Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wednesday Wisdom Assisi style

This week's Wednesday Words of Wisdom are from the old standby St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


I say this prayer every morning.
And I suspect that many of the fine Christian folks over at StandFirm do the same.
We're all trying to live up to this ideal and unfortunately we fall short on too many occasions.

The part I usually stumble over is "grant that I may not seek so much to be understood, as to understand." Often in our zeal to get our point across we lose the ability to see the person we are speaking to as a full and feeling human being.

When we come up against an opposing point of view we immediately begin looking for indications of how the person holding that point of view is not like us. With each differing trait we discover we take one step back until the other person is so far out of sight we no longer see them as being "us" - now they are "them."

We know "them."
If they're liberal Christians they exist in a world of "I'm ok you're ok" relativism - They follow a good-guy, wimpy Jesus who never had a bad word to say about anyone or any behavior. In one breath they claim that scripture is not the inerrant word of God and in the next they quote the same scripture to back up their beliefs. They are illogical, irrational, and they just don't get it.

If they're conservative Christians they exist in a world in which only their version of Christianity is the one, true way to salvation. They alone have been made privy to the true meaning of God's Word and any other humanly interpretation is invalid. They claim that scripture is the inerrant Word of God yet they fail to see that the church, the theology, the beliefs and practices that they have culled from scripture were all formed by human minds, and all are unavoidably influenced by the understanding, culture, and prejudices contained within those minds. They are illogical, irrational, and they just don't get it.

This is what makes it so easy to attack "them."
They don't see God like we do. They don’t "get" Jesus like we do.

They don't live like we do. They don't get up in the morning and go to work, hang out with their friends, or spend time with their families. They don't have laughter, or tears, or joy, or pain. They don't come home at night and kiss their spouse (of whatever gender) and thank God everyday for the love and goodness that He has brought into their lives.
They're not like us. They spend all their time wallowing in sin (liberals) or pointing out the sins of others (conservatives). Their lives are filled with hate and judgment, and they are driven solely by the desire to ruin life for the rest of us.
Can't they see that THEY are the ones who are delaying the arrival of the Kingdom of God?

This is what it comes down to.
If you're conservative, being gay is a sin and until these sinful people repent, God's Kingdom is on hold for the rest of us.
If you're liberal, being gay is just another variation in God's creation, it's not a sin, and as long as there are those who refuse to accept and love these individuals as God created them, God's Kingdom is on hold for the rest of us.

There is no reconciling these two viewpoints.
We both see our position as being a matter of life or death.
There is no way to compromise.
One of the two has to change or none of us is going anywhere.

It is for this reason that I have refrained from responding directly to the folks over at StandFirm. They have lobbed accusations at me in particular and at liberal Christians in general that are both theological and personal in nature. But frankly I don't see the point in addressing any of those accusations. I don't see either side as truly wanting to enter into a "dialogue." We're not trying to understand each other. We're trying to convince each other why we are right and the other is wrong.

It's so much easier to mock each other rather than to try to understand each other.
For those who stumbled upon my little blog and dismissed me as being an immature lightweight who is unworthy of your respect based on what you found here - I'm sorry I haven't lived up to your standards. This blog was never intended to be a hard-hitting, count-counterpoint, fight-for-our-cause site. It's just an extension of my personal diary. I use it to explore my faith, my feelings, and my questionings; and I do it with humor because that's how I feel God intended us to be in this world; and I share these wandering musings with others because I believe these things are best explored in community. My readers are my family and friends.

For the individual who questioned my fitness for ministry based on my reaction to the vote taken in our congregation, I was expressing a feeling that I had in the moment.
I do not fear my fellow congregants nor do I think any less of them for expressing their opinions. I understand the reasoning behind the vote but that doesn't mean it didn't touch me on an emotional level.
You and I are seeing this situation from two different perspectives which is why we can not reconcile the other's point of view.

As I interpret it, conservatives believe homosexuality is a sin and a sin is a behavior that can be changed, therefore those who object to the validation of sin as an acceptable behavior have a right to have their voices heard and to participate in the democratic process.
I believe my sexual orientation is as much a part of me as my eye and skin color. I can not change it. Nor have I ever felt in my life that God wanted me to change it. On the contrary, God came into my life the moment that I came to the realization and acceptance of who I was. So you can see how it would be upsetting to sit amongst my friends and listen to them discuss whether the way God created people like me is valid and worthy of the same treatment as others. It's hard not to take it personally.

I'm not as naïve as some have painted me to be. I know that there are a multitude of ways in which we humans understand God and express theology. That doesn't mean that I can't raise objections when I encounter beliefs, in my denomination or others, that from my understanding of God are based more on fear and lack of understanding than on love and desire for reconciliation.

God speaks to us in many different ways and we're all convinced that we are the ones who have it right. We have to be. We are beings who crave order. We have an aversion to contradiction, ambiguity, uncertainty. We like things to be black and white. We don't feel comfortable with grays. It has to be either / or - it can't be both.
We can't both be right.

We gay Christians wish that those who see us as unrepentant sinners could spend just five minutes walking in our shoes, understanding and hearing God the way that we do, then they would know how much joy and love He give us when we come to be exactly who it is He created us to be.
Just the same, conservative Christians wish that we gays could see and hear the God that speaks to them, then we would know that we have lost our way and are not following the Christ in the manner that was intended.

So what do we do?
The folks at StandFirm may not all behave the way we'd like them to, and the folks at MadPriest don't all behave the way the StandFirm people would like them to.
We all have the ability to be downright nasty and to react with personal attacks and degenerative humor when we feel like our position is being mocked or questioned.
Some folks try to be diplomatic, some thrive on being hurtful and destructive, some use clever jokes to take the edge off the nastiness and/or pain, others have tried to make nice in the past and have thrown up their hands in disgust, choosing to fight fire with fire because while "love thy enemy' is a nice sentiment, it rarely gets you anywhere in the real world, especially in the semi-anonymous world of internet blogs.

"Why can't they just LISTEN!" is the cry that comes from both sides.
"Why are they so ignorant, unyielding, pig-headed, and blinded by their own ideology?"
"Why can't they see God?"

God only knows the answer to that one.
Our only choice is to accept the ambiguity, accept the uncertainty, accept that we have different eyes, and different hearts, and different minds, different life histories and different paths to follow.
We have to accept that while there is ONE God, we can't help but see him in thousands of different ways. It's in our nature to do so. Just as the light streaming through a stained glass window comes from one true source yet is dispersed in a rainbow of colors, the light of God comes into this world and is experienced in many different ways. We may see only one color from our perspective but that doesn't negate the existence of the colors that others are experiencing.
We have to ask ourselves, why would God create us with the ability - the almost compulsive drive - to experience Him in so many different ways if we were not meant to do so?

And I'm fully aware of the irony of these statements.
Those who can't see any other path to God but the one they are on will never accept the existence of ambiguity and contradiction, and will always claim that the color they see is the only color that God emits.
So we're right back at square one lobbing insults at each other across a great divide.

God help us all.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...


Nina said...

Thank you. It's clear and courageous, and very generous, too.

Cecilia said...

She will.

Pax, C.

Mystical Seeker said...

Some people have a hard time realizing that personal blogs are just that--a personal online log. Instead they somehow get the impression that the public nature of the online journal somehow makes it a kind of discussion board, one that is fair game for hit and run attacks.

As for the irreconcilability of the different world views, that is a lesson I learned a long time ago.

Eileen said...

Mo - I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to read this before today, because, it's the truth, it's beautiful, and it's devastating.

Much love being sent out to your for these words.

Suzer said...

What everyone else said. Thanks for this. :)

Zanne said...

Hello! Just found you and much about your profile is similar to mine--including the INFJ! Thank you for your thoughtful post. I've spent days reading all the reactions to the vote and yours was a welcome voice.

Do you know ? The discussions there really challenge me as I listen to the 2 sides and find myself convicted by my own reactions. I don't have any answer to such polarized positions. All I can think to do is to commit to kindness and love, which is not easy when I am feeling hurt and misunderstood.

But for right now, I must confess to feeling somewhat encouraged by the vote and the agreement that did occur between our own bishops, as well as the spirit of graciousness that seemed to be present. It gives me hope.

Zanne said...

Oops sorry about my confusion regarding your denomination--it sounded so like mine! Well I guess it just goes to add that the Spirit is challenging us all in the Body! Blessings to you! :)