Cut and Paste

I’ve had a startling revelation–I’m conservative.

At least, the elements of my life reflect conservative values. I am married to a partner of opposite sex. He is my first spouse, and the father of both our children. We have 2.5 kids–meaning, two kids and a really sweet dog. We have very little debt. Heck, we don’t even have a car payment. We don’t have cable. One parent stays home with the children full-time. We do not let our kids watch inapproprate television, nor do we expose them to music containing bad language. In fact, the most unChristian content aired at our house comes in the vise of political campaign comercials. But that is a post for another day.

Did i mention that we are a Christian household? And we go to church every.dang.sunday.oftheworld. We spend Sunday afternoons lounging on the couch watching football. We play frisbee and fly kites. We smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving (and that is ALL we smoke), we string lights on a Christmas tree, and we skype with the grandparents. I see some benefits of smaller government. I love the smell of laundry and frequently use a crock pot. For entertainment, I enjoy hiking, reading, eating out, road trips, and local parks. I have family values in the most literal sense–i value families.

I mean–if that’s not fitting in the box, then boy, i don’t know what is. But for all that, here’s the point at which, according to the some of the rhetoric, i stop being conservative: I don’t need my neighbors to fit in the same box. I don’t need my political leaders to fit in the same box. I don’t need for my kids’ schoolteachers to fit in that same box, and i certainly don’t need for the people i worship and serve with to look like me. I don’t think my gay and lesbian friends are any less human or holy than me; i don’t think my congressmen or senators need to be Christian like me; i’m not fearful of my neighbors who are Muslim or atheist, and i don’t judge people who let their kids watch Honey-boo-boo and Jersey Shore (ok, i don’t judge them much).

Follow me a minute–if conservatism means that you want less regulation in your life–why does it not also mean wanting less regulation in the lives of your neighbors? I don’t get it.

I’m not expecting an answer, by the way. It’s just worth noting that who we think we are, and what we say we want, does not always neatly align with a party, a denomination, a ‘value’ system, or a certain news network.

A parable: Our church office runs on a program called ‘powerchurch.’ If you are part of a faith community, some version of this software probably contains your life stats–your name and address, your birthday, your anniversary, the date you joined the church, the names of your children, whether you like to receive the newsletter by snail or email, your pledge amount, your leadership roles in the church…all that good stuff is contained in a data base somewhere. It makes the world go round.

Thing is…our version of Powerchurch does not know how to process a non-traditional family. It wants a head of household, and it wants there to be 2.5 children. Try entering a single parent; a same-sex couple; two people who live together but are not married; two people who are married but do not share the same last name; grandparents raising grandchildren, or children who come to church with grandparents but not parents; you name it–if its outside the box, our system can’t process it. It might as well say ‘does not compute’ for the mess it makes of our directory.

System upgrade, you say? Yes, we need one. In more ways than one.

As a metaphor for the traditional church, it is just too good. Churches everywhere fall into malfunction for just this reason–they don’t know how to process the stuff that doesn’t fit in the box. Certain people are made to feel distinctly unwelcome and unfit for service, so the system can keep functioning as it always has, and well…here we all are.

What is it about our religious history, or our political framework, that makes us think this box is the most important thing to our well-being? I know people–and so do you–who fit in the box in every way. And yet, they are without hope, without faith, without joy, in every way. I also know people who live, distinctly and intentionally, outside of the box, and they are happy, healthy, fully-functioning, life-giving members of society.

Call me a liberal, or call me a conservative.  I cannot, for the life of me, understand the energy, the time, and the resources, that have gone into making the ‘traditional family’ model the canon, the gospel, and the law of the land. Such waste, and such fear, do not align with any healthy religious life, or any productive form of government. It is poor stewardship, and it is bad faith.

We are too late–far, far too late–to change the conversation for this election cycle. But my hope–in fact, my fervent prayer–is that, 4 years from now, we will be talking about other stuff. We will be talking about the economy; and the education of our many (differently-gifted, differently-colored, differently-resourced) children; we will be talking about our stewardship of creation; we will be talking about healthcare costs; we will be talking about opportunity and sustainable growth and care of the poor; WITHOUT having an all-system shut-down over who is the head of the household, and who fits into the box.

I value life–I value before it is born, and as it grows and moves all through the world; I value families–my own, and those that look nothing like mine; I value freedom of religion–even for those whose religion is not mine. Whatever that makes me in the current climate, I say that I am a child of God. I say that you are too. Powerchurch would have a hard time fitting all this into one box; i have a hard time fitting it all on the ballot; and many churches would certainly not be able to fit it into the pulpit; but the Kingdom of God has room for all my stuff, and all yours, too, and there is still space at the table. So why are we so afraid?

 

About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • Robyn

    OMG you really must be reading my mind. So very very well put!!

  • http://invisiblemikey.wordpress.com Invisible Mikey

    I really enjoyed the way you examined deeper issues through the frame of limiting labels and software. Of course the software IS easy to replace. IconCMO’s Membership Module’s first listed feature is “Flexible member and household tracking”. That’s code for any kind of family blend assignable, no “head of household” required. That initial reaction proves I am a man, and will therefore try to “fix” things before listening to the emotions presented.

    Radical inclusivity, like voluntary simplicity, requires a learning process, and churches (as institutions) don’t learn as quickly as some of their members do. You’ve learned for yourself to accept the validity of other expressions of faith, and sexual orientations different than your own. Some churches are right there with you on that, and some aren’t. No church is without flaws. My wife, who once was a Vineyard member and is now Episcopalian, currently refers to herself as a “recovering Evangelical”. We all have our own faith journey to travel. We’ll meet each other at different points at different times.

    You also seem to understand that “conservative” only expresses part of the life you lead. I don’t even bother with the conservative / liberal dichotomy any more. I’m thrifty and I own little, and it allows me more room to be generous. I know both that I am my brother’s keeper, and that I myself sometimes need to be kept.

  • http://journeytogive.blogspot.com Elisabeth Gawne

    i just was looking for something on your blog and came across this post and it is great! i realize it was posted a while ago, but that doesnt make it any less awesome. great writing. :)


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