Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Diversity: What a Concept

I went to a diversity training this past weekend, for my lay ministry program.

Two men -- one African-American, one white -- were facilitators; very engaging, alternately entertaining and thought-provoking.

I was a late arrival -- I'd had to work that morning -- and when I breathlessly fell into a seat I looked around to find large sheets of newsprint covered in adjectives the class had used to describe various sub-groups of human beings: women; men; Lutherans; Catholics; laypeople; clergypeople; African-Americans; Latino-Americans. I noted -- and it was with, frankly, a mixture of irritation and relief -- that the Minority Group That Dare Not Speak Its Name in the ELCA was not among the groups being talked about.

And this is how it went for the rest of the afternoon. No one mentioned The Troubles. I didn't. I was quite animated during discussions of how prejudice affects those being discriminated against and how it affects the discriminators; but I wasn't in a frame of mind or at an energy level conducive to bursting into a rendition of I'm Coming Out.

My thoughts, upon driving home were: Either this is very smart -- this is how our church is going to slowly and quietly raise consciousness among the laity, starting with lay leadership, without blowing things into A Thing again -- or else it's just so much more faux-progressive window dressing: Look how enlightened we are: We offer diversity training!

I still haven't decided which scenario I think is the more accurate one.

Interestingly, one of the points I'd made during the presentation was that being in a stereotyped group tends to make the stereotyped cynical and defensive regarding the dominant culture's motives.


Rainbow Pastor said...

Yes, sometimes it's hard to tell the motives without a score card.

THe United Methodists have a slogan--"Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" which I silently amend to "..if you're just like those of us already here and don't rock the boat."

I still have just one question for the UMs: why is it that they would have accepted me if I lied (good trait in a pastor, eh?) but not if I told the truth?

In keeping with your Beatles theme--"It's a long and winding road..."

Lutheran Zephyr said...

Fauz-progressive window dressing (or well-intentioned but naive action that is, essentially, nothing more than window dressing). But, as St Paul says in Philippians 1:15ff:

Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, the defense of the Gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.

God will work through this (inadequate) training, despite our efforts!

Evelyn said...

I couldn't have said it any better than Lutheran Zephyr! All I can say is "Amen".

Tom in Ontario said...

Take this as you will from a straight, white, married-with-children, male.

I don't think sexual orientation should have been left off the list but had it been on the list would it have dominated the discussion?

I'm all for being inclusive of everyone including queers. I'm even for allowing same-sex blessings. But "the issue" or "the debate," whatever you want to call it, has so dominated the last few Synod Assemblies and National Church Conventions and everything in between up here that we've barely talked about anything else that the church ought to be about.

LutheranChik said...

Tom, I agree with you to a point. I mean, I think one of the big issues the ELCA needs to address is a really basic one: Who are we and what is the reason for our existence as a church body, and if we actually have one, why aren't we doing a better job articulating it? I mean, that's pretty darn basic; but I don't think it's an issue being addressed.

But...on the other hand...my life in the church, and how I exercise the gifts I believe God has given me, will be directly impacted by the ELCA's policies on rostered laypeople, should I complete the studies I'm in and get all officialized. So this isn't theoretical for me in the way that it is for you, Tom. My options now are to 1)take a vow of perpetual celibacy, unlike any other candidate for such service; 2)if I ever wind up in a committed relationship, lying about it if I want to continue to serve; 3)winding up an extremely overeducated backbencher (albeit one whose theological training was heavily subsidized by the church, which I suppose would allow me a bitter, cynical chuckle back there in the weepers' pew); or 4)bailing out of the ELCA into, perhaps, some enlightened diocese of the ECUSA, and then if I discerned a call to lay ministry in that setting having to go through this whole educational rigamarole all over again. That's not fair. It's unjust. And I am just sick unto death, not even of the overtly homophobic bigots -- at least you know they hate you, and they don't go through the mealy-mouthed "This hurts me more than it hurts you" crap -- but of the hand-wringy types, weeping crocodile tears, who are "struggling with this issue" or "saddened by this issue," etc.

Well, boo-hoo. What in the hell is there to "struggle" with. Unless they're also advocating headcoverings for women, and a prohibition on eating meat with blood in it, and a policy of returning runaway slaves, the whole "But the Bible says..." argument is just a load. It's not about biblical literalism or inerrancy, since obviously these people have made their own value judgments about the relevancy/contemporary application of NT texts; it's all about the "ick" factor. No one is going to convince me otherwise.

I would challenge any handwringers reading this to just read my blog -- read all the archives, follow me along my life every day -- then come back and kindly explain to me what it is about my life that is so terrifying and repulsive to you that you want to deny me full inclusion in your faith community. I'm single, but the same thing would be true if I weren't; then you'd get to read about TWO boring, everyday Christians. You know, deep inside, that this isn't really about "The Bible says," because the Bible says a lot of things that you don't follow and/or don't obsess over in the same way. So maybe get honest with yourself about what your problem with me and with other people like me really is, and then come to me and we'll talk.

RainbowKate said...

Not long ago I went through Anti-Racism training offered by our (ECUSA) diocese, and it was a very similar experience. There was a very purposeful stearing clear of "The Issue". And it was lovely being told that as a white lesbian woman I had not experienced discrimination and didn't know what it was like to be a minority. The big elephant in the living room for me was that a couple of the African-American people there are very outspoken about the "immoral decisions of General Convention" and so the oppressed become the oppressors and I just end up seeming like a racist. There was a lot of good eye opening stuff in the training, but I just couldn't take it in because there was just such a purposeful avoidance of "the issue" and the reality that our state is taking more and more civil rights away from its gay and lesbian citizens.

LutheranChik said...

"Immoral"? Yes; nothing like being told in so many words that you're a reprobate piece of shit to make you feel like a real member of the Body of Christ.

Don't even get me started. I am so SICK of this, and as I said, I'm especially sick of the "struggling" people. Oh, stop whining and making excuses and get over it. Because I'm not leaving. I know that is what you, in your dark little hearts, would like -- for us to go away, so you won't feel uncomfortable and "icky" anymore -- but it isn't going to happen. I'm not leaving; I'm not apologizing; I'm not recusing myself from serving the church as I feel called and am able. Get used to it.

Verdugo said...

I was having a tangental conversation today with a friend who, like me, is a teacher (she: high school, me: university). The connundrum we were struggling (sorry, LC) with was how to lead a discussion of The Topic That Shall Not be Named and do it justice in a 50 min. class period. My fear is always that that discussion will be going along OK, then someone will make some random bigotted drive-by comment just as the clock ticks on to dismissal hour, at which point no matter what I say it is drowned out in a herd of feet. Is it better to take that risk or to remain silent on a topic of such importance? (that's a real question, btw-- not rhetorical)

LutheranChik said...

Verdugo: I honestly don't know, because I've given up trying to understand why this is such a contentious issue. I really don't. In the state of mind I'm in right now, if I were facilitating, the first bigoted statement that came out of someone's mouth my response would probably be, "What the **** is your problem?" -- actually, it would be nice to get an honest answer to that one -- but I suspect that wouldn't move the discussion forward. [rueful grin]

I wonder -- I'm just riffing -- what would happen if the class used a "talking stick" -- everyone gets a turn with the stick; absolutely no one can interrupt someone who is holding the stick and has the floor; no one can respond to someone else's comments when s/he has the stick; s/he has to come up with his/her own thoughts. I wonder what would happen if this were tried in the context of responding to a (very crafted) set of questions designed to help students recognize their own prejudices/irrationalities and think of alternative ways of thinking about/relating to gay people. I've been in some productive "talking stick" discussions, even in groups up to about 35 people, but they were groups that were more cohesive than the average college class.

Verdugo said...

I've used the talking stick at home-- where our three kids often sound like 30 with all the interrupting and talking over-- more than once, but never thought to try it in the classroom. My students don't tend to interrupt each other, my problem is just if the drive-by happens to come 49 min. into the class anything said after that doesn't get heard. Maybe some kind of rule that the talking stick has to keep coming back to the faciliator...... hmmm.... I'll have to muse on it.

Verdugo said...

(I had something similar happen once with a discussion on abortion... just as we hit 49 min. someone arguing for no abortion under any circumstances suggested that if one got pregnant because of rape then it was OK because the rape must have been "God's will".... then BZZZZZ time up and everyone just left with that nasty t**d just lying there.)

J.C. Fisher said...

What the f*ck IS their problem, LC? You said it!

Last week, I attended a "Bishop Candidates' Walkabout" in the Diocese of Northern California (not to be confused w/ same going on, more famously, in the Diocese of California: NorCal's 3 candidates are all straight white men, regrettably).

The annoying deacon (elderly woman, FWIW) who facilitated the room I was in, bundled all the (anonymous) questions on "The Issue"---including mine, "What kind of pastoral care will you provide, or direct be provided, to same-sex couples?"---as . . . (wait for it) . . . The SEX Questions

Oh yeah, honey, that's it: our LIVES are merely summarized as "sex"! >:-0

WTF is their problem???

[FYI: the NorCal candidates all seemed decent-enough men (all said "gay priests need not fear me", or words to that effect). At the same time, they were all too damn quick to say just how "wonderful" the Windsor Report is (which I'll assume everyone on this blog is familiar with)---and all seemed like they would go along w/ any "moratorium" that a HofB majority agreed to. Blech!]

LutheranChik said...

J.C. Yes -- the common widsome in some circles is that we're like sex-crazed weasels. [rolling eyes] God forbid that our relationships count for anything.