Returning

Sorry, it’s been a while.  But it’s 8.37 on a Saturday morning, I’m watching Jean Vigo’s ‘A Propos de Nice’ (a dialogue-free short film about French people being happy, any five minutes of which are better than ‘Inception’ – which is already very good, but Vigo doesn’t need CGI to turn a Gallic city upside down), and for some reason I want to blog again.

No big promises – but if you join me in the comments, I’ll be grateful and try to write more often.

My thoughts this weekend:

The proposed North Carolina constitutional amendment to ban recognition of same-sex partnerships is antithetical to the best of what the US stands for in terms of personal liberty and the pursuit of happiness; it is opposed to the spirit of compassion and respect and love for neighbor that are at the heart of the Christian teaching that everyone who supports the amendment cites as their reason for doing so; even while its proponents believe (or say they believe) the amendment protects their own marriages, if passed it will actually actively hurt people who only want to be allowed to have a measure of protection and recognition for the love they share, and therefore it follows will in reality undermine community as the foundation of society; it continues a tragic tradition of fear being used to oppress people who are already marginalized; it serves no positive purpose and in fact reinforces the social structural realities that lead to stories such as this one.

Groups like Believe Out Loud, Equality NC, and Faith in America are good resources for information and how to take action, but I’d want to emphasize one thing that is often, by my sights, neglected in anti-homophobia/pro-humanity activism: Genuine dialogue.  I changed my mind about theology and sexuality partly through relationships with people wiser and more experienced than I, partly through academic reflection, and partly through my own experience.  This seems to me to fit with the Wesleyan quadrilateral of engaging scripture, reason, tradition and experience as we seek to discern what is right, among other historic Christian ways of interpreting the world.  It is not a betrayal of Christian principle to be open to dialogue with people with whom you disagree.  It has a long and noble history.  I’m happy to talk with anyone who wants to know where I stand, what I think, and why I believe that a serious conversation about sexuality and spirituality is not just important for the sake of addressing the injustice of inequality and homophobia, but for the future of peace on earth.  I’ll write more about this later; for now, I want to invite a dialogue; and to ask you to seriously consider how we might persuade proponents of the anti-LGBTQ amendment that it is actually in their interests to vote against it.

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9 responses to “Returning

  1. Thank you Gareth for another thoughtful blog. “I want to invite a dialogue; and to ask you to seriously consider how we might persuade proponents of the anti-LGBTQ amendment that it is actually in their interests to vote against it.” After spending countless hours writing, preaching and dialoguing about this topic I am advocating a different way of being. It may sound simplistic but I have been living “as if”. “As If” the norms are marriage for everyone who wants it. “As if” sexual relationship norms include same sex, differently sexed, trans relationships etc. I continue to engage in dialogue but this approach has seemed to give me some sense of peace about the conversations. The more apologetics I engage in the more people tend to start drawing lines of difference and entrench in their position. So I tell my stories and listen to the other story. I try to ask questions (and unfortunately sometimes think of the best questions after the conversation has ended). This may just be a season in my life and anger and frustration may very well result in a more forceful approach again but for now I hope that living “as if” is not in some way undermining the work but rather give permission to those of us who have been marginalized to truly embrace the idea that societal constructions don’t have to limit us.

  2. My understanding is that the ideal relationship is: one man & one woman for a lifetime. It doesn’t seem to work that way in general, and indicates how far we are from Creator and Creation, and how desperately we need New Creation.

    I am committed to this view, but it does not necessarily translate into a position regarding law. I am up in the air when it comes to what the state should legislate and enforce. As a church historian, I remain gun-shy when it comes to requiring, under penalty, everyone to play by my rules.

  3. I frequently cite the passage from Isaiah where god says “Come, let us reason together.” Like you, my journey has taken me far from the traditional shores of “christian”thought to a completely different place. I’ve reconsidered what my role as a believer is, how I should support and love people who make different life and love choices than I make, and what ideas like “marriage” really mean to all kinds of people. If I must define it as a word from my churchianity days, then I’ve already lost contact with a vast population with whom I might have an enlightening dialogue–be they gay, straight, sexually-active, abstinent, etc.

  4. Suzanne, I’m intrigued by the idea of “as if”. How would that look, contextually? Can you give us an example? It sounds like a very gentle and open way of creating dialogue, but I’m not sure I’m wrapping my brain around it.

  5. dsrtrosy: I got the idea from a Queer Theologian who explained that if he spent all of his time defending himself he would never get to the work God had given him to do. So I nicknamed it the “as if” attitude for myself. I took his concept to mean that as I seek to do the work I have been given this will naturally cause others to ask questions, become curious, or in some cases I admit share their hostility. I don’t go out of my way to defensively debate with someone about an issue anymore. If I hear something I don’t agree with and the person seems to be open to dialogue I will engage with them. But instead of trying to defend myself to someone who has already made up their mind about something I instead ask questions of them to get them talking about their underlying values which led them to their conclusions. Even as I write I realize that I am not very good at letting unjust words go by without comment – but I seem to feel more empathy since I have adopted this view. Now mind you I am a preacher so issues do come up in sermons but even then I tend to be pedagogical and dialogical by asking questions and allowing people to share. It is rather organic and I have only been living this way since May so it’s all very new for me as well. And I admit sometimes I am taken back by the strength of people’s convictions but if I can really listen then maybe we can create together a space for some new kind of discourse to take place. I have a gay uncle who belongs to the Tea Party and does not believe in same sex marriage. We have been talking past each other for over a year now so this summer was a time of a different kind of being with him. I engaged in conversation with him “as if” the norm was mutual respect regardless of opinions, standing firmly in the knowledge that my work in this world is to seek justice in my scholarship and preaching. I went in “as if” I didn’t have anything to lose and “as if” I didn’t have to convince him of anything. I talked a with him about my views on gay marriage “as if” it were understood by all, as Gareth said, that it actually strengthens communities. Whereas in the past I would enter the room rather arrogantly expecting a fight because I would have to defend my position once again. So perhaps it is in the “letting go” of trying to persuade that we persuade? I am not sure but I am trying to remain open to keep talking, listening and learning…

  6. Thanks for speaking out publicly on this, Gareth, and opening up some space for dialogue and discussion here. I’m in conversation with Jay Bakker and Rev. Vince Anderson about them coming down to NC for some kind of rally/event to generate support/awareness for the campaign to Vote No on Amendment One.

  7. Suzanne–thank you. That’s worth an article in and of itself! I have this deep, innate sense of justice that often makes me speak out when I should probably keep quiet, but I can see how incorporating some of your ideas into that justice also allows for dialogue to happen with less hostility. It’s funny…it almost seems counter-intuitive to a long-held belief of mine that we need to define our terms so that everyone can see the differences, but I think it embraces that as well in its way. Going to mull on this.

  8. dsrtrosy: please keep mulling… it may be that I am missing something important I haven’t considered