- It has Steak-Bites, an afternoon snack of marinated grilled sirloin conveniently cut into 5 small cubes and served with a sauce you want to put on everything.
- It’s open 24 hours.
- It has a “Happy Hour Breakfast” from 6-9 that includes $ 4 French Toast dipped in Grand Marnier.
And it has a philosophy, printed in their menu, that I think Jesus would appreciate:
“Warning: The 5 Point is a place open to all types of people, including those in various states of inebriation, and with sometimes extremely different political, religious, and social ideologies. If you are easily offended, there’s a good chance you will be offended here. We pour stiff drinks, play loud music, and serve large portions of the best diner food in Seattle, in a very casual atmosphere with a no-nonsense, irreverent attitude. … Our loyal regulars have always loved our no-nonsense approach to customer service, and that’s why we have the best clientele anywhere in Seattle. We are sorry if you are offended by the foul-mouthed security guys or rowdy strippers (or nurses, roofers, or off-work restaurant staff, etc.) sitting at the table next to you, or if you think that the music is too loud. But these are our people, and we love them. So love them too, or leave.”
It’s hard to miss the irony between how that stated philosophy plays out and the experience that keeps many away from churches today. I think many people who want no part of organized religion might cite a story of nonsense in a church community in which a newcomer was rejected by the regulars because of a behavior, or a personal style choice, or a habit that made the faithful uncomfortable. I wish I could say such stories did not exist.
Because in truth, there ARE people in the church who accept all people. There ARE people in the church who are trying hard to love others as God intends. There are many who take the example of Jesus Christ eating with sinners, forgiving the unforgiveable, and touching the untouchable seriously. There are faithful people participating in organized religion whose lives demonstrate their connection to the Spirit of God in ways that I find downright humbling.
And, there are many in the church who don’t. There are many who are well beyond not-accepting and have leapt headlong into rejecting. There are some who still think that God loves only those who follow all the rules–as if this were even possible. There are church members who seem to be eagerly anticipating the day when all those they judge unclean will be judged, smited, and condemned without mercy by a God who looks and behaves exactly the way they do.
And it makes me wonder: how do we reconcile the two? How do we help those who distrust the church to see the goodness within its walls when they may have experienced first-hand anything but goodness? How do we help those who claim a status of “spiritual but not religious” understand that the church is a subset of the world and there is no perfect community–opposition exists in every community, including the church.
How do we welcome well while admitting that not all will welcome?
It tempts me to write a disclaimer for our bulletins, inspired by the philosophy of the 5 Points Diner:
“Warning: The church is a place open to all types of people, including those with extremely different political, religious, and social ideologies. If you are easily offended, there’s a good chance you will be offended here. We are sorry if you are offended by the foul-mouthed security guys or rowdy strippers (or nurses, roofers, or off-work restaurant staff, etc.) sitting in the pew next to you. We are equally sorry if you are offended by the lawyer or teacher or social worker who is here for the same reasons that you are: to seek shelter from the storms of life that batter our hearts and leave our souls parched. We believe that beyond what we think, wear, and do, we are all here to seek an encounter with the Holy One who, while beyond our comprehension, is not beyond our reach. We believe that all people are God’s people and we love them. Or at least we try. And we invite you to join us in our effort, as flawed as it might be. We believe the God who overcame death can make a way for everyone who comes, to stay. And we hope you will too.”
I don’t know. Maybe if we were just that honest. Just that clear about who we are–and who we aren’t–maybe the perception of what it means to embrace organized religion and attend church might change. Or maybe at least, the church might become as genuinely welcoming as the folks on the patio of the 5 Points Diner, when I was standing alone on the sidewalk nearby reading their irreverent neon signs. The ones who noticed me, and beckoned from their tables, insisting, “eat here…you’ll love it…there’s plenty of room.” The ones who pulled up a chair, and said, “C’mon…join us…yes, really!”
Until I did.