Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
Every day it seems we get more polarized in our country and in our world. Everyone seems to think that their ideas are the right ones. Some go so far as to believe their way of thinking is not only right, but also righteous. A dear friend, who is a brilliant professor as well as a well-loved spiritual teacher, wondered with me one morning how we will ever have respectful, thoughtful dialogue about very tender subjects. She brought up the subject of the current spread of HIV and the unwillingness of many in various faith communities to openly discuss it because they say that they “don’t agree with that lifestyle.”
I keep thinking about our conversation, which was rich and nuanced and loving. We, after all, are considered by some to be the “liberal” ones, the ones who see that LGBTQI rights are part of the ongoing movement to grant all people basic human rights. But I keep thinking of the people who call my essence, my family, my way of being a “lifestyle.”
I know our national polarization is about many things, things that matter deeply to me – race, economic justice, gun control, health care, environmental responsibility, immigrant rights, and more – but for just a moment, I want to focus on basic human rights for all those whose way of loving and/or gender expression is sometimes deemed unacceptable. I am integrated in all of my particularities: – I’m a lesbian, and I’m also a woman, a spouse, a mother, part of a multi-racial family, a daughter of a lifetime Army man, and I love the earth and abhor all violence. I am a Christian, who recognizes truth in many varied faith paths. I am a feminist, which means I strive to work toward justice for all. But in this moment, I wonder if I can find a way to engage in mutually respectful dialogue in this particular realm of faith and sexuality.
I try to imagine a conversation with a Christian or other person of faith who believes their religious teachings and her/his faith call for a rejection of the LGBTQI way of being. I begin with my own attitudes and perceptions. Let’s say I can step away from the judgment of seeing you (my imagined conversation partner) as narrow-minded and trapped in outdated literalism. On this imagined middle ground, can I see you as a person with a deep desire to be true to your faith? Can I admire your courage and honor you as a person even if I adamantly disagree with your conclusions? Can I listen deeply enough to hear your struggles, your stories, your heart? Can I be trustworthy enough to allow you to be open?
Can I step onto this middle ground before you do? Do I have the faith and courage to stand here reaching a hand out even if you continue to disregard my wholeness by using words like “lifestyle”? Can I recognize and honor you as a beloved child of God even when I feel that you judge me or when I find myself judging you?
Of course, I believe I’m right. I believe I’m living into God’s love and God’s way – not perfectly, but trustingly. And I suspect you believe the same. I want find the courage and wisdom to turn away from one of us being right, the other being wrong. I want us to listen to one another, hear each one’s understanding of their truths without trying to change one another. Can we find our way to the common ground of our shared humanity?
I confess that this imagined conversation hurts me – it calls up my personal history of coming out as a lesbian to my family and to my church many years ago and facing their lack of understanding and acceptance. Does it hurt you too? I confess that I am frightened for myself, for my brothers and sisters in this country and around the world who are rejected, beaten imprisoned, and murdered for being who they are. I am heartbroken for those whose families or faith communities continue to exile them. Perhaps you don’t condone violence. Maybe you haven’t thought about the often tragic ramifications of teaching, preaching, believing that there’s only one way to love, one way to be faithful.
I see that I’ve already jumped into the conversation Already I confess that I do want to change your mind. Already my fear is rising, the fear that who I am is unacceptable to you, that you want to change not only my mind but also my essence, my life.
Where am I safe? Where are you safe? Where is this field Rumi writes so eloquently about? Can we meet there?
So far, all I know to do is to invite you to join me in silence, to sit together in the Presence of Love, to breathe together in the silence as we both acknowledge the Mystery. Not ready for words. Not yet. Just, please, meet me in the middle and let us listen to the Spirit.