second time around

for thos of you who missed it the first time around (and i guess now a second time, since we just got Katie’s new posts up), Katie posted a link (hidden deep in her introduction) to a great little speech she gave.

i wanted to pull it to the forground here and identify some of the fantastic questions it addresses – maybe get some conversations going over it.

  • How could I continue to participate in a church that’s soul is so damaged that it does not follow its own stated values? I concluded that if I’m not going to do what I can to make it better, I might as well leave, but I decided to stay with the church for now, to work for change and the healing of the church. While I still have hope, I will be here, a young queer Mennonite challenging my church to be better.

    (looks like you expanded on this some in your latest post). i left. but that, obviously, accomplished nothing in the way of church reform. and i do care about the Mennonite church – or i pseudo care. the idea is extremely important to me – my anabaptist heritage means quite a bit – but I find the church smug, self-centered hypocritical (as you point out), and too caught up in its own traditions to think creatively. (if “traditional” and “contemporary” services are the only two options we can think of for worship, and it’s a big issue for us, we’re the most uncreative people I know (up there with politicians) – but that’s a different issue). i am not making the church a better place for anyone, i’m just walking away. when is that the thing to do? or is it ever?

  • Those of us who are queer have a special perspective on heterosexual privilege. For the most part, we have had it and can have it when and if we choose to.

    i’m not sure i buy that. i would say a main component of hetero privledge is that i don’t even need to think about it. i don’t have to choose on a daily basis to be ‘in’ or ‘out’. i don’t have to hide anything to be accepted in the church or culture. (well, sometimes i hide my divorce, but that is again off topic…). the ‘hidden’ nature of queer identity makes the priveledge even more dangerous. it also gives us the ability to have such destructive ideas as ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ – and pretend you don’t even exist. and it’s rare that you meet someone of another race who is repressed and ‘closeted’ about it. all-in-all, not something that looks like a queer advantage to me.

  • I challenge you to ask yourself what you are and what you are not willing to risk?

    again, i walked away, and i wonder if that is the opposite of taking a risk? i think you pose some great possible risks here, and i hope (not being a pastor, and not currently getting married) i can think of some of my own as well. i say that i care about my queer friends, but i can’t say i have a lot to show for it. i think this clearly makes me a recovering homophobic (or at least hetero-supremacist, since it’s not as much a fear as a privledge…).

  • I would suggest that we not just ask that the rules for membership, ordination and marriage be changed to include us, but to question the very relevance of the rules and the institutions they regulate.

    this is one of my favorites (maybe because it doesn’t implicate me?). i’ve heard arguments that the women’s movement was a failure for exactly this reason (and the same could be said about civil rights). now we are content with (or at least complacent within) a system in which women too can be ‘one of the boys’ if they try hard enough. no real societal change was made – we just allowed women to join in the old male-created structures. i would hate to see queer folk simply join equally into a breeder culture without questioning some of our basic cultural assumptions like marriage and ordination and the likes.

    here’s a querstion from the theatre angle – is it more radical to address homosexuality head on in plays such as Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” or to stop talking about it and start assuming it as with all of Chuck Mee Jr.’s work? Chuck has a very interesting note on casting his plays that relates to his feelings on this). Or are both extremely relevant? Or is neither?

i loved the speech, Katie. thanks. i hope i can take it to heart and do something with it.

Comments (2)

  1. Katie

    Eric, You question when and if leaving can have a value in a movement. I think that it can have a lot of value when it makes a statement. If when you leave you are saying, “I can’t be a part of this instituion because…,” you are making a statement and I would even say taking the risk of losing a part of your community if that has been important to you. It doesn’t make as much of a statement if you don’t say it outloud or no one knows why. (if a tree falls in the forest…). On the other hand if you continue to engage the church even from the outside – you have the possibility of making change or at least being heard. In a church, like the Mennonite Church, that is concerned about decreasing membership among young people – you do have a voice but only when you use it. I can think of two situations where leaving is probably a better idea than staying. One is when the church becomes personally harmful or abusive. I would compare it to some of the dynamics of domestic abuse in the sense that the church can become spiritually abusive and harm a person’s sense of self and faith. This comparison gets a little messy since victims of domestic abuse are usually told to “get out and get out now” but I wouldn’t tell all queer people who have been wronged by the church to get out and get out now. I guess it might have to do with one’s ability to deal with the abuse and find safe spaces outside the church. Maybe it has to do with how much it has affected the person. Which comes to my second instance where I might suggest leaving. That would be when someone is hurt or angry about the church without the hope, vision, self-will, commitment, or energy to work to change it. These are not exhaustive but two I thought of for now. Sometimes an institution lacks relavance to some. If I hadn’t already been a member and had a lot of commitment to the church when I came out and saw some of the more negative sides of it, I probably wouldn’t have joined. So I think leaving and staying both have value at different times for different reasons and that is really a personal thing.

    As far as privilege – this is complicated. You are right in the grand sense that Heterosexual Privilege is something you don’t have to think about if you don’t want to and I do. But I think it gets complicated when you break down Heterosexual Privilege into internal and external, and think about the dynamics of passing and being read. Then there are legal rights and the way a person is perceived and treated in society. While a closeted person still has to deal with homophobia (much of it internalized) and an internal struggle that a straight person doesn’t – externally that person is perceived as heterosexual and therefore has heterosexual privilege (one of the main points of being closeted and passing). Since sexual orientation is an internal matter rather than visual (other than all those stereotypes) one has to say it either verbally or non-verbally (by fitting in with stereotypes or intentionally being read) for most people to know. Then there are dynamics with bisexuality. If a bisexual is in a opposite-sex relationship, they even can get the legal rights of heteros. That doesn’t make the privilege better or worse, just some interesting dynamics of it.

    I think privilege gets really interesting when you start talking about allies. To be a good ally, someone has to seriously engage their privilege and be as out as an ally as queer people are as queer. Without that, an ally is only halfway there but in a way gets even more privilege. Since they aren’t seriously challenging the church or society they keep all their hetero-privilege but they get the added bonus of being in on the queer world without actually giving this up. I could say there are quite a few “welcoming” churches that do this too. By riding the fence between “welcoming” and “not taking a public stand” a church can be seen as cool and progressive without actually getting censured by the powers that be.

    As to your question: “is it more radical to address homosexuality head on…or to stop talking about it and start assuming it” I think Charles Mee answered that in his piece on casting by saying that he can stop talking about it and start assuming it because others are engaging it elsewhere. I think both are good and can be used at different times and settings. I like to try t manage both at the same time. I’ve stopped dealing with the morality of homosexuality for because that isn’t a question for me but I do engage homophobia, hetersexism, and how we live together in church and society.

    That was long but I could really talk about this shti all day long like it is my job – actually, it is.

  2. Russ

    “What am I willing to risk?”

    I’m willing to risk safety, I’m willing to risk security, I’m willing to risk normality (I don’t think I’m very normal now), I’m willing to risk many things… for what I believe in. I think that your letter was interesting but I don’t agree with what you’re fighting for.

    I am a pastor. I’m a youth pastor. I am in the place where I am to challenge and to encourage youth and alike around me to grow in Jesus. I am not hindered by normality but by truth. Truth hinders and enhances what I can and can not teach others. Truth is what I seek. For what else is worth anything without TRUTH?

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