Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wednesday Conversations

Once again, God had to hit me over the head with truth.

I had posted an entry about a group I am working with, and all the frustrations I am feeling over working with them (or not working, as the case may be), feeling distrusted and snubbed.

Well, I still feel a bit of the snub, but having had a conversation with one of the individuals involved (ah, communication!), I understand more of where they are coming from.

We're trying to organize an AIDS vigil, and from the beginning we had talked about it being interfaith. I have no issue with that, I'm very into ecumenical and interfaith projects. But I kept running into a brick wall every time we talked about the spiritual leaders we should be inviting--I got resistance, and foot-dragging and speculations that whoever we invited would suddenly start spewing homophobic garbage, etc. I could not understand it--to me, common sense said that those whose faith deemed homosexuality incompatible with Godliness would simply not be interested in participating. To others in the group, there was a concern that people would agree to participate and then use the opportunity to fulminate against homosexuality or People living With AIDS--I found this farfetched. I was feeling that my understandings and my own previous participation in interfaith gatherings was being pooh-poohed and dismissed.

Conversation can resolve a lot of things.

After conversation with one of the individuals, I understand their concerns--which are different from what I had thought. The fact is, there are very few spiritual leaders in River City who are supportive of PWAs, because (presumably) of the issue of homosexuality. We don't want to invite someone simply because he or she represents a certain faith tradition, and then have them say hateful things or act inappropriately. And the other issue is closetedness--someone may not want their religious leader to know about their sexuality, and yet here they are at an AIDS event. There simply aren't supportive spiritual leaders outside of the Christian (MCC and United Church) aboriginal (First Nations/Native American), and Unitarian traditions. We don't know enough about the (2) rabbis in town, and we certainly don't know a supportive imam. The Buddhist community isn't organized, and the Sikhs and Hindus are not sympathetic either. So our problem with the event being interfaith is not a lack of desire or will; it's a lack of participants from other than a very few traditions.

I am really resonating with a certain bumper sticker today--"Mean people suck," mean people being those who would condemn all homosexuals and all PWAs, who would shove those of us who love others of our own gender out into the cold beyond all possibility of God's love.

And I am glad to have had that conversation. Like the thunderstorm we're having right now, it cleared the air and left me feeling cleaner and lighter.

But mean people still suck.


Sophia said...

My best friend is a rabbi (and a partnered lesbian about to become a parent.)

I understand your concern about people causing trouble, being hateful, etc. and I would be just as wary as your committee members about the other Christian denominations in town.

However, I think you should at least give the rabbis a call. Chances are that if they are Reform or Reconstructionist congregations they support PWA. If they are Conservative or Orthodox congregations they might also, and regardless are unlikely to say anything off the wall at an event. My extensive experience in the Jewish community tells me that Jews don't tend to think it's okay to show up at an event and say disparaging things.

Rainbow Pastor said...

I've had a lot of experience in the Jewish community, too, and if I were in the States I wouldn't hesitate to call them. In Canada, however, the fault lines between Reconstructionist, Reform, and Conservative are not as clear. I don't think they even use those terms--I had some conversation with a Jewish woman who is very active in her congregation, and she had no idea what I meant when I asked if the congregation was Reform or Conservative. And the Jewish population here in River City isn't large enough to support a GLBT congregation--the Christian population barely supports me...

And unfortunately, the one bad experience I've had with clergy using a public worship service to spout off was with a Conservative rabbi (and former professor of mine) at a Yom HaShoah service at the seminary--very political statements made dogmatically (and after he'd been rude enough to show up half an hour late for the service in the first place...). I liked him very much, and learned from him, but that really cheesed me (and the other organizers).

The lessons we learn one year help us for the next!

Sophia said...

Rainbow Pastor,

Sorry to hear that the situation is no less complicated with the Jewish community in River City.

I feel like I owe you an apology for the tone of my comment. It was supposed to sound casual, like, "oh, I was wondering if the Jewish congregations in the area would be helpful" because I've often noticed that people forget this resource. It was definitely not supposed to sound like "I know your area better than you" or "I know more than you" which of course I don't and couldn't. It sounds like you're doing a tough job in a place where your experience and wisdom is needed very much. I'm sorry if my comment made it sound like I thought anything else. :-(

Rainbow Pastor said...


...and I shouldn't have been so touchy! My interfaith experience is a sore spot right now, as you know from the post... I didn't mean to react so sharply.

Still friends?


Sophia said...

Of course!


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