Between the GOP debates and the recent State of the Union address - there's been a lot of political tinder to fuel internet opinions. I feel rather inundated with FACEBOOK STATUSES WRITTEN IN CAPS LOCK and photos of government officials with funny tag lines added and links to smear campaign ads vaguely claiming someone has been "feeding us more lies" with no supporting facts.
Its not the posts and the content I have a problem with here - its my reaction to them. When the joke falls within my party lines I find myself nodding, smirking "haaa, thats so true. I don't know how anyone could be stupid enough not to see how simple and true this is." And when it crosses my political divide - I read the same helvetica font as angry, mean, bitter helvetica. "really? you think that's funny? how stupid would you have to be to believe that is even remotely true?"
So the real issue is not that I have blue friends and red friends and friends with links to political satire - the real issue is how I clench my jaw and put up walls as soon as I perceive a strong bias in other people. But doesn't that just reveal a unhealthy manifestation of bias in myself?
I say all this about relatively benign facebook messages because this weekend I'm helping with an event that centers around a very jaw clenching, wall building issue - sexual identity (and the kicker, its' being held in one of those places where people really like to argue separate sides without hearing each other - a church).
I feel so hopeful about this event though. The Upper Room has arranged for Janell Williams Paris, a professor at Messiah College, to lecture about aspects of sexual identity - ranging from our cultural view of gender and sex to homosexuality to celibacy. All of this is based off her book "The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are." Her approach is to begin to remove some of the divisive constructs that have effectively halted conversation and allow for an open dialogue.
***For anyone that isn't able to sign up on eventbrite and come tomorrow - you can hear Janell give a short radio interview here. ***
(note: I can't speak for everyone involved when I say this..) My goal is not to change people's minds/theology/religious construct. My goal, my hope, for saturday afternoon is that people relax their fists and open their ears and hear a well worn topic in a new way. For some people that have strong opinions, sitting in the middle of this powder keg of an issue, this approach could sound compromising and relativistic. I understand that. For some people that have been made to feel unwelcome, been ostracized, been oppressed, this approach could sound benign and insensitive. I understand that.
I sit in a comfortable place in our society as a middle class american with unambiguous genitalia that has a huge heterosexual crush on my husband. Its sad to me that there are labels that are 'normal' and 'abnormal' and more so 'perverse'. I can have the luxury of saying lets put away anger and sit and hear each other. I know my position is a luxury. I understand that too.
Even still - I hope this weekend can be one where the protest banners are laid down and the need to hear outweighs the need to be heard and most importantly we forgo the need to figure out who is right. It might sound like a cop out to a charged issue - but we haven't gotten anywhere with SPEAKING IN ALL CAPS. And isn't it harder to face the thing we disagree with? Isn't it less of a cop out to wrestle with