These Are Not The Reasoned Debates: A Response To Cynthia Astle
Most of all, I am becoming traumatized by the incessant war of words when I read successive blogs in which the writers tear one another to pieces over something another person has said or done. These are not the reasoned debates of thoughtful disciples earnestly seeking to discern God’s truth; they are attacks intended to tear down a person’s credibility, even to discredit the sacred worth of another human being. Like Diogenes with his lantern seeking one honest man, I look for messages that will traverse the chasms we’ve carved with our chisels of words, and I find them so rarely. – Cynthia Astle, “When Words Fail, United Methodist Insight, March 20, 2015
Sometimes you read something and find yourself surprised to be one of those to whom the writer both is referring and addressing. It’s kind of disconcerting, to be honest. Especially when how one is seen and read is so far either from intention or viewpoint. All the same, I thought of responding, but decided to wait until after some time away offered a chance to cool down a bit. Good thought follows on being able to consider and be considerate, regardless of the look of the end result.
I make no excuses for being willing to take a verbal stance against those in our denomination who continue to promote a sense of crisis, although there isn’t one; who demand adherence to a status quo regarding our policy toward sexual minorities that is not sustainable; who aim to be movers and shakers and power-brokers, rather than conduits of the Gospel; who continue to promote a life- and soul-destroying position that has an actual body count; and who regard “both” “sides” as equally at fault for the acrimony among the more vocal members of our denomination, when the facts speak otherwise. I just don’t feel bad when I make clear how all this is wrong; how all this wounds and even kills people; how it is rooted both in bigotry and a desire for power rather than the self-emptying (which, one would think, includes emptying oneself both of bigotry and a desire for self-promotion) that is to be our life following the Crucified and Risen Lord. I have neither the patience nor the interest in “making nice” with those who will go to any lengths, and demonstrate their willingness so to do at every opportunity, to declare both sexual minorities and their supporters the source of all our alleged troubles, when in fact all trouble lies at the feet of those who continue to make trouble. If that means I call in question an individual’s integrity, then so be it. To me, that is far less horrible than our current state of affairs, in which our denomination continues to deny basic humanity to our brothers and sisters who are other-sexed in some manner, fashion, or form. I am neither a promoter of tolerance nor one who wishes to embrace a goal of false reconciliation prior to any final outcome. Should change come, reconciliation will be necessary; however, we who have been arguing and battling and been publicly vocal for so long should be the ones who set the terms, rather than those who have used every opportunity to vilify both sexual minorities and their supporters; to promote schism and destruction, holding the future of the denomination hostage to their increasingly minority view; who celebrate when clergy have their ministries ended and their reputations ruined when they act and speak out for the full humanity of all.
Is this a reasoned debate? Of course not. It never has been. It is rooted in fear and hatred; it uses the vocabulary of Christian teaching as a weapon to destroy and exclude; it actively silences any voices of dissent; finally, it refuses to recognizes the real human toll our ongoing discrimination creates. Lives broken, faith shattered, depression and suicide: these are the fruits of our status quo and listening to those who promote, defend, and demand it continuation. I have no interest at all in being reasonable with those who are far too casual with facts, with the faith, and with the health and life of others. Nor do I feel I have some kind of duty to be reasoned when others are not. Calling these things what they are is necessary. That those who do so act offended rather than ashamed demonstrates the basic truth of the charges.
The truth is, I for one can only do this because I know my own complicity in the situation. Not in creating a crisis where none existed. No, I am speaking of fear and disgust and even hatred aimed at my brothers and sisters who are gay and lesbian, bisexual and trans, queer and those who are other-gendered. I know my own struggles, and speaking against those who refuse to embrace their own brokenness with their fellow Christians is part of my penance, the price I must pay for having, in the past, been one who promoted anti-gay rhetoric due more to my own fear and feelings of discomfort rather than any action on the part of any of the beautiful, loving, kind, angry, faithful people I’ve known.
Finally, I know how powerful words are. If I did not, why would I waste so much time writing? That is why I use words as my tool, perhaps occasionally my weapon, to make clear not so much what it is I would prefer, but rather what I believe to be best for the whole people called Methodist. I’ve encountered the same arguments from the anti-gay crusaders for so long, it has become tiresome, really to read the same thing for the thousandth time and have to respond, yet again, to the same nonsense. Words are powerful, and no one is allowed to have his or her own facts. Pointing out failures of logic, of relevance, and of outright falsifying evident fact all need to be made clear, however. “Both” “sides” are not equally at fault in this regard, as has been repeatedly demonstrated in study after study. So, I don’t feel any responsibility at all to temper either what I say or how I say it. Those who feel wounded, attacked, their integrity impugned might well be quite right in these regards. When this happens, I am not at fault for being the one who has made clear the lack of integrity demonstrated time and again by promoters of (false) crisis and bigotry. That lies solely in the lives of those who do so, in hopes of being seen as a mover, a player in our denominational word games.
If this means that I will no longer appear in The United Methodist Insight, that is a price I am willing to pay for continuing to make clear not my position, but the too often specious arguments, faulty illustrations, and bad theological and Biblical exegesis that is, by and large, the sole province of those promoting schism in the name of hate. Since I see this entire thing as a game, I refuse to play, which angers and frustrates some. I will continue not to play, because this isn’t about me, or the reputations of others, but our Church, our mission and ministry, and the health and lives of all God’s beloved children.