The shared truths that a church holds help us articulate and share our sense of mission with each other and the world.
If the church uses those truths as a standard to include or exclude one another openness will wither and Christians will feel compelled to be less honest with themselves and with each other for fear of exclusion.
The church of Jesus holds its truth in such a way that we know and expect that we’ll all transgress the truths we hold, and the essence of the truth we hold is that God forgives us and loves us, and we forgive and love one another.
Our community grows through our shared experience of forgiving grace, not on our capacity to mutually enforce standards in such a way that it would appear that forgiveness and grace are never needed.
A low anthropology allows for friendships to blossom because allows for the whole truth. It does not expect people to be better or different than they are. The template for this sort of community is Alcoholics Anonymous and its many offshoots, where members open each meeting with a confession of “Hi, I’m ____, and I’m an addict.” Alcoholics Anonymous is a community bound together by shared weakness and is therefore a real community – a transformative one. Good churches sometimes function similarly.
Communities premised on a more optimistic self-understanding set out to foster togetherness but end up doing the opposite. This is especially true of communities knit together by ideology. They tend toward increasing measurements of purity that ostracize even the most faithful members. Will my fellow sustainability activists want to hang out with me if they discover that my favorite food is McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches? Will the other parents in the grief group reject me if they find out I let my teenagers play violent video games? If our belonging is predicated on holding a particular intellectual position, we will likely repress some inner contradiction for fear of being ostracized, thereby refusing for some part of ourselves to be known. Only communities that account for the flimsiness of human nature – that acknowledge the truth that we are all inwardly divided, consistent in our inconsistency – can dispel loneliness.
Since a low anthropology allows for hypocrisy and contradiction and frailty, it allows for love.
David Zahl, Low Anthropology, Brazos Press, 2022, pg 142-143.