They are everywhere. Outcasts. Human aliens. Out-shined and overshadowed. People who feel like they don't fit in, don't belong.
It could be a matter of financial or social status. It could be the result of personality or disposition. We could be held back by physical or mental health issues. Whatever the cause, there are people everywhere who feel like they are not accepted and that no one understands them.
As I've studied the bible and listened to podcasts from notable pastors and leaders in Christian thought, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: the church should be a place where these outcasts feel welcomed and accepted.
Consider this: most of the bible was written by authors under the rule of brutal empires: the Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans. The people who composed God's word were not victors. They were not the cool kids. The bible was written by oppressed people.
The Jews fleeing Egypt: outsiders.
Jeremiah and many of the prophets: misfits.
The disciples: rebels.
John of Patmos: an outcast.
It is under the shadow of a tyrant where the Christian church was founded. It flourished in a time when they were hunted, tortured, and executed. It shunned Jewish traditions and defied Roman rulers. The first Christians were a motley bunch of weirdos. They were radicals who didn't fit in anywhere else than with each other. They built a community for others who felt misplaced in society.
Sadly, the modern church is not as welcoming. In many houses of worship, strangers get the sense that there is an unspoken code of conduct to be followed for admission. The way you act, the way you dress, the way you sing, the food you eat. If you want to be one of His, you got to act like one of us.
The church was never meant to function like this. We were never supposed to strut around like the in-crowd or wrestle to be the dominant political power. We were designed in God's image - a God who heard the cry of the broken and hurting and was moved to act on their behalf. We were made to be a refuge for those who have nowhere else to go.
We have lost our way but we can go back.
Perhaps I'm biased. Maybe this is my love for fellow freaks and geeks speaking out. I believe the modern church needs a cultural shift. We need to declare that we are the outsiders. We need to find other outsiders and let them know we know those feels.
What if we fully lived what we believe? What if we were hope for the hopeless? What if we could offer freedom to those who feel trapped or oppressed? What if we were a safe shelter for outcasts? What if we were a place where those who feel like they don't belong could finally call home? What if we gave the misfits a place to fit in?
Sure, we say we all ready do those things, but do we? It might be the ideal we strive for, but we have a long way to go. We get it wrong far more than we get it right.
Full disclosure: I don't know how to make this a reality on a grand scale. I don't have any clue how to change the tide of religious culture in America. Yet I believe it can be done. And why not? I have learned to embrace my weirdness and I have done it in a local church that has also embraced my weirdness. If you want to talk about being an outcast, about not fitting in, that has been the story of my life.
If an oddball like me can find a place to belong within the church, I know there is a place for other nerds out there too.