Comforting Words: 08/2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fundamentalist Liberal - Who Me?

Contrary to how it may seem I have not totally disengaged from intelligent discourse opting instead to play Facebook/Zynga games all my waking, non-working hours.

Out of sheer curiosity my new found pastime has been the cure that was long needed for a work life that is not only stress-filled but a home life that is often spent in the company of my two wonderful but rude dogs.

Two events – or more comments – have dragged me out of my reverie with Mafia Wars and Farmville. After the first event, I rushed to the laptop and started writing but got side-tracked.

On my drive home from work it has become my sanity-sustaining activity to flip through the radio channels, catching up on the news of the “outside” world and blasting the stereo system, speeding down the empty highways in my truck. (I need to name her – any suggestions?)

One afternoon last week, for some reason that now escapes me, my homeward trip was earlier than usual and so I caught a talk show on an AM channel. The host, Charles Randel or something, was speaking with a newspaper columnist who in the past has rankled me. That day, however, I found myself nodding in agreement with almost every word he said.

Lorne Gunter, columnist for the National Post (and Edmonton Journal I believe), was answering questions about his recently published article entitled “The United Church is Blind to True Suffering.”

For those who did not know, since settling in Canada I became a member of the United Church of Canada (UCC). This organization has been by quasi spiritual home for almost seven years now and I have had the privilege of serving on a few committees at the local (Edmonton) and national levels.

My journey with the UCC has not been without its challenges and listening to Gunter it seemed like he had gotten into my head – against my will because he is conservative or so I decided some time ago – and was putting my inner most feelings about the Church out there.

To me, Gunter’s basic thesis was that the UCC (and in my opinion many other liberal churches) have gone overboard in political correctness. His exact words, courtesy of the National Post, are:
“…the UCC is more concerned with fashionably left-wing causes such as multiculturalism than it is about ending persecution per se. It is far more concerned for advancing political correctness than spreading or even defending its own faith.”

Gunter and I might never agree on the issue of multiculturalism, with my preference being for inter-culturalism, however we certainly see eye to eye on the question of “defending” one’s faith. And by defense my understanding is not putting up resistance because Christianity (or your brand of it) is under fire. Here my view is speaking for what you believe – no matter what – without pandering and trying to cater to everyone’s whim and fancy.

One of the many lessons I carried forward from my journey with another faith organization, the Universal Center of Truth for Better Living in Kingston, Jamaica, is that “principle never changes.” That church taught and I believe that “God is Principle” and therefore no matter what how high the tide or strong the wind that is blowing – God will be God.

That thought/knowledge has taken me this far – and I am sure will take me even further if I continue to believe and hold on to it. Hence my dismay was being in the UCC and watching church/organizational politics affecting the teachings of Christ.

Even more shocking for me was hearing numerous protests about using the name of Jesus the person whose teachings greatly influenced the modern Christian church.

Little surprise then, if what Gunter reports in his article is true, that the UCC is picking and choosing based on political expediency what ills of the world to speak out against. He wrote:
“If condemning all violent oppression were the UCC's goal; if ending the cruel treatment of all people regardless of their race or creed were the church's objective -- rather than merely mounting, once again, a high horse from which to spit on Israel -- then it would have been equally quick to condemn Hamas, who are, as many in the UCC see it, Israel's victims in Gaza.”

My personal position on the Israel/Gaza issue aside, Gunter is absolutely right. Again, his perspective might be driven by some right-wing agenda but does it really matter? The UCC’s seem to be driven by a left-wing agenda that turns a blind eye to suffering say as - one example –of black people right under its nose!!!

During my chaplaincy training my first teaching supervisor described my way of thinking as bordering on fundamental liberalism. Those of you who know me well will realize that that conversation did not end very well (LOL). After tempers cooled – mine and mine – and after some serious reflection, it finally dawned on me what she was trying to open me to see.

There I was accusing others of being fundamentalist because their biblical understanding was as such that they had no use for gays and lesbians, unwed mothers, abortion etc. So strident was I in arguing my point against their views that my own knives were drawn, ready to attack anyone who did not see things my way.

Her words to me meant – you are behaving just like what you are fighting against. My views were so liberal and so right that only a fool would not hold the same ones.

What does this have to do with the other event?

Well, a discussion about patriotism as Jamaicans ensued after those of us who did not know about the Berlin Games were denounced as living under some rock. Jamaicans, for the most part are extremely proud of the achievements of its track and field athletes. I am too; however, fanatic I am not.

An invitation was issued to me to enter into a further conversation about Marcus Garvey and other things Jamaican. I declined by not even acknowledging the invitation. Okay – bite me.

Why would a conversation of that sort be of interest to me when the hostess declared that she would prefer being disrespected in Jamaica by her kinsmen than anywhere else in the world?

This comment came after I explained that Jamaica has its problems that if not honestly addressed will continue to see the country swimming in its own excrement. I also shared how my husband experienced racism and harassment while we were on our honeymoon in Jamaica.

I also shared how the insult went further with the treatment meted out to me by many service representatives because I was in the company of a “white man.” My dress, mannerism meant nothing – I was seen and treated as a prostitute – until I finally shoved the wedding band in one person’s face and offered the marriage certificate.

Truth must always be spoken – no matter the consequences. Truth must always be spoken to power.

I know no other way – as a follower of Jesus the Christ. That is what his life and death, if you believe the Scriptures, was about – truth telling.

Racism is racism. Bigotry is bigotry. Injustice is injustice. Wrong is wrong.

Whether the person in power is rich, poor, black or white; whether they are Christians, Muslim or Jew.

I do not want to be part of a church, a movement, an organization or a club that turns a blind eye to any type of injustice because it is not expedient to address it. I refuse to carry out my job function at the expense of anyone because they are black, Native, white, poor, an addict, a prisoner, a prostitute or have HIV/AIDS.

I will not be patriotic to the point of being stupid and ignorant, dancing like a fool when people are hungry for education; health and opportunity but politicians and preachers are too corrupt to care.

Neither should the church and neither should you.

Now back to my games – Mafia Wars, Farmville anyone?



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