Inclusivity is another big theme that I’ve decided to more fully embrace. Claude Whitehead (1918-2005) was a friend, colleague and mentor. We became co-workers when he was 58 and I was 25. He was beginning to enter an amazingly expansive stage of intense contemplation and activism.
As he moved into his early 60s, one day he said to me that some expressions of Christianity had become too insular for his comfort. He was gleaning insights and practices from a broader diversity of Christians, as well as from other religious (and indigenous) traditions. He was a life-long learner.
When I first met Claude, he was strongly partisan about many things. As he moved into what Richard Rohr calls the “second half of life,” Claude saw that exclusivity (i.e., “my way is the right way”) is a futile attempt to cling to a worldly illusion–be it about religion, politics, or any other endeavor.
I watched Claude become more inclusive and more gracious. He saw that inclusivity (i.e., unwavering respect for the other, in spite of differences) is a liberating “letting go” in order to receive a larger, in-breaking reality born of mature faith, or what Erik Erikson called “generativity” and “integrity.”
I learned about Erikson’s stages of development in the classroom. Then, I saw Claude move into and through the final two stages. He, and those around him, enjoyed his contagious journey into generativity, integrity and inclusivity. I want to be like Claude when I grow up.