Thursday, August 27, 2009

Painting With a Broad Brush

Two priests I know found themselves in the 1970s in the less-than-comfortable position of being on the opposite side on the issue of women's ordination from people with whom they had worked in the civil rights and peace movements. Another priest, with whom I stood shoulder-to-shoulder at anti-war rallies, is on the "other side" in the debates about same-sex relationships.

People, being people, often have convictions which are hard to figure out at first. In exchanges in the blogosphere, I often see this difficulty leading to unwarranted assumptions about other people's convictions. Someone assumes that the person who disagrees with the traditional interpretation of Scripture on same-sex relationships must also not believe in the Incarnation or the Resurrection. When I post comments on other people's blogs, I often find myself being accused of holding positions which I do not hold and which, usually, haven't even been part of the discussion.

Recently I posted a comment about bishops who were opposed to the ordination of women. What I said was that I thought it was wrong for a bishop's convictions to trump those of vestries that might want to call a woman as rector. That simple comment brought a response from one anonymous person about how I refused to admit that those bishops' convictions were shared by many people in the pews - after all, the bishops convictions were well-known when they were elected - and that many of those bishops and their diocesan conventions had voted to leave the Episcopal Church, and that the leadership of the Episcopal Church wanted to silence all dissent.

Whew! I wondered where that came from. Perhaps it came from the all-too-human temptation to categorize, to put folks into neat boxes, assuming that all the "liberals" hold identical convictions about everything. Perhaps it was simply laziness. As President Andrew Shepherd said near the end of The American President, "We've got serious problems, and we need serious people...This is a time for serious people...." Serious people take the time to listen and to understand others. Serious people understand that people are complicated and can't really be categorized and put into neat boxes. Serious people aren't satisfied with sound-bites and slogans, and want real conversation because real conversation holds out the promise of real solutions.

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