Thursday, September 06, 2007


I'm in the midst of a discussion with a group of friends. Among these women, we have bantered through every conceivable topic, from easy (say, refrigerator filters) to very hard (breast v. bottle and gay rights). There have been hard moments, but mostly illuminating times full of mutual respect for different viewpoints.

A current conversation is making me think a bit. The actual topic of discussion is irrelevant. Let's call it X. It's the back talk on the discussion of X that has me going. Tolerance. A number of us, in response to a call for feedback, expressed negative opinions about X. Either we just didn't like X or felt it was a sign of unprofessionalism to do X in public.

At some point in the convo, a member confronted the rest of us on our intolerance and judgmentalism regarding X. By not liking X, and by making assumptions about those who do like X, we were buying into negative stereotypes of those who like X. She felt this was an unfair bias and wanted to open our eyes to this unseen bias. She judged us judgmental, and found us wanting.

Here, in a spew, is where my head has been going, far beyond the discussion at hand. Sometimes, I feel like Real Liberals are not allowed to have opinions on people's personal choices. Or, if they have them, they are definitely not allowed to judge based on them. The only personal choice that a liberal can be intolerant of is intolerance itself. And, even then, that intolerance can be suspicious.

An example. I used to belong to a church that was avowedly Open and Affirming. That means it declared itself gay-friendly and gay-supportive, so that the GLBT community would know they were safe in coming to worship with us. This church rented its chapel to another church who was most avowedly NOT gay friendly or supportive. In fact, the pastor preached regularly that gays were going to hell.

Seemed to many that it was not very supportive or friendly of us to allow this kind of worship to occur in a place that was supposed to be a sanctuary for gay folks. Others, though, felt that we could not be intolerant of even really icky intolerance. That we should, instead, let those anti-gay folks stay put so that we could lovingly shower them with good examples of why they were wrong.

A similar and parallel discussion existed regarding members of the church who were anti-gay. Could we have anti-gay members if we were going to specifically invite and welcome gays? Yet who were we to turn others away from worship? Whose church is it, anyway?

I am still unclear on my answer for either of those situations. I lean strongly towards not making a business decision to profit from a congregation who believed very differently from ours, particularly when we (as a congregation) felt this opinion was wrong and hurtful. I can't imagine closing the doors to worship, whatever the cost. It's not my door to close. Yet I can't imagine the alternative as receiving the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval by Jesus, either.

There is one other personal choice that Real Liberals are allowed to judge harshly. That is, of course, the choice is to be a conservative Republican. That is very clearly a bad choice, to be judged harshly, indeed. I remember well a church service this same liberal church not to be named where Republicans were sneered at, in a very general way, from the pulpit.

As you may have guess, I am extremely willing to sneer at conservative Republicans almost anywhere. I certainly do right here in cyberspace, on an almost daily basis. But I think a sanctuary is a sanctuary both for me and from me. It is not a place for my judgment--or yours. I may rail against the acts of individuals or nations. I may want my pastor to preach against war, for peace and justice, and for three squares and a health plan a day. But I don't want me or you or our pastors deciding who gets to come and stay and eat at our table. It's not our job.

What do you think?



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