of that community, they realize homosexuality is not a choice. Women are also on many lists if they practice birth control, need an abortion, or want to be in charge of their own bodies.

Can you imagine what a peaceful, loving, creative world it would be if we all put our lists in the trashcan and went list-free for the rest of our lives? But maybe that’s utopian. Do you have a list? Am I on it?

 

The image in this post is in the public domain courte