Lorne Park Baptist Church in Mississauga, Ontario, has fired Rev. Junia Joplin after he announced his transitioning from a male to a female. The congregants voted to terminate his employment, the majority for theological reasons. The chair of the church’s executive council stated that Joplin was offered “a fair severance.” Nonetheless, he is suing for wrongful dismissal, hoping that his suit will bring about a more “inclusive” Canada. But, does “inclusive” mean including anybody?
Baptists take the Bible seriously. Genesis does not state, “I have created you sexually amorphous and have left it up to you to decide how you will identify yourself sexually.” Nor does it read, “Marriage should be inclusive and not be restricted to two people.” Neither does it teach that “The trinity should be inclusive and allow more than three people.” In affirming Joplin, the congregants would logically need to reinterpret or simply reject Scripture. By their vote, however, they indicated that Joplin’s sex change would not lead them to alter the Word of God.
The notion of being more “inclusive” is, of course, self-destructive. It is a mandate that is wholly unqualified. It lacks an internal brake. Who, what, and how many should be included? Where is the limit? Should we make room for the unqualified and the incompetent? For that matter, why not include a horse. Inclusivity in itself provides no restrictions.
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Caligula, the “Mad Emperor” of Rome, loved his racehorse, Incitatus, as much as he hated people. He had planned to make his horse a consul, but he was assassinated before he could carry out his plan. Today, given the current tidal wave of being inclusive, he should be honored as the patron saint of inclusivity. It is, in general, an honorable gesture to welcome people, not those who do not belong. Members of the Taliban do not belong in a Baptist ministry.
An additional question is “how many can be included”? There is a scene in a Marx Brothers movie in which one person after another piles into a state room aboard a ship. Finally, when the room includes more people than it can possibly contain, the door bursts open and people spill into the hallway. It is slapstick, but not without a point: space has limitations that cannot be exceeded. You cannot pour two quarts of milk into a one-quart container.
Inclusivity abhors restrictions. In this regard it is a child of liberalism. We may define liberalism in the contemporary world as the futile attempt to increase freedom by removing restrictions. At one time, it was believed that a bird would fly faster if the resisting air were removed. Thus, a bird would achieve maximum speed in a vacuum. What was overlooked was the fact that in a vacuum there would be no air against which the bird could flap its wings, not to mention that in the absence of oxygen, the bird would die. The restricting air is not a hindrance; it makes flight possible. What appears to be something negative often turns out to be a catalyst for the positive.
Contrary to the liberal ethos, society needs restrictions. Marriage should be restricted to husband and wife, morality should be restricted to what is good, education should be restricted to the truth, and so on. The dream of a life without restrictions—the unencumbered life—has come into vogue. Technological progress is identified as removing one inconvenience after another.
The end point of progress, then, would be the elimination of the final inconvenience. This, of course, is a utopian delusion. There has been great progress in the manufacture of automobiles. Nonetheless, this progress has not eliminated accidents, highway deaths, or traffic jams. Home appliances come with built-in obsolescence and increasingly high purchase prices and repair bills. Computers are assailed by viruses. Jet planes and cruise ships, no matter how modern they are, cannot guarantee safety. The shadow of death hangs over all of life. Death cannot be eliminated, but it can motivate us to live more fully.
The perennial question concerning the meaning of life is bound up with the many obstacles that are in our path. Why must there be obstacles? The obstacles, however, are not to be removed but to be overcome. In sports, which has retained a high degree of realism, the struggle with the opposition has a strengthening benefit for the competitor. Without a challenge, we fail to develop our potential.
As José Ortega y Gasset remarks in The Revolt of the Masses, “All life is the struggle, the effort to be itself. The difficulties which I meet with in order to realise my existence are precisely what awaken and mobilise my activities, my capacities…‘To live is to feel oneself limited, and therefore, to have to count with that which limits us,’ the newest voice shouts: ‘To live is to meet with no limitation whatever and, consequently, to abandon oneself calmly to one’s self.’”
The notion of being more inclusive by disregarding all qualifications invites mayhem. It invites the camel into the tent. It establishes, to cite Ortega once more, “the sovereignty of the unqualified.” As a utopian delusion which aims at the removal of all restrictions, it is thoroughly at odds with Christianity. “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily’” (Luke 9:23).
Sentimentality, which promises much but delivers little, appeals to dreamers. It is a feeling that is severed from truth. Christianity, which is centered on the Cross, is intensely realistic. As Flannery O’Connor has remarked, “There is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism.” It is realistic because it places people on the right path and, at the same time, warns them of perdition. A well-known American bishop expressed the matter succinctly when he said that “A Christ without a cross is a man without a mission but a cross without a Christ is a burden without a reliever.”
[Image: Stateroom scene in Night at the Opera]