Clubs and Inclusiveness: A Mutual Incompatibility

I was watching NBC News (KECI) out of Missoula, Montana, this morning (11/14/2019) when I noticed a tidbit on their news feed scroller. I may not have the words exactly right, but it’s close enough for anyone to get the message.

“Bozeman High School students are challenging a Christian club (FCA) for not being inclusive.”

A news article from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle can be seen here.

It would be easy to lose focus here by condemning this club for discriminating against the ‘disaffected’ students. It would also be just as easy to excoriate the students for attempting to impose their own agenda onto the club. It would be futile to try to produce some type of common ground between them so that all the participants could be happy and satisfied.

A club, any club, has to be exclusive, prejudicial, and discriminating. Every club, no matter what its religion, philosophy, purpose, bent, or goal MUST ABSOLUTELY determine what it will be and who will be part of it. By its very nature, a club is an exclusive group of people who band together to accomplish a certain pre-defined task. It simply can’t be any other way.

Think about all the myriad things that individual people have an interest in. Immediately relevant to this discussion are religion and lifestyle, not always mutually compatible. Sports, gardening, social activity, philosophical thought, guns, sewing circles, etc., etc., and on and on and on. The list is endless. However, no matter WHAT the club is involved in, it always has one purpose: to promote the interests of its members.

Let’s look at one easily defined category—chess. Chess is a game unlike any other and there are millions of people around the world who are fascinated by it. Innumerable clubs have been set up in order to bring people together who are interested in playing and have a desire to improve their skills.

World-wide, the one thing in common among all the groups, however, is that they are all dedicated solely and completely to the game of chess. Nothing else. It is an exclusive club. Non-devotees need not apply.

Imagine the consternation and chaos that would ensue if someone from outside the club wanted to join, but was determined to force the club to allow members who wanted to play Tiddly-Winks. Both are games, after all, so there shouldn’t be a problem. Except for one thing—when a chess club starts importing other games into its structure, it no longer is a chess club. It has morphed into something different which might satisfy some people, but will repel the true believers, who will likely tender their resignation from the club.

Every club has ground rules about who it will accept, what the focus is on, how that focus will be accomplished, how the rules will be enforced, why someone will be asked to leave, et al. These rules may be written or not. They may be formal or not. They may be set in stone or subject to constant change, but the one thing which can’t be denied is that they provide a structure so that the club can operate under its original charter.

As pertains to the situation in Bozeman, if the excluded students actually succeed in joining the club, they have two choices—change themselves to fit the parameters of the club OR change the club to fit their own preferences. In the case of the first, they will, by conforming to the rules, become part of the club as it was originally designed. In the case of the second, the club will become something else.

As far as the club is concerned, it also has two choices—either continue to exclude certain persons and thoughts from its structure OR to allow and accept competing ideologies which will inevitably dilute its message. In the case of the first, someone’s feelings are going to be hurt because they are not given access due to their refusal to conform. In the case of the second, the “Christian” part of the club will simply disappear and something antagonistic to it will appear.

Regardless of belief and opinion, the right of certain people to disassociate themselves from others ought to be ironclad and unassailable. No one person or any group of persons should be required to associate with anyone else who promotes or holds an incompatible viewpoint. Freedom of association (or disassociation) should be the preeminent right accorded to everyone. Otherwise, we become a society in which personal beliefs and opinions become weapons to force others into submission to ourselves and our agendas.