This morning I was sitting in one of my local cafes/offices doing my local church thing
and couldn't help but to overhear a very loud conversation* going on at the table next to me. Throughout the course of about an hour and a half they touched on topics such as the slow food movement, proposition 8, technology, publicists, housing,blogging, religion and the evils of the internet and being so connected.
And while I tried to focus on my own thing, there were a few moments when comments were made and implied about "Those _____'s" or "All _____'s are like that" mostly referring to ideological and socioeconomic generalizations. As I sat through this I was once reminded that in my context of living in San Francisco, it is fairly evident that on many issues, not all, but many, I am an out loud and proud conservative.
The mistake that the table next to me made and what I believe we do too often as a church is to make the leap in belief that if a person is traditionally "conservative" or "liberal" on one issue then there is a commitment to some kind of party line that shall not be crossed. I think we are finding it VERY difficult to acknowledge the reality that very few of us are party-line anything. And while there was a day where this may have been truer than in others, that day is quickly fading in the proverbial rear view mirror. This may seems like I have blogged on this before, and I have
, but events of the past few months have again reminded me how deep-seeded our prejudices and worldviews are in the way we interact. For if we truly acknowledge that people are far more complex than we could ever really know, we would be forced and compelled to take the time to find out about those complexities. Basically, while I fully acknowledge that generalizing and stereo-typing saves time, not so good in building community.
Over the past few weeks as Task Force Appointments have been made, I have received communications containing both stinging critiques as well as warm affirmations.** Key "Players" from various ideological flavors have both applauded and condemned particular selections as well as the overall process. The buzz in itself is not surprising and I never would expect to make everyone happy, but it has been an interesting set of responses. The most disturbing thing about most of the negative comments – and the positive have far outweighed the negative – is that we so easily draw conclusions based on flawed or, at least uninformed, assumptions about individuals.
For instance . . .
- If we do not know them, they must be against us.
- If they have publicly spoken for or against something in the past, they will certainly not be able to hear the other side, let alone be open to change.
- How people interact does not matter, it's their ideological label and affiliation/s that will drive how they respond.
Now I do not mean to be naive about all of this. We must all find ways to discern approval or critique and sometimes we just don't have much to go on. But what I would push us on is that in the face of each and ever reaction, we must fight every urge to respond with a shallow belief that each person can be boiled down to a "+" or "-" as if all we are is one belief, one statement, one ideologically box. As we all know when we do try to put one another in one box, we are doomed because that is simply not reality.
I believe that for most of the General Assembly appointments that I have made, I have chosen people who can and do live in this state of creative tension and have embraced the ambiguity of our daily life. These are folks who live smack in the middle of our chaotic world, but have discovered the peace, calm and community that Christ offers. If we are wise, we will allow the processes to play out, observe when we should, engage when invited and respond when appropriate.
And if all of this sounds like another "it's all about relationships" post you are right, it is. Still the shift in how we have approached relationship building in the past is not to be in relationship SO THAT we can change the other, but to be in relationship because we APPRECIATE the other regardless of their ideological leanings. When this happens, I have seen the spirit most at work and glimpses of what we might be as an institution in the future.
Thanks and have a great week!
* I am a firm believer that in today's day and age any conversation that you don't want overheard should not be shared public in a manner loud enough for the entire place to hear . . . for you REALLY don't know who is around listening.
** After I announce the final two groups, next week, I hope I will post something about my overall reflections on the process.