Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is This It?

Dear Dave,

I hope this finds you well. Sorry for the long delay in writing. Spending time trying to keep the world’s most powerful corporation from becoming the dominant player in our community has taken a lot of energy. But now a public amendment process is underway in our city and Wal-Mart has permission to remain open in the meantime, so I can return to other interests.

During this past month you wrote and suggested we may have reached a natural ending point for our conversation. Perhaps you are right. Although I could easily be enticed back into this conversation, it may be a better use of time to compile our blogs and reader comments and create an e-book or maybe even a few printed books of our conversation. Maybe after I compile all the words we’d find that we each have some more to say in concluding remarks.

One of the pieces I’ve grown to appreciate about our conversation is that we’ve actually had a conversation. During this past Wal-Mart month our community went on the kind of high-energy emotional rampage that reminded me too much of the diatribes that fly around in the debate over whether men can love men and women can love women. I have a better appreciation now for those who stand up for causes. I ended up being called a development terrorist, and despite our winning the case in court, our city officials asserted that we’d “fabricated” our case. And then, to bring everything full circle, one of the Wal-Mart advocates read our blog conversation and has been trying to save my soul from damnation ever since. He keeps asking me, “Who is Jesus?” My answers do not satisfy him.

Funny to have been the brunt of so much emotion this past month, especially when I’m generally an advocate of emotion. Funny to have taken recourse in the law against Wal-Mart when I’m generally an advocate of experience first, then law.

I do think our conversation has come down to which tent we choose to live in (experience first or law first) or which side of the river we choose to live upon, and whatever other metaphors we’ve tried to share our stories to each other with. I used to be more frustrated that I couldn’t figure out ways to entice people from one side of the river to the other. In more recent years I’ve come to appreciate that our world probably benefits from a spectrum of worldviews. I even imagine that the evolution of our species has benefited from this spectrum. After all, what is a center without an edge, or an edge without a center?

I continue to lament, though, the damage that is caused by the center’s slow adaptation to new realities. Despite your statements separating LGBT questions from women’s rights and civil rights, I continue to believe that the march toward LGBT equality is in line with the march of women, of civil rights, and the other movement in the long historical tide of justice for all. I continue to believe that Christianity and society are best served by full inclusion rather than by labeling sexually active same sex relationships as sinful.

I do not know the length of the journey toward full justice, but many strides have been made. States such as Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have led the way. Churches such as the UCC and the Episcopal church have stepped up to full equality. Theologians such as Spong, Wink, and many others have made the biblical case for full equality. Leaders such as Nobel Prize Winning Bishop Desmond Tutu are outspoken advocates for full equality. Even our slow and deliberative Evangelical Lutheran Church in America made strides last week when the trial of gay pastor Bradley Schmeling resulted in a call for the church to change its rules and allow him to serve as a pastor and to continue in his committed relationship with his partner.

I’m encouraged by all these things, and I’m encouraged by our conversation. I noted in the beginning of our dialogue that the words of your book concerned me greatly, that a book titled Understanding Homosexuality, and subtitled Perspectives for the Local Church came across to me more as a caricature of gay people than an accurate description of the many church-going and secular gay people I have come to know. I appreciate you writing that such labeling was not your intent. I remain concerned that many people who read your book will perceive it in the same stereotyping way that I and others have. I believe that the way forward is for all of us to keep talking. After our Wal-Mart month I realize anew how much energy it takes to keep adding words to a conversation, and trusting the mysterious process of living in the communities we are part of. To all who keep speaking into our communities, year after year after year, my respect continues to grow.

David, thank you. I know you have been busy during these writings, yet you’ve found time for sharing much with us. I’ll put this up as a post. We’ll see if any are still checking in to read and offer remarks. Maybe you’ll have a response to this. Maybe we’ll have a few more back and forths. I’ll try and compile our blog posts and see what evolves from that process.

Blessings to you and to all,

1 comment:

ace said...

I am extremely appreciative to both of you for the amount of thought and work you have put into this conversation. We are extremely fortunate that two individuals, highly gifted in the expression of ideas into words, would take the time and effort to try, in public, to reach some common ground, or at least to understand and address issues articulated by the other.

While my position has not altered (I still feel that no interpretation of the Law can trump Jesus' example of loving and siding with the outcasts of society, and that all forms of love are blessed by the Creator), and I am still appalled by the tone and statements in "Understanding Homosexuality", I have come to better understand that both positions which you have articulated so well come from a sincere attempt to love our neighbor. The gap (and it seems a huge one!) surely comes from how best to do that, a problem, as Lars has stated of the “Tent” from which one views the world. I thank you for disabusing me of the idea that a position radically different from mine must be motivated by hate or fear, rather than a best attempt at love, guided by the light that we see. I pray that True Justice will prevail.