Monday, February 21, 2011

The "both/and" of Changing Hearts & Minds AND Passing Legislation

There's been a discussion going on in one of the comment threads on this blog that I thought was worth elevating "above the fold." It's the should we be "changing hearts and minds" or "passing legislation" question. Where should our energy be?
  • In moving forward with a legislative agenda do we "lose" the folks who aren't on board yet because we're "pushing too hard?" Or ....

  • If we wait for the "middle to move" are we participating in "justice delayed" which Martin Luther King famously described as "justice denied?"
Or, as the commenter put it yesterday, "Susan, is it affirmation of the world/Christian community that you are after or just the rights?" My answer --it turns out -- is one I've been giving for ... oh, a decade or so now. And the answer is that it can't be an "either/or" ... it HAS to be a "both/and."

And here's the story I use to illustrate my argument. (Some of you will have heard it before so bear with me.)

I grew up in the Episcopal Church LOOOOONG before there we were even close to imagining that women would ever be ordained to the priesthood. Heck, they wouldn't even let girls be acolytes ... at least not when I was "acolyte age." The boys went off to serve at the altar and the girls went off to do nursery duty.

Anyway, when the ordination of women was the last-great-schism-that-was-going-to-split-the-church-and-end-civilization-as-we-know-it, I was a fairly oblivious college student paying a lot more attention to Saturday night parties than I was to Sunday morning politics ... so I pretty much skipped right past all the controversy. (It didn't seem to come up on Easter and Christmas when I showed up for church during that "young adult lapsed phase.)

When I came back to the church on a regular basis ... after the birth of my second child in 1985 ... I knew there were some women priests about but had never actually met any. (We only had a handful in the diocese at that point and none of them had made it up over the Conejo Grade.) I would have denied that I was opposed to the ordination of women ... I just didn't want a woman for my priest. For my rector. Having had absolutely no experience of a woman in that role I couldn't even imagine it ... and was of the opinion that if I wanted a priest I wanted a "real" one ...I wanted a "Father" ... because that was how narrow my vision was for what priesthood looked like.

In 1989 I was invited to go on a retreat weekend. I knew that one of the spiritual directors for the retreat would be a woman priest named Liz and -- as I've told this story on myself over the years -- I went "condescendingly open to the experience." (Which turns out to be a great set up for the Holy Spirit!) It turned out her homily the first evening of the retreat was the first time I'd ever been sorry a preacher said "Amen" and sat down. And when I experienced her presiding at the Eucharist for the first time I realized how wrong I'd been and how real a priest she was. And in 1993 I was in seminary.

Now -- here comes the point: The women who pushed the envelope and were "irregularly" ordained in Philadelphia in 1974 and in Washington in 1975 didn't change my mind or touch my heart. Neither did the legislation that passed in Minneapolis in 1976.

But if those things hadn't happened, the way would not have been paved for her to be a priest. And I wouldn't have had the chance to experience her ministry -- which changed my heart & mind and broadened my understanding of how the Holy Spirit works through women and men equally in the sacraments.

It took both. The women willing to go out on the limb & the activists willing to push the legislative agenda. AND the experience of those who followed -- living their lives, fulfilling their vocations, making God's love and justice and compassion known even to those who couldn't imagine that their lives could be vehicles for the holy.

And it's the same today. Legislation isn't going to change anybody's mind about whether my marriage is equally valid to a heterosexual marriage. Lobbying isn't going to overcome the bias that we should Focus on Some Families and Discriminate Against Others.

But the polls are shifting. The times are changing. And for all the stress and drama and pain and angst of the daily struggle for equality, the arc of history IS bending toward justice. And I am confident that someday ... if anybody cares to ... they will read the back-and-forths on this blog (and others!) about whether families headed by same-sex couples deserve equal protection with the same bemusement we now read the arguments about whether African American children deserved equal education or whether women could be equally called to the priesthood.

I couldn't "imagine" Holy Orders that transcended gender and so I didn't "approve" of women priests. And many can't "imagine" family values that transcend sexual orientation and so they don't "approve" of marriage equality. The good news is even when we can't imagine it, God can. And the other good news is that the Holy Spirit continues to move and inspire and challenge and equip us even when our imaginations can't imagine what She's up to next. Changing hearts & minds AND passing legislation. An inch at a time. Until the Garden of Eden grows green again. THAT'S my "final answer."


JCF said...

Great post, Susan.

I, too, believe in Both/And.

While we need to "change hearts and minds" in order to pass legislation, to a significant degree, it is in passing legislation, and living in it (And Lo, the Sky Does Not Fall!) that itself changes hearts&minds.

Nothing changes minds re same-sex marriage, than KNOWING some same-sex married!

Patricia Brush said...

When I was a child, I went to the Toronto exhibition with my grandmother. As we walked through the crowd, a black family (we don't use African-Canadian)passed by. My grandmother said, "If you ever marry a black man, I will disown you." I replied, "But Gramma, what if I love him?" to which she answered, "If you don't get to know any of them, you don't have to love any of them."

My grandmother was appallingly bigoted, but she was right. It is through the experience of getting to know what was previously "the other" that we come to understanding, acceptance, and celebration.

I wonder what my grandmother would think if she knew that I am married to an Algonquin woman who was raised Roman Catholic!

Jeanette said...

I've been volleying between these two dichodomies for the past ten years conflicted on so many levels until I finally, "recently" realized that I will constantly be trying to assimilate my utter belief in the equality of individuals regardless of orientation with the realization that I do find it difficult to see how that can happen with the biblical lens that I have been struggling to stay aligned to. What I have finally come to see is that this "schism" is my generations' slavery, women's ordination, civil rights/interracial marriage issue. In another generation or two we will look back at this and realize that what we are doing now will allow our kids generation to look back at this and wonder why it was such an incredibly big deal.

All I encourage is that as you move forward with the "both/and" of this issue is that a sensitivity towards those such as myself who are still working through this issue is not forgotten. We're not monsters, nor homophobics. We're individuals attempting to work through and come to our own hermeneutics on an issue that requires a radical paradigm shift for many.

JCF said...

I don't know what you are, Jeanette...

...but you ARE a human being and a Child of God, and I feel strangely inclined to {{{hug}}} you right now!

[Then again, as Susan shows above, MY people have had a very GOOD day! Hugs for everybody! {MartinT} {LGM} step right up! :-)]

Martin T. said...

"Step right up" for what exactly,JCF? Because Obama threw you guys a kibble? You know, at one point I didn't think it was such a bad thing to get rid of DOMA, but those in the Church/GC puppet string holders would just use that as an excuse to change the meaning of marriage in the canons even though there is no biblical support to do so. Whatever, change what you want. It'll never be sanctioned by God and always looked at as heresy by the majority of the Christian community, no matter what terminology used in that pseudo-liturgy that is being worked on.

JCF said...

{{{Martin T}}}

Martin T. said...

JCF, I wouldn't let you touch me.

danielj said...

from danielj
Jesus said, 'as you have done to the least of these, you have done to me" As JCF is among the least; to refuse his hug is to refuse the same from Jesus. and you do so seriously need a hug; only love will overcome that anger which grows stronger in you day by day.

and Jesus said "GO...and learn what this means 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice'" you are in my prayers

Martin T. said...

danialj, don't start in on me. I get hugs everyday from my wife and people who I love and respect. Jesus was talking about refusing to help the sick and downtrodden, passing by them on the side of the road. You're twisting scripture to make a point and it isn't going to fly over here. No, I wouldn't let JCF touch me. I would be forced to use self-defense. Have a good day Danny boy.

danielj said...

So... next sunday when you are at mass, and its time to pass the peace...and JCF is in the pew behind you and tries to do a "Lord be with you" hug...You would resort to violence!?

and you cannot see how you might have a spiritual problem or two, to deal with?

I hope and pray that someday you find God's healing...I know from personal experience that what truly ails you, can be was healed in me.

but as a retired minister who spent a couple of decades also serving in the healing ministries...I can assure you that hanging out on this site, and doing what you do here, is not going to give you real relief.

and it appears that what i am doing here is no help to you, so i will go, and just remember you in my prayers.


uffda51 said...

Both/and, for the record.

But what can you say about a guy who, when it was suggested that he was a fanatic about LGBT/TEC issues, insisted that he was not? Yet he continues to post here multiple times per day, in the most mean-spirited way possible.

What can you say about a guy who swears he’s not homophobic, yet claims he would result to violence if a gay man ever tried to hug him?

What do you say about a guy who says that the LGBT folks are “twisting scripture,” yet maintains that the Bronze-Age level of information about human sexuality available to the writers of the Bible should be the standard we maintain in the 21st century?

What can you say?

Martin T. said...

Well uffda, I can say that you didn't read my response to you on that other post when you asked me something. I did respond. And I never said I would "result to violence if a gay man ever tried to hug me". I said I wouldn't allow JCF to touch me. NOT gay men, JCF. You want equality yet you can't let go of labels yourselves. What does JCF being gay has to do with it? You went there uffda, not I. I think those who can't go ONE sermon without mentioning LGBT equality is the real fanatic. You think on that uffda (and read my response to you on that post) and then come back at me. Until then, you have a good one,uffda. Ta-ta!

JCF said...

Everyone, PLEASE PRAY for MartinT.

I'm not sure I've ever met someone so in need of prayers---or hugs.

Lord Jesus, as you "left the 99" to find the One Lost Sheep, hold your precious and beloved son {{{MartinT}}} close.

Martin T. said...

JCF, know that I'm praying for you too my brother. It's not too late to turn from the wrong path. Know that He is patiently waiting and willing to forgive ALL sins.

JCF said...

As I am undoubtedly on some wrong, sinful paths---because I am human, and ergo fallen---I appreciate your prayers, MartinT. Know that you are in mine. Pax Christi.