Friday, December 28, 2007

Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk about

It happened again. I was having a perfectly lovely conversation with someone I had just met, someone who is also a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the conversation got around to the Great Debate. You know the one I mean.

She had let me know that she knew "all about" my journey with the ELCA. If you're new here, you really only need to know that I live in a weird liminal space in my denomination. I'm not allowed to be on the clergy roster because I am a lesbian in a committed relationship (and choose--it's all about choice--not to lie about that). But I serve an ELCA church. Like I said, a liminal space.

The lady and I were having a very nice conversation. I'm not sure how it even got around to the subject of the Great Debate. I guess it just always does.

So there we were, talking about the church's struggles with its gay and lesbian members and pastors, and she looks at me and says, "Well, as a straight person, I just wish we could quit talking about it all the time."

I can only hope that I didn't roll my eyes, because, like I said, I was enjoying our conversation. I found this lady's sense of humor and presence absolutely delightful.

But gee, I'm tired of hearing that sentence. I'm tired of what seems to lurk beneath that sentence: a sense that lesbian and gay people in the church are somehow interested in prolonging the discussion of our sex lives.

Um, because we're really not. I say that with some confidence. I have yet to meet a gay or lesbian Lutheran who relishes the fact that our intimate relationships, our love lives, and "what y'all do in bed" is fodder for church assembly conversation and debate. I don't know any gay or lesbian Lutherans who like being "studied."

I'm leaving out transgendered and bisexual Lutherans because I'm afraid we've only just begun to study them. We've had some conversation about bisexuality, but it hasn't really gone anywhere. The church has yet to actually legislate around gender identity or bisexuality. You're only precluded from serving a church if you are in a "homosexual sexual relationship." So the defining issue is still "what y'all do in bed."

Sleep, mainly.

Look, here's where the confusion arises. I hate this debate. I hate being studied. But if we're ever going to have justice, this unequal, uncomfortable conversation has to take place. The alternative is to continue the longstanding, unstated "don't ask, don't tell" policy we have used for years. And at this point, there are just too dang many of us to try to cram back into that closet.

So as a lesbian, I wish we could quit talking about it as well. Yesterday. But I guess there's no other way through the crucible moment than to play with fire.

1 comment:

Paul B. (Chicago) said...

Well, I totally agree with you Donna.

I had the experience of several straight people talking about the gay issue at church (100% very positively) and being the only gay person in the room. I just clammed up, it feels like such a bad experience every time the gay issue comes up.

But if I want things to change there's no other choice than for me to sit with the uncomfortable.

On a related topic of things I'm very uncomfortable with, we're having a major emphasis on, I guess you could say, evangelizing. As in going out into our immediate neighborhood and talking to people and building relationships in order to bring them into the church. I am so guilty when it comes to this. I completely just want a bunch of people to show up at church on their own accord and have nothing to do with it personally. I'm even willing to save up some money and buy an ad in the newspaper rather than talking to people.

On the other hand, my friends have openly told me that they hate the church, they don't understand why I participate in a hateful institution with an angry God out to get me, but I don't censor myself about how happy I am with things I do at church and occasionally throw in an invitation for them to come. I guess the Spirit moves through me on some level?