March 19, 2008

Radical inclusion, radical love

Something in me was stirred once again, as it has been stirred in me in recent times... It's the niggle that allows me the chance to consider just what does radical love and radical inclusion look like?

The first time I had that stirring, that niggle, was in the months leading up to the 2007 Midwinter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. That particular February, we met in Greensboro, North Carolina where all branches of Quakerism are represented. It was a confluence of our wider Quaker family, and I feel as though we--the FLGBTQC community--moved beyond being primarily a Liberal community of Quakers, as we met and welcomed into our fold a number of our FUM and Conservative sisters and brothers.

...Or again even more recently at this past Midwinter Gathering, early in 2008, when advance work was done and was sustained throughout the weekend, to increase the likelihood that more of our chemically sensitive sisters and brothers, and more of our transgender/genderqueer sisters and brothers would be more at home among us in more places at the facility where we were...

Now, regarding the actions of FUM's North Carolina Yearly Meeting of laying down a meeting that had affirmed the personhood of people who identify as gay or lesbian:

I admit, while my initial response was "Boo for the yearly meeting; yay for City View Quaker Church," I am thankful to a few Friends whose words remind me of this part of the vision and scope of FLGBTQC:

We are learning that radical inclusion and radical love bring further light to Quaker testimony and life.


When I'm so often away from others who can give me courage to look at my own prejudice and bias, how can I singly live into the promise of radical inclusion and radical love on my own?

When I have no personal relationship with the individuals and groups (who are also my brothers and sisters, distant cousins) who seem to judge unfairly others of us in God's family, how can I do this inward work faithfully and in love?

Wow, do I have work to do.


UPDATE, Fourth Month 2008: I have now posted my own working definition of "radical love." For sure it will continue to evolve as my own experiences change.


gen1pic said...

"We are learning that radical inclusion and radical love bring further light to Quaker testimony and life."

This is a good start in principle, and although it sounds vague, it's more than a position statement. By virtue of the “bring” verb, it also represents a call to engagement. How to get started?

The obvious answer, in secular terms, would be “to educate.” Quakers would translate that dull secular lingo into some other term which they feel is more spiritual, but the impulse remains quite similar. As a matter of fact, I really unite with this impulse, but I wish to add a caveat. There is a tragic fallacy in liberal thought: to assume we can simply “educate” our world out of any problem. Moreover, I can give you an example in regard to sexual orientation.

In our circles, the problem of discrimination against sexual minorities is treated solely as if it were a private matter, the province of individuals or families. We persist in believing that if we could only personally reach out to each individual and each family, our kingdom of brotherly love would prevail. For whatever reason, Quakers have “checked out” of the ongoing discourse in secular society, in which the concept of a “wedge issue” forms a cornerstone of the conversation. I have never heard a Quaker use the term “wedge issue;” nor have I heard any of us use the term “cynical opportunist.” Just because we do not allow ourselves to say these things, however, doesn't mean we don't realize in the back of our minds that sexual orientation is indeed a “wedge issue,” being actively driven—very actively driven—by “cynical opportunists” in church and state. Until we find the courage to come to terms with this part of the problem, we will keep bailing out the Titanic of institutionalized homophobia with a thimble.

Having said that, I have a thimble, too, and I bail with it practically every day of my life. If we DO want to keep bailing, and to engage with “radical love,” then we owe to our neighbors the truth we have found. I believe that the way to speak it is to avoid the traps set by hate, which have so far quite effectively distracted us from the fundamental question. I resist every attempt to derail the conversation with red herrings, straw men, “framing,” sophistry, rhetoric, and peripheral issues—obviously including Bible verses.

I can only speak personally, but here is how I view the real issue, stripped down to its essence: conservatives oppose same-sex love because they believe it leads away from God. Period. Full stop. End of story. No more complicated than that.

There is an answer to this, but it has yet to have a fair hearing. I begin by pointing out that my experience is that of a man who has just been informed, by a total stranger—in the surest and most authoritative way—what his experience of God's love is. It stands to reason that no stranger is in a position to know the relationship which I have with God. Only I can know it. And from that knowledge, I can confidently state that it has been in my love for my camerado that I have found some of my surest experiences of the love of God. A stranger wishes to stop me because she is afraid I am losing God's love. But I wish to continue in my 10-year marriage because I do not wish to be cut off from God's love. How can anyone continue to disagree with this?

I might add that this theology has guided my actions from the outset of my 16-year ministry. I have now reached the point where I can show it to be grounded in a tradition which dates all the way back to Elias Hicks's 1824 sermon, “Let Brotherly Love Continue.” (Actually, Hicks once confessed that his theology was passed down to him by some nameless Quaker minister he had known.)

It's too early too tell whether this battered and rusty little thimble is helping a big problem. However, the Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith program recently called this work “exciting” and “provocative.”

Anonymous said...

"The Quarterly Meeting also told Vestal’s church they could no longer use the word Quaker in their name.

“They don’t have proprietary right to the name, so we kept it,” Vestal said.

That's ripe. The quaterly meeting gets to say who can and can't use the word "quaker"?

Anonymous said...

"Radical inclusion" in secular society, yes. People have to live in a secular society; they cannot just opt out. And so secular society is unjust unless every person who is stuck there, and/or is granted citizenship there, is included in the same way, and to the same extent, as every other, vis-à-vis all the necessities of life and all the elements of human happiness and fulfillment.

Religious bodies don't work the same way, however. Unlike secular societies, they are voluntary associations. There is no necessity for anyone to belong to such a body; it's a purely optional thing. And thus people can form societies that are only for one sort of person and exclude all others, and this makes absolute, perfect sense. A native American tribal religion has every right and justification for excluding non-members of the tribe. A Catholic convent has every right and justification for excluding males and non-Catholics. Peter had every right and justification for laying down the law with Ananias and Sapphira, and implicitly threatening them with expulsion, although I suspect he was fairly astonished and dismayed when they responded by dropping dead. (Acts 4:32-5:11)

Tribal religions, convents, and leaders of new religious movements like Peter's make such exclusions because their communities revolve around the practice of disciplines: orderly, rule-based ways of living. Most forms of Christianity, including most forms of Quakerism, do the same, although their rules are generally more inclusive and flexible than Peter's Jerusalem community's, or a convent's. That's why Friends use the term "Gospel order": "Gospel order" means the particular sort of orderly, rule-based way of living that defines one's life as a Friend. When Friends refuse to abide by the core rules of their community, they are deprived of formal membership, although they are allowed to continue attending. This deprivation of membership is called "disownment" in most of the Quaker world.

Only certain communities in the liberal unprogrammed Quaker world are willing to say, anyone can be a Quaker whether they live by the rules (by Gospel order) or not. Even in the liberal unprogrammed Quaker world, there are other communities — Wellesley Meeting in Massachusetts, for instance — that have tossed people out, disowned them, for refusing to abide by set rules. Conservative unprogrammed Friends have not, historically, been willing to say that anyone can belong no matter how they behave. Neither have FUM Friends.

I personally happen to agree with the Asheville Friends Church in this current dispute. But eligibility for membership in most FUM yearly meetings, including North Carolina (FUM), is based on the agreement to live by certain rules. The quarterly meeting is in the wrong in saying, "You cannot use the term 'Quaker'," for the reason Asheville Friends have given. But the quarterly meeting and yearly meeting are perfectly within their rights to say, "You are no longer following the rules laid out for being a member of our body, and therefore you are expelled from it."

This is simply a fact that FLGBTQ[&c]C is going to have to face, because it isn't going to go away.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if we could have a radical inclusivity progressive movement that works on racism, FLGBTQCphobia and classism altogether.

gen1pic said...

Not only do I agree with Marshall; I also recognize that his views are more germane to the specific incident Liz raised.

However, the point he is making also speaks in a very profound way to my point about our common overconfidence in the power of "education." As a condition behind any attempt at outreach, we should assume that conservatives DO realize that people will suffer, and perhaps profoundly, as a result of "gospel order." We should furthermore assume that they DO care about this suffering, but feel order has such a high value that it must be kept.

Now, I have just argued that Friends should not shut themselves out from the common sense lessons of secular thought. On the other hand, liberals and conservatives alike, we are all aware of the utter ruthlessness which is also part of secular society. I have even alluded to this myself in a previous reference to the harsh glare of television. Elsewhere I have complied a long list of the highly toxic messages being continuously blasted out by mass media. I feel that if I showed it to an evangelical Quaker, she would agree with all the items--even perhaps my objection to the "trust your leaders" propaganda.

The only thing I would like to add is this. We know that liberals and conservatives have tried to collaborate to reduce the demand for abortions by addressing the root of the issue. Likewise, I would like evangelicals to appreciate how deeply liberals are opposed to many (most?) of the toxic secular messages that evangelicals object to -- definitely including messages which trivialize sex, love, and family.

Tania said...

I wonder if we could have a radical inclusivity progressive movement that works on racism, FLGBTQCphobia and classism altogether.

I've been thinking about that for a while now. In the book "Bridging the Class Divides", the author makes the very strong argument that all forms of oppression are connected and all of them have to be dealt with or none of them will be.

Liz Opp said...

Wow, I did not expect comments like the ones offered here.

I want to back up the conversation quite a bit, back to the part where it says "We are learning that radical inclusion and radical love bring further light to Quaker testimony and life."

For me, this statement has never been about "educating others."

This statement--from an insider's view, if you will--affirms that the community that is Friends for LGBTQ Concerns itself is learning.

As a community of LGBTQ Friends and our allies, we are learning that as we become more radically inclusive; as we become more whole as a body, our experience is that more of God's Love and Light are in turn brought to us--and we in turn have greater ability to stand in Truth and Love when we are faced with oppression and adversity.

At this point in FLGBTQC's collective journey, we aren't and haven't been worried about or focused on getting started "out there." We are much more focused on doing God's work by working amongst ourselves and by allowing the Light to work privately within us as individuals when we realize we aren't practicing radical inclusiveness, radical love.

For example:

Prior to acknowledging in its name and openly embracing within its fold bisexual Friends and transgender Friends and queer Friends, the community's Light was limited, in a way, to the wisdom and gifts that were brought to it by gay men, lesbian women and allies.

Even before that, the community was limited to the wisdom and gifts that were brought to it only by gay men.

But over the decades, the men came under the weight of the concerns raised up by lesbian Friends... and then the men and women came under the weight of the concerns held by trans Friends and bi- Friends and many other queer Friends, and all of their allies.

FLGBTQC is changing and growing into further Light because we are the ones who are doing the learning. And we are doing the learning because we understand that we have been called to practice radical inclusion and radical love, not because we have been called to go out and "educate."


gen1pic said...

Liz wrote, "Wow, I did not expect comments like the ones offered here. . . . This statement--from an insider's view, if you will--affirms that the community that is Friends for LGBTQ Concerns itself is learning."

Well, no harm done, but try to put yourself in the shoes of your readers. First, you described an incident of Quaker disownment. This was immediately followed by a testimony on the importance of inclusion. The reader expects there is a logical correlation between these two. Our bad, huh?

Liz Opp said...

Tania -

On a related note, I do see an awful lot of similar dynamics between empowerment and oppression, majority group and minority group, rule-setting/access and rule-breaking/acquiescing, that sort of thing... all under the broad umbrella of cross-cultural identity development theory.

It's an interesting question to consider that perhaps all forms of oppression are somehow connected...

Gen1pic -

As you say, no harm done. The first few comments made it clear to me that I myself hadn't been clear! Perhaps my clarification might shed new light for some readers on the two queries with which I am currently faced and which are included in the original post:

When I'm so often away from [FLGBTQC, which gives] me courage to look at my own prejudice and bias, how can I singly live into the promise of radical inclusion and radical love on my own?

When I have no personal relationship with the individuals and groups (who are also my brothers and sisters, distant cousins) who seem to judge unfairly others of us in God's family [e.g. Friends within the LGBTQ community], how can I do this inward work [of radical love] faithfully and in love?

Marshall -

Thanks for your comment, too, though perhaps you have additional thoughts, now that I've clarified the original intent of the post.

Allison -

...A radical inclusivity progressive movement...? I already do see glimpses of such a thing, especially within FLGBTQC, within my own monthly meeting, and among young Friends (high schoolers and young adults).

It probably exists in small pockets elsewhere too, and maybe moreso outside of the U.S. It seems to me that even you are a part of such a movement...


Anonymous said...

Hi Tania,

Yes, sometimes I notice that marginalized groups fear each other, which I consider fighting for the small piece of pie offered to them. I know some people are worried that including racial/ethnic minority groups would equal homophobia; and that others think including LGBTQ people scare away racial/ethnic groups. This of course, could happen, but not necessarily so (the transgender clinic I volunteer at has 50% Latino visitors!) and we have to trust that our religious foundation is secure enough to ground us in trying discussion, which, as Liz mentioned in this post, is what brings us closer to God.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Liz. You ask if I have additional thoughts, now that you've clarified your intent.

I am of course grateful for the clarification!

The main thought I feel moved to share is a reminder that, for Friends, membership is always centered in the local and yearly meeting, not in the interest group such as FLGTBQC.

And what does this way of defining membership mean? To me, it takes the "voluntary association" aspect of being in a religion, and turns it back into something more like the secular world. It affirms the fact that our neighbor, whom we are here to love as ourselves, is not the person in another region who shares our set of values and our feeling of being in an oppressed minority, but the person who is physically near to us, the person whom we didn't choose but who just happened to turn up there.

These neighbors, people we didn't choose, give us membership in the local monthly meeting, under the rules of the local yearly meeting, and thereby make us Friends. And having our membership defined by them, rather than by interest groups of people far more like ourselves, becomes a summons to practice the commandment to love them, our neighbors, as ourselves.

Loving them as ourselves is not "inward work" but interpersonal work: concrete conversation (not "education" but conversation-as-equals), concrete caregiving, concrete reconciliation.

FLGTBQC is an association of people who've chosen to hang out with each other because their neighbors don't get it yet. Right? In that context, "radical inclusiveness" means including people who actually have more in common with us than many of our immediate neighbors do. It is in fact far less radical than loving our neighbor is.

I would say, if FLGBTQC Friends want to really learn, the way to do it is not by admitting yet another group of people into FLGBTQC — polygamists, incestuous couples, pederasts or whatever — but by plunging back into their own local monthly meetings and working things out with their neighbors there.

And yes, I know that saying this isn't going to make me popular. I know that working things out with our neighbors is a tough and scary assignment.

But that's our discipline, given us by Christ and underscored by our membership structure.

Anonymous said...

Marshall, I think where you see the FLGBTQC group as an exclusive club of "like-minded people who get it", many people would see it as a witness to human rights, not so different than, for example, a Quaker Earthcare Witness or anti-war witness. That it is both an identity and a social justice issue is, to me, about the same as both being a person of color and working against racism.

Anonymous said...

Well, Allison, it sounds like maybe I didn't express myself as clearly as I should have in my previous comment. So let me try to clarify things.

First, I don't know where you get the idea that I see FLGBTQC as "an exclusive club". That's not what I believe, and I'm sorry if I said anything that suggested such a thing. If you'll read back over what I posted here, I think you will see that I certainly never called it a club, or called it exclusive, either.

I did say that FLGBTQC is "an association of people who've chosen to hang out with each other because their neighbors don't get it yet", and I willingly take responsibility for those words. If you disagree — that is, if you believe that FLGBTQC is not an association, or that it involves people against their choice, or that the people involved with it get involved for some other reason than because their neighbors need their consciousness raised — I'd be interested in seeing whatever evidence you have to that effect. I'm open to having my mind changed!

In my understanding, being a witness is not a pose but a practice. In other words, you don't get to be a witness merely by declaring yourself one; you earn your right to the name by bearing witness. And you don't bear witness merely by accepting more people who already agree with you into membership in your group; being a witness involves presenting consciousness-changing evidence to those who are not already in agreement with you, just as a witness in a courtroom does to the judge and jury.

Now, as I see it, many (not all, but many) members of FLGBTQC are already doing this — already bearing real, concrete, consciousness-changing witness to the unclued. The intent of my previous comment was not to deny that such people exist, and again, if I misled you or anyone else on that point, I apologize. What I was saying, or at any rate trying to say, in my previous comment, was rather that it is by the practice of bearing witness — by actually going out and interacting with the unconvinced members of one's community — that one learns.

Widening the discussion to QEW is fine with me, but I wonder if this is really the right place to do it.

gen1pic said...

Marshall wrote, "... you don't get to be a witness merely by declaring yourself one; you earn your right to the name by bearing witness. And you don't bear witness merely by accepting more people who already agree with you into membership in your group."

I find this to be a very helpful reminder to all of us. Thanks.

Liz Opp said...

I have some additional thoughts in response to some of the comments posted recently:

Speaking from my own experience of FLGBTQC, in conversations online as well as attending gatherings during Midwinter and at FGC summer gatherings, I would say that some of us voluntarily hang out together because those around us in our day to day lives "don't get it yet."

But some others of us, like myself, voluntarily hang out together because, well, we like one another. For me, it isn't related to matters of oppression by my fellow worshipers--they are some of our dearest, reliable allies!

I also want to clarify that FLGBTQC doesn't pass itself off as a monthly meeting, and yet as Marshall alludes to, we run into the confusion/distinction between secular membership and religious membership (i.e. participation/identity as compared to mutual spiritual care/accountability, etc.).

In addition, I want to say that "loving and including my neighbor" has very much had to do with me and the Friends who are from a region other than my own who also share certain values with me.

These Friends and I have enough in common with me that we travel to the same events, but we are also different from one another in key ways that I am "afflicted," I am exercised --the Light demands that I look more deeply at myself and my bias or self-righteousness at a time when caring relationships are forged or strengthened.

Sometimes the deepest change in my own life is an outgrowth of the newest, most fragile relationships. For example, this past Midwinter gathering, all the bathrooms on campus but one or two were identified as "gender neutral."

It was hard for me to walk willingly into a bathroom where there were multiple stalls (curtained off), not knowing if someone who identified as male might be in a neighboring stall. But I did it because we are learning what it means to live into radical inclusiveness.

I don't mean for it to sound as superficial as it does. I had to face my own "non-trans" privilege, which in turn has helped me be more sensitive to some of the dilemmas, barriers, and misperceptions that trans people have to face--around bathrooms, roommates, attire, etc.

To say that our work only exists between ourselves and those who have different values from our own is not accurate or complete. Sometimes God will call us to work within our own community; other times, God calls us to work outside of our community. It is both/and, not either/or.

Forgive me if my thoughts ramble. There is much going on in my life these days but I didn't want to put my response off any longer.


Will T said...

This conversation has been with me for a while. In fact I tried to post a comment a few days ago but it seems to have found its way to the ether part of the ethernet so I will try again.

If we are really going to practice radical love and radical inclusiveness than we have to find a love that can encompass both FLGBTQC and North Carolina YM (FUM). Jesus loves both groups and the people in them. We are called to the same love. I don't know how to do it particularly well, especially when I see Christianity used as a justification to act in ways that seem to me to be clearly un-Christian.

Nevertheless, I am encouraged because it seems that God is still working in the Society of Friends and so we can be sure that at some point something new will happen to break us out of our stuck places.


Will T.

Anonymous said...

Well, okay, Liz: I stand corrected. You and "some others ... voluntarily hang out together because, well, we like one another."

At the same time, I did not say that the members of FLGBTQC hand out together because of "matters of oppression by [their] fellow worshipers." There, Liz, you are reading something into my words that wasn't there. I said that they have chosen to hang out with each other because their neighbors don't get it yet," and I think there is still truth in that statement, even for you and those "others". If everyone in the Society of Friends "got it", FLGBTQC would never even have been organized, because the Society of Friends would itself already be what FLGBTQC was organized to be. You wouldn't need to travel to FLGBTQC events because you'd already be finding what you find there, in your local meeting.

Now, as to your statement that "' "loving and including my neighbor' has very much had to do with me and the Friends who are from a region other than my own who also share certain values with me." I understand, I think, what you are trying to get across, and I honor the truth of what you say. But I believe you are doing violence there to the meaning of "neighbor". In the Biblical teaching ("Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; I [who say this] am YHWH": Leviticus 19:18), "neighbor" doesn't mean the person far away whom you seek out because you like her, or him, better than the people next door. "Neighbor" means just exactly the people next door.

The point is amply driven home by the parable of the good Samaritan, which Jesus told to illustrate the meaning of this teaching (Luke 10:29-37): the wounded Jewish traveler was not the person the good Samaritan would have sought out as a friend (there was deep alienation between the Jews and the Samaritans in those days), but he was the person right in front of him, and for that reason the Samaritan fulfilled the commandment to love him as his own self.

The Hebrew word translated as "neighbor" in this teaching (in the source text, Leviticus 19:18) is רֵעַ, rea`, which has the root meaning of "a member of the same flock as oneself". It relates to the idea that the Hebrews/Jews were members of a single flock, YHWH's flock. (Thus the same Hebrew word, רֵעַ, is used throughout the Torah in passages describing how God wanted the Hebrews to relate to their fellow tribespeople.)

The Jews did not accept the Samaritans as members of their own flock — for all that the Samaritan religion was, and still is, merely a northern, Israelite, variation on the Jews' own religion — because the Jews felt that the Samaritans had fallen into deep error. And, well, an awful lot of the FLGTBQC Friends I know tend to have a comparable gut feeling about the general run of FUM Friends, and even about their "homophobic" neighbor Friends in their own home meetings: "these people have fallen into error."

But the religion of Friends in FLGTBQC is really no more different from the religion of those Friends whom FLGTBQC calls "homophobic", than the Jewish religion is from the Samaritan religion. And so the applicability of Christ's parable is pretty clear — or so it seems to me. "Go thou and do likewise!" said Christ to the "lawyer" at its conclusion. Can you and I hear that directive? Who is the wounded Jewish traveler, the distasteful-but-hurting Other right in front of us, whom you and I are called to stop and help?

Anonymous said...

Oops — I see I need to post a further self-clarification, because I accidentally edited out part of the comment above just before posting it.

So here's the clarification:

Yes, I know I said in an earlier comment that "our neighbor ... is not the person in another region who shares our set of values and our feeling of being in an oppressed minority". But I was not trying to say by that that FLGBTQC members hang out together because they are oppressed by their fellow Friends, or even because they feel oppressed by their fellow Friends.

Feeling that the rest of the Society somehow "doesn't get it yet" is really not the same as feeling that one is being positively oppressed by the rest of the Society.

I apologize if my words gave the wrong impression. I try very hard to say things right, but sometimes I just make a mess of it.

John Michael Keba said...

"conservatives oppose same-sex love because they believe it leads away from God. Period. Full stop. End of story. No more complicated than that."

Wow. I am a conservative, with life-long bisexual leanings, who opposes same-sex acts, my own included, because I believe, along with the Catholic and Orthodox churches, that the hard, physical evidence makes a lie of the APA's ideological and political removal of homosexuality from the DSM. This being the same APA which, from 1994-2004, did not consider the act of sex with a prepubescent child a criterion of pedophilia unless the actor was bothered by his or her actions (conservative outrage resulted in amendment of this criterion in 2000, by the way). This same APA then almost removed pedophilia altogether from the DSM-IV_TR, only a few years back, for the same reasons it removed SSA in 1973. It also has partially "normalized" sexual torture (sadism), masochism, and bestiality according to its materialist, atheist paradigm.

In short, I believe the hard science affirms that male homosexual acts, at least, on an epidemiological level, are physically harmful, spread disease, and foster psychological distress. Nor does the claim that the latter condition of psychological distress is caused by societal factors hold water, as far as I can see, because the incidence of disorder is still just as high in Scandinavian countries that have normalized SSA.

I cannot, in charity, embrace the idea that male-male sex is OK just because current secular opinion says it is.

Oh yes, there is too that whole bible thing going on with me. In fact, I believe that non-biased, non-politicized science bears St. Paul out.

But thanks for pigeonholing me.

Liz Opp said...

Will T -

Thanks for your comment. The sentiment you express here, that "Jesus loves [all] groups and the people in them," resonates with a sort of unspoken message that seemed to undergird the 2007 Midwinter Gathering near Greensboro. And, like so many other experiences in faith communities, some of us were more ready to embrace that message than others of us.

Marshall -

I'm so glad you've taken additional time to clarify and re-address a few things. In some ways, I believe you and I are nearly on the same page.

For example, the whole topic of just who is a "neighbor." I think you and I both know there are geographical neighbors (e.g. the person next door) and there are cultural neighbors (a person of a different nationality, ethnic group, etc.).

And over the years, I have heard Friends speak to how there is the literal interpretation of the Bible as well as the metaphorical story that grows beyond it as the world and the world's religions change.

If you feel I have done violence to the meaning of "neighbor," I'm sorry for that pain. I'm not sure how much of the difficulty you have with what I have written speaks to the literal versus metaphorical approach to "neighbor"; or something else.

Not being a scholar of Scripture, I often take my cues from others around me, and the same is true for all the discussion that went into the discernment of a theme for the 2007 FGC Gathering. Much of that discussion initially by the Gathering Committee was focused on who we consider as "other" in our lives and how we might live into the command, "Love thy neighbor..."

But my own sense is that you, Will, and I are pointing in the same direction: Strive to love all those who are part of God's family.

That said, I also agree that FLGBTQC--like any grouping of Friends who have in common an understanding of "how we do Quakerism"--has its share of worshippers who believe that "those other Friends" have "fallen into error" whether we are talking about LGBTQ issues, the centrality of Jesus, or the manner of worship that consitutes Quaker worship.

John Michael Keba -

Thanks for stopping by... I'm not sure how to respond to your comment, since you address things that are beyond the scope of The Good Raised Up.

That said, what I appreciate about your comment is the reminder that we must be mindful about coming to know one another through our own direct experience and in that which is Eternal, not by lumping everyone who is of a certain socio-political persuasion into one big pot and assuming we therefore know them completely.


Anonymous said...

Dear Liz, I'm glad, and grateful, that you don't feel my postings here have been an imposition. It's important to me to respect the venue you've set up here, and to respect your feelings, too.

On the other hand, no, I'm afraid I don't know that there are such things as "cultural neighbors". I have never heard or seen anyone use the word "neighbor" like that; I don't find it used like that in the dictionaries; and, alas, I have no idea what the term "neighbor" would actually signify in such a context.

Nor — more to the point — does it seem likely to me that the idea of a "cultural neighbor" has anything to do with the religious discipline taught in Leviticus, or with the understanding Christ was trying to get across with his story of the wounded traveler.

Leviticus was talking about our duty to form ties of real brotherhood and mutual assistance with whoever it is we may find ourselves living next to, a very important duty for people scrabbling for survival on the margins of the Arabian desert. Christ was talking about the same thing in a changed, more urbanized and prosperous and impersonal context, where people may fall through the safety net of good-neighborliness because the old get-involved-with-your-neighbors principle is no longer such an obvious necessity for survival. Or so it seems to me. And the situation Christ was addressing holds, if anything, even more true for people in a comfortable, prosperous, urbanized place like Omaha or Minneapolis/St. Paul.

If I'm missing something here, I hope you will help me understand.

Literal interpretations of the Bible and metaphorical interpretations are both just fine with me; but — just speaking for myself, Liz — I am interested in benefitting from the wise instruction and correction of Christ, not in substituting my own ideas for his in such a way that I fail to hear his correction. So where he is deliberately literal, I do my best to hear him that way; and where he is deliberately metaphorical, I struggle to open my ears to hear him that way. I hope this makes sense to you.

Yes, I agree: you and I both understand that we are called to strive to love all those who are part of God's family. But I suspect that the priest and the Levite in Christ's story, who walked past the wounded traveler without stopping, actually understood that they were called to do that, too. In my own (admittedly limited) experience, the problem — when we fail to take time for the person within easy reach of us, the wounded traveler on the road or the Nazi fellow three houses down the block or the uncomprehending member of our own local monthly meeting — the problem is not, usually, a problem of not knowing or agreeing with the abstract principle. The problem is usually that some part of our brain tells us that stopping to get involved requires too much time, or is too much bother, or is somehow "scary". And we listen to that part of our brain, instead of abiding by the discipline God has given us through Leviticus and through Christ.

The priest and the Levite listened to that part of their brain; the good Samaritan abided by the discipline instead. And you and I? We are tested by that principle every day of our lives —

Liz Opp said...

Marshall -

It has taken me some time to respond to your most recent comment; there is much going on in my life these days...

Still, your comment has not left me, so I have returned to it.

I apologize for assuming that you would have a sense of my meaning when I used the phrase "cultural neighbor." What I mean by that phrase is one who culturally is not like myself, but who deserves care and love, as a geographical neighbor would, should a time of need arise and I am in that person's path at the time.

And again, I would say you and I are not far apart in understanding and living into radical love:

We must either lay aside or otherwise transcend our fears and our cultural or societal taboos and be ready to "abide by the discipline God has given us," as you say.