Friday, March 19, 2010

What to do when some people seem to just not "get it"

Hint: Help them.

Yes, it's annoying when our words seem to fall on deaf ears or -- worse -- are twisted to mean something we hadn't intended. And that seems to happen more and more.

It also seems to me we have a couple of choices when it happens. Jesus gives us the "shake the dust off your sandals" opt out in Matthew ... and I guess the 21st century version of that is "hit delete." And sometimes that's the best thing to do.

But there's another option -- and that's to help them. Get it.

I know, I know. You've done it a thousand times. You've told your story a million, you've defended your position in hundreds of venues and variations ... it does, indeed, get VERY wearying.

I totally get it.

And yet ...

"Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ Jesus" doesn't have an * followed by
*to those who will listen to you, get it the first time and agree with you about everything.
(I double checked. Just a couple minutes ago. Not there.)
SO ... here's an example of giving it one more shot. My recent exchange with Cheryl Wetzel over on Anglicans United.

She'd posted Ruth Gledhill's piece about the Archbishop of Canterbury not being so amused about the election of Mary Glasspool, along with an "Ed. Note" that included this commentary:

Finally, the Rev. Susan Russell, former president of Integrity said: "I've never been prouder to be an Episcopalian or a daughter of the Diocese of Los Angeles — where we are ready to turn this election into an opportunity for evangelism." Silly me. I thought the point of our evangelism was Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. We will celebrate this phenomenon again in three short weeks. Gay incorporation is NOT the focus of our faith and continued statements of that fact by Integrity - or our bishops - cannot make it so.
Bless her heart, I guess I wasn't CLEAR enough about what I meant by evangelism. So I decided to try again, and posted this comment [which is "awaiting moderation" and might never see the light of day, so I'm posting it here:]


Thanks for the “ink” and for the chance to clarify. The evangelism to which I refer is — believe it or not — the old fashioned kind: the proclamation of the Good News of God in Christ Jesus made available to all. The mystery of faith: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Jesus’ call to us to go therefore and make disciples of ALL.

Well, I think you get my point.

What the election of Mary Glasspool allows us to do — empowers us to do — in the Diocese of Los Angeles is to reach out to those yearning for spiritual community and thinking they already know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one based on what they think they know about Christians: Narrow. Bigoted. Judgemental. Sexist. Homophobic.

Well, I think you get my point.

Thanks again for reposting the article. I’ll bookmark your blog for future reference. Lenten Blessings, Susan+
Now not EVERY moment is a teachable one -- that's why we have the "shake off your sandals/hit delete" option.

But if we're looking for them, we can find them -- sometimes in the MOST unexpected places!


UPDATE: My comment did indeed get "moderated" onto the site ... and I got a nice note from Cheryl Wetzel advising me of that, along with her response:

My reply is that is has ALWAYS been available to ALL. From those who repeatedly tell "little white lies" to the most craven murderer: Jesus Christ and true spiritual communion is available to all. One difference is that the Biblically orthodox talk about Jesus and the woman at the well, remembering the final phrase of that story, "Go and sin no more." It is NOT enough to merely say that Jesus spoke with her and drank water from her ladle and then omit that final phrase. We all sin.

The gay community, as far as I can tell, as demanding a pass on their sin; equivocation that it is NOT sin. There is no Biblical foundation for this demand. There are some modern theologians that are trying to make this stick, but their work is thin and has not been validated by authorities in that field. I have had good friends who are gay since the early '70's. Their salvation is no less important to me than my neighbor's. -- Cheryl M. Wetzel

So, boys and girls: for the record ... THIS IS WHAT ACTUAL DIALOGUE LOOKS LIKE. I certainly don't agree with Cheryl ... and in a second I'll post my reponse to her reponse ... but just because I don't flatter myself that I'm going to "change her mind" doesn't mean we can't be in conversation.

At the end of her email to me, Cheryl included this (I think) important addition to what she posted above to the blogsite:
It seems to me that our difference is in the definition of sin and how encompassing that definition is. Good to hear from you. Cherie Wetzel
And so I replied:
Thanks for this and I think you have hit the nail RIGHT on the head about the "sin" part. In point of fact, we are not "demanding a pass on sin" ... our faithful reading of scripture and our lived experience of the holy in our relationships convince us that sexual orientation is morally neutral and it is indeed not only possible but optimal to live a life in alignment with God's love and authentically as LGBT people.
And now I need to step away from cyberland and get going in laundry and errand-land ... more later!



I am LOVING my "Google Alerts" ... that let me know what people are saying on blogs I would never have time to keep an eye on otherwise. Thanks, Google!

MarkBrunson said...

Really, Susan.

You can't teach animals, only train them. You really are empowering their dysfunction by treating them as rational beings.

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

This is splendid. I think of those I know who are not touched by the Gospel, and by the extraordinary ways that the forces of homophobia and hatred and bigotry have made it almost impossible for them to hear. And at a gathering at my house at St. Pat's day, I could tell of Mary Glasspool and the good news of the confirmation of her election, and people who might never give a thought realize, for at least a blink of a moment, that here is one place where they may find a measure of acceptance.

And that sense that there are people who care, people who love, people who listen and know. People who "get it". I am so sad that so many of those that the church is FOR: the poor, the oppressed, the lonely, the sad, those without friends, have gotten the hateful message that the church has no room for them.

It is, as you say, good old fashioned evangelism. Praise God for even small steps forward.

(It hits me at a good radical moment as I reread Ched Myers, Jacques Ellul, and Vernard Eller again....)

Amy said...

You rock. Awesome.

Kirstin said...

She's following the Baptismal Covenant, Mark.

"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?"

"I will, with God's help."

Joe said...

My frustration is that any rational argument on blogs such as Virtue's and Harmon's is moderated out so that they can show a united voice against TEC, inclusion, etc. My experience is that approaching a debate with kindness and a willingness to listen is immediately returned with screeching and name-calling of the most unseemly sort...if the moderator is brave enough to post an opposing view, that is. Oh well.

Your message is solid, Susan, and since becoming an Episcopalian, others around me have been drawn to the church, each in their own locations. I think you've hit the nail on the head by showing the evangelism a moment like this sparks. For all the screechers out there crying that the sky is falling, there are two or three others watching and quietly yearning for a church that is not crippled by homophobia, bigotry, sexism, racism, child abuse, etc. Bp Glasspool's election just reinforces what the signs say...The Episcopal Church welcomes you.


Check out the Update from Cheryl ... just posted

IT said...

You have hit the nail squarely on the head. The argument truly is whether sexual orientation and expression thereof is a SIN or NOT.

Whether one reads the Bible as condemning homosexuality--or rather, condemning promiscuous misuse of sexuality generally.

This is why the argument will never, ever be resolved. Because Cheryl and her ilk will never cease believing that you, or I, or any faithfully partnered gay person is anything but sinning simply by being a partnered gay person.

To them, it really is as indefensible as overlooking, or celebrating murder, or child abuse.

I don't think their side are going to go off and have an epiphany and suddenly celebrate us the same as any other couple.

And I hope that security will be good in Long beach.


The security will be good.

(And -- because God has a sense of humor -- that's Long Beach Pride Weekend! :)

MarkBrunson said...


Dignity of all persons is not served by treating irrational animals as rational human beings. Put them in a kind and gentle insane asylum if you like, but stop playing nicey-nice because it's not just your life you're playing with!