"the easiest way to make oneself righteous is to make someone else a sinner." @rachelheldevans #searchingforsunday pic.twitter.com/H1Tfkq3E2h— Joe Troyer II (@jtroyer2) June 25, 2015
The tweet at the head of the posting, which Joe Troyer tweeted last Thursday, captures a page from Rachel Held Evans's book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015). As you can see, Joe zeroes in on the statement, "[T]he easiest way to make oneself righteous is to make someone else a sinner."
As I read Rachel's astute observation in light of the condemnation — the stance of no grace at all — that many Christians at this point in history want to issue o their fellow human beings who are LGBT, as a sine qua non, an articulum stantis et cadentis ecclesiae on which the church's very identity depends, I ask myself what kind of church is built on such a foundation? What kind of church constitutes itself by declaring a segment of the human community as under condemnation?
As not us. As outside the circle of grace. As outside our circle. As outside the circle of our grace.
What kind of church have Christians built when they have defined church as not us, not those of us who are, it goes without saying, self-evidently church:
• not Jews
• not heretics
• not Muslims
• not witches
• not the black, brown, or yellow people of the non-European part of the world?
And now the same dynamic with LGBT people: we who constitute church are those who are not lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Church is defined over against, on the backs of, those people who are not us.
What kind of church is built by defining its identity as not those others who are unlike us? What kind of love reaches out to embrace only those like itself? What authentic concept of family recognizes family only in families made to its own prefab specifications of family tailoring?
And what kind of righteousness is bought at the expense of turning other human beings into the demeaned other: the other defined in his or her humanity as sinner, so that I may easily — presto shazam! — declare myself to be not sinner?
What kind of real grace operates in this way?
And how would Dietrich Bonhöffer have defined this kind of grace?
What kind of church is built on the foundation of a belief that a certain demeaned group defined as the other is by definition — this is an articulum stantis et cadentis ecclesiae — not church? Can a church that really has any authentic claim to being a Christian church ever be built on a theology that defines church as a place of no grace at all for those defined in this utterly hateful othering way?