Because there are people who are explicit in their hating.
When I was 14, I had a crush on a boy in school: old story. What was unusual was his use of the swastika; he’d drawn it on his book covers and other various places. It never occurred to me to wonder deeply about this. It was not a topic of conversation among the adults in my circles: the Holocaust. In fact, I over heard jokes about Jewish people, and aspersions expressed in stereotyping. There was never an explicit expression about the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons we need to learn.
A recent study indicated that 66% of US millennials did not know what the Auschwitz concentration camp was. (LA Times, 3-6-19) Allowing hate becomes easier when people are ignorant. Recently, in Newport Beach this was made apparent when it was discovered a group of high schoolers had posted on social media a picture of themselves in front of a swastika made out of red solo cups; they’d been drinking. What is frightening is the response of many: “Don’t make such a big deal.” and “I can say what I want: free speech.” What is hopeful is that parents, student and the community gathered to name the action for what it is: hate.
When people refrain from saying out loud, they disagree, it is a form of assent. Community members stood up to say together, “We do not agree with this expression of hate and intimidation toward a group of people.”
Every Sunday, Mike or I welcome people to church. We are explicit in our welcome that FCC Pomona is Open and Affirming. Sometimes we are more explicit and say we welcome people regardless of their sexual identity or orientation, because open and affirming is insider code language. Why are we explicit in our welcome? Because there are people who are explicit in their hating.
People find our congregation on the internet because they Google: gay friendly church, LGBTQ friendly, etc. They’ve been to or been part of church where hate is explicit toward the LGBTQ community. They want to experience the welcome of God, maybe for someone they love, maybe for themselves.
Jesus was explicit in his welcome, eating with people considered unclean, welcoming children who were considered in that time to not be fully human. Jesus was explicit in his welcome. In a society that can be stingy with kindness, we choose to uphold the welcome of God which we believe to be extravagant.