Monday, November 15, 2010

Shadows and Silence

The recent issues surrounding Don't Ask, Don't Tell are reverberating in my head and soul these days. I find it increasingly difficult to understand and cope with our society's inability and unwillingness to deal with "difference." The policy of DADT is prejudicial and degrades the quality of life of servicemen and women and alike. It's a "path of least resistance" solution. If we ignore something, it isn't real, it really isn't important, or it really, really, really says something about how we feel about ourselves and our dislike for someone else who isn't like us. We don't want to admit we have issues with "the other." This truth holds fast for oppressed people and oppressors alike.

I recall some years ago, after I suffered the consequences of DADT, how I moved home to Arizona and had to row my way through some tough waters to become reconciled to myself, The Church, and the world. It was a period of immense transformation and tremendous struggles. I began a process of "openness" that wasn't, and isn't easy. LGBT people, like people suffering with addictions, homeless people, people of color, un(under) employed and other marginalized individuals and communities constantly have to decide when, where, how, and why to unmask their personal situations, and/or "come out" to their friends, classmates, church congregations, (pastors/priests). The norm seems to be one of avoidance rather than disclosure.

Jesus said "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." (Luke 8:17) . Nonetheless, AA groups continue to meet in safe, but separate locations, as alcoholics remain intoxicated behind the security of the walls of their home. Homeless people stay in congregational shelters even as they worry that someone they know will discover their homelessness.

There are a myriad of ethical issues regarding homelessness, sexual orientation, addictions and the boundaries we put into place around these matters of difference. Faithful people and congregations alike wrestle and work around integration and interaction between members of different races, socio-economic class, generations, and sexual orientations. I'm saddened, but not surprised, by the fact that young people feel a heightened sense of shame because of their economic situation or the fact that they are lesbian, bi, and gay through no fault of their own. I empathize with people to the sense that, at one time, I was gay, unemployed and alone. I didn't want anyone to know. This sense of shame and secrecy leads me to wonder how can we work towards creating better understanding between people and relationships when we decide that the best "win-win" is to avoid one another. I don't have any ready-made answers but it certainly seems like there have to be some ideas out there worth consideration and response.

The reign of God does not exist in the shadows of society's inability to cope with otherness. Jesus the Christ physically and spiritually touched (touches) the outsiders of his day in broad daylight. Can't we work on methods to manifest his compassion today? We should work on one-on-one as well as systematic and institutional methods to become more transparent. There's a difference between hanging out a "welcoming congregation" sign and actually inviting someone into the life of a spiritual community. "Victims" as well as privilege people have to be willing to embrace one another without shame and fear. Otherwise - the institutions of our society will either avoid issues of discrimination and/or not bring them to a vote at all. Shadows of shame and separation will continue to lengthen.

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