Monday, November 26, 2012

The Opposite of Reconciling

Oh fuck.

I just got home from church with a bad case of indigestion. I should have farted while I was there.  I should have enveloped a couple of the people there in a vile cloud. 


I need to start at the beginning.  I go to church, okay?  I generally like my church, but we've had a hard time when it comes to gay people. We had a gay minister and when she left, some people were appalled to find out that she was gay.  The next minister was also gay, though she was openly gay.  I liked her.  She was a good minister, but some members of our church forced her out.  It was heartbreaking.  So last spring, one of our more liberal members asked us to consider becoming a reconciling church.  That means that we'd move away from the dictates of the church organization and support gay and lesbians in our congregation, that we'd accept a gay or lesbian minister, or that we might even break the church's rules and allow gay marriages to occur there.  Now that would be something, wouldn't it?

We did what we were supposed to do.  We discussed the issue, gingerly.  In general, I kept my mouth shut.  I could argue that gay people are just trying to live their lives in peace.  I could argue that our job, as Christians, is to love one another.  I could even argue that, if a gay person isn't allowed to be a member of our church because it's supposedly a sin, then there must be no room for a person like me who has committed real sins, some of the ones that are on the list of ten in the bible. 

I could say all that and if you agree with me, you might applaud my arguments.

If you disagree, you might come up with opposing arguments.  You might point out passages in the bible that say that being gay is a sin.  I might respond with Jesus's rule to love one another.  Doesn't that trump every other rule? But hopefully we could have a civilized conversation and then agree to disagree. 

Does anyone ever change their minds once they've made it up about something like this?  Would any of these arguments sway anyone in the opposition?  Well, they didn't tonight.  I didn't expect them to.

So tonight, we voted about it, just the members, mind you.  Just the members of our church. 

One woman brought all of her grandchildren, at least the ones that had been confirmed in the church within the last three years.  There were six children there between the ages of thirteen and fifteen.  Six.  She was one of the most vocal members when it came to dumping the gay minister.  So, technically, all six of these children could vote about the church issues, including the one regarding being a reconciling church.  Now, that may have been as smart as the Republicans offering to take ballots to the mail box, but personally, I think it was sneaky. I'm sure these kids were coached, every single one of them.  It would never have occurred to me to bring a child to a meeting like this. 

So, before we voted, people were allowed to make statements.  It was interesting.  I listened quietly when a man talked about all the rules the bible was supposed to have against people being homosexual.  I kept quiet and listened.  Then I realized that if we did vote and someone came to our church, thinking that we were open to them having a spiritual experience there, we could actually hurt people, badly.  Then someone actually said what I'd been thinking, but by then, the moderator had pointed to me and asked me if I had anything to say. 

Now, I'm not a very good public speaker.  I don't usually get my thoughts in order before I open my mouth. Then, when I think of a better way to say something, it sounds like I'm repeating myself.  Editing doesn't go down very well when it's live.  But this time, I knew what I wanted to say. 

"I believe this was an important civil rights issue," I said.  "Many of the other civil rights issues have already been addressed at least in some part.  Women gained the right to vote.  There is a black man in the Oval Office, but we still have some work to do regarding gay rights and I think this is a great opportunity ..."

"Oh for God's sake," I heard a woman say two rows ahead of me.

She didn't just say that.  I finished what I was saying, but it didn't matter what I said. To tell you the truth, I had been proud of what I said.  I got to the point and then I quit talking.  I didn't repeat myself, not even once.  But it was the audible 'Oh for God's sake' that everyone will remember.  Shit, it's what I remember.  I barely remember what else I said after that except that I'd thought I'd said it well.

Oh for God's sake.

I'm one of those people who figures out what I should have said an hour later.  I should have stopped talking and said, 'Excuse me?' to this woman.

I now realize, it wasn't really an open discussion.  Some people were allowed to voice their opinions without being interrupted, but I wasn't.

Oh for God's sake. 

This woman is in a book club that I go to on Thursdays.  I think of all the times I talked about what we were reading.  I was always sincere when I spoke up.  I felt as though what I had to say contributed to the group.  I don't want to sit in a room with this woman now, not unless I can fart and then walk away. 

Thank you for listening, jules

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