In response to a blog post earlier this week one commenter going by the name of Michael shared this concern.
…and vice-versa, right? Because in a conversation EVERYBODY has to be open the the fact that they might be wrong and have something to learn. This phrasing (and much of the rest in the article) suggests a double-standard for that conversation, in which one of the hypothetical parties are presumed to be humbly correct, and the other humbly corrected. That’s not discourse, that’s pageantry at best, hubris at worst. It certainly doesn’t sound like a recipe for a sincere, even footed conversation.
As someone who is very much in favor of marriage equality, I still hope I can treat people who disagree with me with the respect that their opinions may also be of some value, so both of us might move to a deeper understanding together. Surely that’s better than assuming they are only useful as a mind to be changed?
Anyway, I’m hoping this is what you mean – so much of the process you outline is refreshingly humble and suggests this openness, but all of that feels undercut by this particular language at the end.
I answered on the post but upon more reflection my real answer to Michael is this:
Yes, most definitely visa-versa, well up to a point of course. We in the LGBT community have been listening for decades upon decades to our Christian mammas, daddies, sisters and brothers as they hurl bible verses at us while keeping their fingers cock-like in their ears – and hearts. See, I personally have been listening to others call me everything from an abomination to sinter bride of satan for a very, very long time. I remain open to bringing an open heart and mind to engage folks in deep dialog and hard conversations only to realize that I was supposed to simply nod my head with tear streaked cheeks and assent to lecture upon lecture. I was threatened by no shortage of bible drive-bys* to change from who God made me to be into some perverted half-self. I have been the witness of the pageantry and object of the hubris and know all too well what false dialog looks like.
Thanks be to God that I have a soul that is both prepared for and surprised by every such painful encounter. I enter every relationship with a heaping helping of trust and a side order of trepidation. I have listened and listened and I keep on coming back because I remain ever hopeful.
But perhaps you are right, what I really am saying, what I really need is simply to be heard – really heard and seen. Maybe what we really need is for people, who think we can disagree about issues when we are really about is our humanity, to stop talking so much and start listening with their heart of hearts animated by the love of Christ. Maybe what I really need is for people to listen to the stories of real lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Maybe what I meant to say is that I pray for a day when we can be in one another’s presence and allow the Holy Spirit to move us both into relationship that is not dependent on theological certitude or ecclesiological fortitude.
And do your question about mutual respect; yes I can treat people with whom I disagree with respect only if I am afforded the same in return. If we disagree about sprinkling vs. dunking or the “right” clothes to wear to church, or whether or not meditation is a Christian practice, or if worship can happen outdoors. The problem is that the we are often talking about, disagree about whether or not I am even fully human. The relationship is already tilted on an animus axis if the person with whom I am in conversation does not regard my sacred person-hood as equal to their own or equally deserving of the same civil rights they enjoy with little to no effort of their part.
So yes, I do mean a true dialog, true discourse with equal humility and openness. I am frequently fully present to such experiences and hope for many more on my journey.
And I have been changed in relationship with other Christians. I have changed from disbelieving that gentle and affirming Christians exist. I have changed from seeing all American Christians as narcissistic, nationalistic, greedy hypocrites to recognizing the complex and beautiful tapestry of Christians who are working their raw fingers and bleeding hearts to be bone on behalf ouf our most vulnerable citizens and fragile planet. I have changed from rejecting Christian community to serving Christian community. Perhaps most importantly, through blessed assurance of my relationship with my divine Parent as revealed through my brother Jesus I have changed from being a silent victim to a vocal advocate for myself. I hope and pray that my own spiritual evolution continues as I draw close to those who are on the same journey.
With prayers for my own growth in Grace and for companions who are willing to pray for the same,
Kimberly the wonderer and wanderer
* borrowed from Daneen Akers, producer director of the documentary film about the experiences, struggles and reconciling spiritual journeys of gay and lesbian Seventh-day Adventists (http://www.sgamovie.com)