From NBCNews.com: Lutheran pastor apologizes for taking part in Sandy Hook service.
“There is sometimes a real tension between wanting to bear witness to Christ and at the same time avoiding situations which may give the impression that our differences with respect to who God is, who Jesus is, how he deals with us, and how we get to heaven, really don’t matter in the end.”
As a Christian, and former pastor, who now works for an interfaith organization I can tell you that this tension is very real for many of the more than 300 congregations we work with (and they’re the one’s who HAVE chosen to engage). As people, we have a deep impulse to exclude others in order to include ourselves. This is a very old religious story; perhaps the oldest of all.
Just recently I spent time talking through this issue with an evangelical pastor in our network, who was struggling to justify getting involved with us because he didn’t want his presence to be construed as affirmation. Yet, at the same time, he desired the opportunity to be involved with something that might have a wider impact on the community. So there it is again: the desire to be included alongside the desire to exclude.
For me, the irony is that the heart of the gospel is a proclamation about the eradication of barriers. And at the heart of this eradication is the willingness to be identified with those who are not just a little different, but perhaps radically so, perhaps ruinously so.
To pray alongside a jew, or hindu, or muslim – especially in a time of grief or crisis – does not make me a jew, or a hindu, or a muslim. It makes me a human. To refuse to do so, makes me something less.