Take Two #32: The Conditional Unconditional
By Kyra-lin Hom
If you've been following my column – and no, I will not be docking points if you haven't – you know by now that I'm a fairly serious, left-wing Christian. I go to church every sunday, say my prayers and then go either dancing or bar-hopping with friends with nearly equal regularity. I don't see a contradiction. I believe I am perfectly able to express myself, be myself and be a good person who treats others as she would want to be treated. Mind blowing, I know.
In this regard, I'm very lucky to be where I am. My church, Tibbetts United Methodist Church (Tibbetts UMC), is a good fit. We're a reconciling congregation, which means that our West Seattle branch is 100% accepting of people of any sexual orientation. We do silly, goofy things during the church service that often fly in the face of traditional stiff-lipped sermons. My pastor and I even go to the same tattoo artist.
Okay, you get it, we're a liberal church. And you're probably wondering where I'm going with this. I promise I'm not just raving about the pros of socially liberal Christianity. Stick with me.
See, in light of a recent UMC conference verdict (these are the people who decide what is what for the entire global United Methodist community), this whole issue of reconciling ministries will remain a church by church decision for the next four years. That's the conference's polite way of refusing to get their hands dirty and commit as an institution. I'll leave out the rest of the less than progressive details. I trust that you get the picture.
I don't know anyone who is happy with this decision. Indifferent perhaps, but happy? Not so much. From my perspective, the general reaction seems to be disappointment, frustration and anger. However, in our anger, we seem to be forgetting the words of the wise sage Yoda, “Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” And then that suffering leads us all to the universal “dark side.”
Cliché and comic as the green, long-eared puppet can be, Yoda has a point. And it's a point that extends beyond the walls of the church and the reaches of belief. As an incredibly liberal region of the country, most of us, especially of my generation, want full equal rights. Sexuality, gender, race, age, class – heck eating habits. We want equality and acceptance. We preach of love and welcome. But who do we discriminate against? And we very much do discriminate.
Here's who: any group or individual who expresses a seemingly bigoted opinion. If you're part of the extreme right or if you're parroting 'The Man' then we don't want you. We don't want to listen to you. We don't want to be a part of anything you're a part of. You know what that breaks down to without all of those fancy nouns? It says that if you don't agree with us, you can't be one of us. Now for a demographic that promotes acceptance and equality, how much sense does that make? None. It's hypocrisy.
In church recently, a guest pastor said that maybe it's time we stopped being so nice. My only response was “What?” And she's certainly not the only person trumpeting this Malcom X-ian call to action. Are we listening to ourselves? We're proposing to teach our social political opponents a message of equal love and acceptance by aggressively forcing our opinions on them and steamrolling over theirs. It doesn't make sense to me.
Okay, sure, I occasionally want to whack someone's face in too. I get it. It is really hard to be nice when someone is spitting hate. But guess what, if we're the ones doing the spitting, it's just as hard for them to be nice back to us. What's worse is that when we're the ones spouting exclusionary and judgmental rhetoric, we undermine our entire argument and look like fools. You don't show people how to love others by hating them. All that does is make them hate us back. If we really want to spread acceptance then we need to be the ones to open that dialogue. Under no circumstances should we be the ones to close it.