Saturday, July 04, 2009

Go Pink Mennos

Folks supporting LGBT rights at this year’s Mennonite convention had a brilliant idea for protesting the Mennonite Church’s official policy of discrimination: Simply wear pink shirts around the convention center all week.

Particularly prominent were a large gathering of young adults who showed up at the big hymn sing and sat right in the middle of Nationwide arena, even singing hymns before it officially started. The message is that we may not be sanctioned, but we exist, and we aren’t going away. We even got some national press on the issue, via an AP story.

As in the wider culture, it seems to be a generational issue with Mennonites. In a church whose average age is 54 (which in itself is of great concern to the church, and rightly so), many if not most of those wearing pink shirts were people under 30. I hope this sends a strong message to church leaders. Without some kind of action on this, they stand to lose the next generation of youth and especially those most interested in social justice issues.

I’ve often wondered how today’s youth became so much more inclusive than their parents. I guess it’s because they have grown up with openly gay friends, relatives, and icons, and know at a personal level that there is nothing to fear from those with sexual orientations different from their own. On the other hand, it’s hard for those who grew up being taught otherwise to think differently, especially without any exposure to others who might challenge their assumptions. But, the reality is that Gay Rights are coming. It’s just a matter of when the demographics change enough to allow for it, and whether we are going to be leaders or followers. Actually, it’s already too late to be leaders. But it would be nice not to be last.

By the end of the week, the backlash had begun at the convention. A few youth were spotted in the lunchroom wearing green shirts with the message “Homosexuality is an abomination” plastered on the back. Sigh.

No one wants a split church. And yet, the status quo of treating homosexuals as less than fully human cannot stand. It is against the Mennonite values of advocacy for the downtrodden, the outsiders, and the underprivileged, which we have tried to embody for centuries.

And yet, there are people in my church whom I love dearly and are vital and necessary parts of our congregation, but are against homosexuality. We have to find a way to fully include our LGBT friends into our religious community, but without losing those who consider it a sin. There is no easy path forward.


Rebecca B. said...

I agree with what you said, Dan. There are no easy answers with this issue.

Eric Sink said...

"We have to find a way to fully include our LGBT friends into our religious community, but without losing those who consider it a sin."


Centuries of empirical evidence clearly shows that a church split is simpler.

Or, as you observe, the issue will almost certainly resolve itself over time.

Your language suggests that all alternatives are intolerable. Are they really?

Dan S said...

I guess because I want to be in a church that is able to withstand conflict and still consider itself a community. Because diversity makes us all stronger. Because dialog is better than war, and many other liberal placards. :)

More practically, Mennonites are small enough, and a split would just further reduce our denominational effectivness. It's true that it is more important to be faithful than effective, but it still hurts to lose effectivness.

On the other hand, splitting up is one of the things Anabaptists have had the most success at for the last few centuries.

Frustratingly, there is a simple compromise here: Take no official position on homosexuality as a denomination, and let each congregation decide on its own whether to be open and accepting. Unfortunately, I doubt that would make either side happy.

Tracy said...

Our denomination recently held it's national gathering. Some of my friends and colleagues were talking about the fact that it seemed that our denomination was taking fewer stands, being less outspoken than in past years. I suggested that it was because the issue of LGBT rights and inclusion just wasn't that "front stage" anymore. The groups that were against it were still present, but not as vocal. The LGBT groups were just an accepted part of the gathering. As you said, it has so much to do with the demographics. Most of our youth just don't understand why we would discriminate against their LGBT friends. While our denomination lost many congregations when the national church voted to fully support the rights of LGBT, even more congregations learned from the diversity within their faith communities.
I hope that your faith community and denomination can find a way through this that leads to a place of hope for all of you. We certainly found your congregation to be a place of hope when we needed it!

Jenna said...

How do you personally feel about participating in an organization that does not agree with your personal values?

I think this is what keeps me out of fully participating in religion (yes, my church is liberal but overall the religion is not).

Dan S said...

Hey Tracy! Good to hear from you. I hope you and Mike and the kids are settled into your new lives. Too bad we didn't get together before you all left town.

Jenna, I'd say that if I waited until I found an organization that shared my values 100%, I'd never be part of anything. On the other hand, a large majority of my local congregation does share most of my important values. But I understand where you are coming from.

Father Brownie said...

Since I am the sole (and founding) member of the 'Church of the Laws of Nature' I guess I have to establish a policy on LGBT. Hmmm... Since nature establishes that homosexuality will not provide for the reproduction of plants, animals or humans, I am forced to rule that homosexuality is contrary to the tenents of this church.

However, if any LGBT folks want to join, they're welcome to.

Just because I disagree with them, doesn't mean I won't include them. A lesson that the rest of the religous (and secular) world might benefit to learn as well.

Fingtree said...

Well said Father. We agree that disagreeing is disagreeable

PG said...

I'm a little late to this conversation, but for Father Brownie and Fingtree, I have a couple of questions and comments. 1) The Laws of Nature include gay partnerships in almost all species. 2) Reproduction is important. I've done it myself. So has Levi Johnston. (Maybe it's not always a good thing). But why should reproduction be a requirement for worship of God or any religion? And 3) Over what is the disagreement? If it is whether one group of people should not be allowed full and equal rights and should be considered second-class citizens, then I would say one cannot in good conscience "agree to disagree."

brownie said...

"The Laws of Nature include gay partnerships in almost all species"

Sorry. You misunderstood. I am "forming" a new "church" as a joke. It was based around my own interpretation of the "Law of Nature" that sprung out of a conversation I had with Danny Boy a few weeks ago, and it was meant mostly as an inside joke for him. Even then though, you must admit, I was being inclusive to LGBT's.

Still, I think nature shows us quite clearly that homosexuality does nothing to propagate the species. There will always be those animals that "break" the "law", but they don't have politics or rights to worry about; only consuming, expelling what they've consumed, resting and (hopefully) reproducing.

PG said...

No, I knew you were kind of joking. And, yes, I jumped the gun and should have acknowledged that your church would include gay people (although, perhaps, lesser in regard, or subordinate).

But, still, with this reproduction... What about art? What about creation other than fleshy replicas? Is that chopped liver?

brownie said...

But, still, with this reproduction... What about art? What about creation other than fleshy replicas? Is that chopped liver?

If I understand your question(s) correctly...I have no problem with art created by anyone. As long as it's art. Doensn't have to be beautiful art, it just has to say something valuable about the human condition.

And no, LGBT's wouldn't hold any lesser place in (my) natural church than sinners do in the christian one. We all fall short.

PG said...

I've been out of town all day visiting the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, which I thought was fantastic.

It just irks me no end when people say, referring to gay people, "we're all sinners."

I so want to say, f*ck you and the horse you rode in on. That's not equality. That's still saying that gay people are less/worse/inferior to non-gay people.

brownie said...

Gee...and ah...thanks!...for your concern about my horse.

And the Karmic wheel continues to turn...

Que sera, sera.

PG said...

"Look! It's Mayor Brown and his lovely wife. What a fine couple. They've been together 25 years. Never had children. We're all sinners."

Makes no sense.

mayor brownie said...

It's oddly disturbing to me that some of the most bitter, bigoted people I've come to know about are on the left. They seem to be great at seeing the specks in someone else's eye while ignoring the logs in their own.

PG said...

We are all sinners. But only invoke that when gays are involved is prejudice

PG said...

I have to apologize and backpedal. (And make excuses, too, I guess. I was posting from an iPod Touch while taking a tour in Springfield.)

I in no way meant to refer to "brownie" when I wrote Mayor Brown. It was inadvertent.

I meant to say that letting any couple into one's congregation does not require the disclaimer "we are all sinners." When that is applied in reference to gay people to show how inclusive one is, it is hypocritical. If one were truly inclusive, it would not be mentioned at all.

ButI have heard that used over and over again -- we're all sinners -- when saying one should accept gay people. It is demeaning. And I have stopped being nice about it.

Yes, I used to be nice. Really.

brown said...

I believe christian doctrine points out that no sin is worse than another. It is said that to break one point in the law is to break the whole law and that there is only one punishment for breaking the law: death. This is why, I believe, they say that all are sinners. So to point out that this person did this or this person did that, is really irrelevant, if you believe in christian doctrine. Because the point is not what you did, but that you should be seeking to find grace and mercy, and thereby avoid the punishment of law.

I don't believe it's any more demeaning to say that I told a lie than to say you coveted your neighbors ox. They are equally demeaning (supposedly, in consideration of the law of moses), in that they seperate us from YHWH (don't throw stones, I didn't say it out loud). So to say that it's demeaning to call the kettle black, well maybe, but we're all pots in this anology, so what does it matter? If folks disagree so vehemently with the christian church, which views sex (gay or straight) outside of marriage as a sin, then maybe they should look for a different church or found one of their own. It is a free country (partially) after all.

I think folks tend to confuse the way a church believes with the way a government should behave. And as Spock would say: That is not logical.

PG said...

I don't think you get it. Or maybe I don't get it.

I completely agree. I have never disagreed. WE ARE ALL SINNERS.


But to point it out about gay people when "letting" them into your church, as a kind of "look how tolerant we are" attitude, is needless and offensive.

It's keeping gay people in their place. Or at least that's how it sounds to me.

So, would I join your church? As Sarah Palin once said, thanks but no thanks.

PG said...

BUT... What I guess I am saying that you are not is that... I'm saying being gay is not a sin to begin with. Having gay sex is not a sin.

You can't go there. You just say, we're all sinners.

And that's why I want to say that thing about your horse.

You may or may do things in bed with your wife that are proscribed by some verse or other in the OT; I don't know. I don't want to know. Please don't confess anything to me.

It's not my business. But you can join my church if you want.


brownie said...

Time to get a few facts out in the open:

1. I'm celibate.

2. I attend no church, and haven't for many years.

3.I don't care what people do in the privacy of their homes, as long as it hurts no one, and I don't have to know about it or watch it.

4. I don't own a horse.

5. I disaree that allowing gay people into a church is tantamount to keeping someone in their place. If the people of the church really thought like that, they WOULDN'T let them in their church. Just my opinion.

6. My right middle finger is shorter than my left middle finger.

I don't know if you'd call that a confession or not. I don't. They are just facts. To confess, you must feel guilty about something. I don't anymore. I guess that's why I abondonded church. I don't like the guilt trip they had me on for so many years.


PG said...

The only thing you haven't addressed is the only thing I care about.

You sidestep my point entirely.

You allow gay people into your church, but you insist that it is a sin if a gay person expresses love for his or her partner. No self-respecting person, gay or not, should accept that as a condition for membership in your church.

brownie said...

I insisted nothing of the kind. Here is what I wrote:

"LGBT's wouldn't hold any lesser place in (my) natural church than sinners do in the christian one. We all fall short."

I did not count their homosexuality as a sin. That is your prejudice, (or postjudice) not my words. You assumed the falling short was about sex. Anywaym,If we all fall short in some part of life, then who cares where? I am not the judge of someone's morality or lifestyle.

Non-sequiter: If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Gotta run....

PG said...

Well, even though you have "run" and thus exempt yourself from further comment, I must say you have thoroughly confused me.

You wrote, as "Father Brown," that:
I am forced to rule that homosexuality is contrary to the tenents of this church. However, if any LGBT folks want to join, they're welcome to. Just because I disagree with them, doesn't mean I won't include them.

So maybe it's worse than calling them sinners. However you are relegating gay people, you clearly as "Father Brown" are superior to them and condescending to allow them to join your church.

brownie said...

I disagree with them because I'm straight. I AM that or CHOSE that or whatever; they are what they are, for whatever reason. I DO disagree with them, it's true, because I don't choose to live as they do, from a sexual preference veiwpoint, but that doesn't automatically mean I condemn them or hate them or even think less of them. I have had gay, lesbian and bi- friends, and didn't give a crap about any of that.

Furthermore, I am not superior to anyone at all, for any reason, you pick it: religious, sexual, racial, social or financial status, whatever. I see us all as flawed. You apparently think that gays are not flawed and deserve to be treated like gods just because they are gay. I don't think like that for any group you'd want to point out.

I am however, PG, very curious as to why you seem so hell-bent as painting me as hating gay people.
Is it because my viewpoint is not exactly like yours? I would call that intolerance on your part. And from someone who apparently tries so hard to be tolerant toward gays, I would think you could extend at least a bit of the same courtesy toward me. But we'll see.

PG said...

Seems like gobbledygook.

I don't understand "disagreeing" with someone because of their sexual orientation. What else do you mean by disagreeing with "the way they live," unless you are condemning them?

brownie said...

You might like brussel sprouts. I don't. Does that mean I hate you because I don't like them? NO. Does it mean I will protest everyone who eats brussell sprouts? Exclude them from my church (which I don't really have anyway, remember?) Drag them through the dirt? No, no and no.

I think it's perfectly fine to disagree with someone and yet still live and let live. If you haven't come to accept that not everyone is going to think like you do, then life is going to be way more of a struggle for you than it really needs to be.

PG said...

I don't know what you're about, Brownie.

To say you "disagree" with someone's sexual orientation strikes me as offensive and not at all the same as saying you don't like Brussel sprouts.

Would you say you "disagree" with liking Brussel sprouts? It's not a matter of agreement or disagreement. Neither is sexual orientation a matter of taste or choice.

It's different to say you do not have a gay sexual orientation than to say you "disagree" with a gay sexual orientation.

I'm just saying, and all I've ever been saying, which may or may not have anything to do with you at all so far as I can tell, is that "accepting" gay people because "we are all sinners" is not promoting equality. It is calling gay people sinners for the love they have a right to express.

For all your indignation, I have not heard you say say outright that you support full equal rights for gay people. Only that you disagree with stuff.

brownie said...

I want full and equal rights for everyone.

PG said...

Well thank goodness we got that settled.

Robert Sievers said...

I wonder what Jesus would say.

brownie said...

"Love they neighbor as thyself"