Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Getting It

Because so much time is spent in arguments with people who don't get it, it often seems we are spinning our wheels. We think that people are frozen with their views. Because of that, we think the church or society is polarized and it is a matter of winning or losing.

The reality is that people eventually do get it. That is what gives me great hope. I believe in two things:
  • I believe that most people who have negative views regarding lgbt people are not hateful.
  • I also believe that people who have negative views will not always have those views.
There are exceptions. Some folks have been so damaged and/or so conditioned by faulty views that they may not live long enough to have their consciousnesses raised. But I don't think most people are like that and that given time and opportunity most people will get it. This is not merely an abstract belief, I have seen it happen again and again. It has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my ministry.

The website Family Acceptance is a wonderful example of a family who got it. It is the story of a church going family in the South who had to come to terms with their son who came out. It wasn't easy. They had to wrestle with the views they had learned from their religion. (This is why it would be so much easier to love as Christ loves if our religious denominations weren't so wrong about this. But, life is rarely easy).

Religious language against gays is the reason so much of my career (I never thought it would be so going in) is devoted to helping religious people and my religious denomination get it. When I focus on the larger picture, I don't worry too much about one cycle of voting. I will work hard to remove obstacles and to keep out harmful and faulty language about our lgbt sisters and brothers from becoming official policy, but it is an on-going process.

What does it mean to "get it?"

Getting it is making the connection between religious language (whether that language is vulgar or sophisticated) and the lives of real lgbtq people. Discrimination, violence, etc. is connected to what is heard from the pulpit which in turn comes from theological statements from authoritative people and documents (such as church policies).

I have also discovered that more than any single factor by far, religious views about gays have been the source of the most pain in families and in society. If you haven't worked with folks who have experienced rejection from families and their churches for religious reasons because they are gay, you likely won't get it.

I have also discovered that it is difficult if not impossible to argue people into getting it. Folks do or they don't. Getting it is like a conversion experience. For some getting it is like Saul struck down on the Damascus Road by the presence of Christ who says, "Why are you persecuting me?" Here is a guy who got it.

But I have discovered that it is helpful to seize upon opportunities for conversion when they arise. These opportunities include:
  1. A family member or friend coming out...
  2. A denomination being asked to vote on a change in policy...
  3. A tragic situation (such as the Knoxville shooting) that requires reflection and action.
These opportunities and others are crises that can raise our level of consciousness and enable us to get a glimpse of one another as Christ sees us. They are opportunities that if engaged can help folks get it. And getting it is a good, good thing.

6 comments:

  1. I appreciate your comments. I like most your reminder to hang onto hope. Your strong voice is needed and appreciated.

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  2. I agree. We need and appreciate your voice John, thank you for your ministry.

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  3. As a UUer here in Knoxville I just want to say that I have appreciated all the support from the Christian Community, near and far. However, I appreciate most the support of those who "get it"-- as you seem to-- and get that this is more than saying kind words and "showing solidarity" in vigils... more than that, me (and most UUers, I would add) appreciate shows of solidarity that continue through social justice action, such as welcoming GLBT people into your own church community (as you have done). I sincerely appreciate this action, and the message behind it. I hope that this tragedy we have recently experienced can be used as a forum for long-term love growth rather than a brief blip in life where, for a few weeks, Christians felt sorry for us. I hope many Christians will start to question what hate messages, or simply silences, may be occurring at their church. This is a long ramble to say that I appreciate your comments and I hope people are urged, more and more in this, to step up and try to "get it"... to get each other in this process...

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  4. Audrey: Thank you and my wish for strength for you in Knoxville.

    Toshiba: I appreciate your voice, too!

    Caroline: Thank you commenting and for sharing your heart on your blog. You said the following so well:

    I hope that this tragedy we have recently experienced can be used as a forum for long-term love growth rather than a brief blip in life where, for a few weeks, Christians felt sorry for us. I hope many Christians will start to question what hate messages, or simply silences, may be occurring at their church.

    Hear that, church?

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  5. I can admit I 'don't get it' - as in - I know I don't truly understand the whole gay issue. That being said, they can hold that against me if they want - I will not hold anything against them.

    I respect the gay community and always feel welcome in their community (to some degree - some female lesbians really hate men so this isn't always true about feeling welcome). I am not sure it is a sin or isn't - I just know they are people who get rejected by society and that ain't cool. My heart resides for them in that they face horrible things and we should be more merciful towards them - they have it fairly rough sometimes.

    Where I am in 100% agreeance is int the churches use of language on this issue and what the church can do differently. I think they are helping to continue an atmosphere of 'gay bashing' - in their lack of tolerance on this issue and some of the things said over the pulpit. I am not saying the church wants 'gay bashing' - but in the fact they want 'no gays' is pretty much where this line of thinking leads.

    I have asked myself what should be said in churches - and maybe nothing is more ideal than what it being said. The church is helping to sustain a culture of hate towards gay people - and if not hate - then misinformation and biases. Who the hell are they to cast these stones anyways?

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  6. I think they are helping to continue an atmosphere of 'gay bashing' - in their lack of tolerance on this issue and some of the things said over the pulpit. I am not saying the church wants 'gay bashing' - but in the fact they want 'no gays' is pretty much where this line of thinking leads.

    Sounds to me like you "got it." I don't think we have to agree or understand all the complexities of human life, including sexuality.

    It is enough to know that when we bash gays verbally in the pulpit it leads to gays getting bashed physically in the streets.

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