With all of the talk about the sequester and associated budget talks I started thinking about the ways that we, the self-appointed “Greatest Nation” on earth, have a serious NIMBY problem. If you’ve never heard the acronym before it stands for Not In My Back Yard. We are a nation that wants change as long as it isn’t in our back yard. But the reality of our time is that change is happening in our back yard, our front yard, and right at our kitchen table. We are a world deep in the throws of global change on a scale that modern history has never seen.
Whether dealing with the issues of climate change, immagration, mental health, or the greatest shift of wealth from the middle to the upper class that this nation has ever seen, we are a people who really don’t want to look at what we need to do to make our world work for everyone, not just for me and mine. Inheriting eternal life means I get to keep my 401k, right? And if you don’t have one, too bad for you!
Now, I say this (somewhat tongue and cheek) with the caveat that I know any number of people who are dedicated recyclers, drive hybrids, eat local and give generously to various local and global charities. I even know a few people who live as close to a net zero life as is possible in a globalized western world. (And yes, I try my best to be one of these people, though I do like my coffee, shade grown, of course.) But does all of this get us to what Jesus is telling the man who asked him what it would take for him to inherit eternal life?
I find the sequester to be filled with this very question, as well as the answers given by people who sincerely understand the impact that will ripple out from the now triggered cuts. “We are good people just trying to get by.” We know the spending needs to be cut but if we cut (fill in the blank) the (fill in the blank) will be irrevocably harmed!”
“You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal,
you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one
thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.” LK 18:20-22
The sequester has made me wonder how many of us, myself included, are willing to give up everything in order to follow Jesus into the Kin*dom of Heaven? How many of us are willing to give up are cars, our homes, our smart phones (our coffee) so that Kin*dom of peace and justice, equality and harmony can emerge?
So very often I hear these explanations as to why a congregation cannot join AWAB. “We really are welcoming. We just don’t want to make a big deal out of it.” “Joining AWAB is a political statement. We don’t do that on principle.” “Why should we make a special statement for homosexuals? We welcome everyone. That should be enough!” “We don’t want to upset our beloved elders. I am sure we will join when they are gone.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said,
“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through
the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Lk 10:23-25
For those who are wealthy in welcome and affirmation it is hard to give that up to make room for the poor. We know it should be done but we’d rather someone else did it so we don’t have to suffer the same slings and arrows that the gender and sexual outcasts of our world experience everyday.
Welcome the gays, but not in my back yard.
Affirm the queers, but not at my table.
Thank God that Love is not sequestered and that God welcomes and affirms NIMBY’s despite our unwillingness to be so generous to our neighbors. However, it may be time for us to rethink this strategy for the Kin*dom’s sake.
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” LK 10:29-30
Rev. Robin R. Lunn is the Executive Director of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists and an ordained Baptists minister.