Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Any Benefit In Remaining Silent?

Jonah has this friend who posted the following post on Facebook:

"I would love for my Christian friends to read this, and comment on it... (I also invite my non-Christan friends...) Jay Bakker [son of Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker] is a straight ally for the gay community. These are comments from his sermon this past Sunday... I wonder what my straight friends who attend a church that I consider to be "anti-gay" think of this... I wonder if they take my feelings into consideration... Just wondering..."

He then quotes Jay Bakker:

"What I realized is there are a lot of people who attend their church because they like the worship music or appreciate the community, even though someone they love is not fully welcomed or included in their church. It makes me wonder -- how would I feel if my friends continuously attended a place that didn't completely welcome me --or wouldn't allow me to be a member -- or wouldn't allow me to volunteer -- or wouldn't recognize my relationship with my significant other... How would that make me feel? -

"As straight allies, I want us to keep thinking about this, and asking, "Why aren't things changing?" We continue to say "Well, they've got really good music there..." or "the community is really nice..." I still tithe & give my money there... But at the same time, their Gospel doesn't include certain people... I want to challenge people to see things through other people's eyes. Your friends who are being excluded probably aren't going to say anything, because they are so used to being excluded, and not fitting in, that they have just come to terms with fitting into that reality... And to me, it is reality that is unacceptable.

"These types of things need to be discussed. The silence is very dangerous for people & it really does hurt people, and it really does continue to make people second class citizens...

"Being silent does not change anything. Being silent might be helping those who aren't comfortable with those people, but what about those people? I just never thought the church was meant to be run by majority rules. It seems to me that Jesus continuously taught that you leave the 99 for the one -- (he taught) always go out of the way for the least of these... -- Maybe churches are just not into Jesus -- I don't know..."

I'm not sure how I feel about his statement. As someone who has attended a church that is seen by many as "anti-gay" and actually has attended mostly in silence since I was excommunicated, I am not only one of the disenfranchised that Jay Bakker is defending, but I guess I am also one of the silent supporters of that supposedly "anti-gay" church that he is accusing.

I get his point. How can you claim to support your gay friends if you are giving your time and support to an organization that excludes them? But does Bakker really expect those people to give up their religions which may provide them with more than Bakker surmises. Contrary to his assertions, I don't think it's just about the "good music" or "nice community". I think people find inspiration and a closeness to God even if the religion may teach doctrines which which they are not always comfortable.

I agree that staying silent doesn't change anything, but is being a quiet example the same as staying silent? I must admit that as a gay person, I am always pleased when an active Mormon friend speaks up in a church meeting in defense of gay people, but I also think even when people don't speak up, some are affected positively by the rhetoric. Maybe they silently think, "I don't think I agree with that negative rhetoric" and just because they aren't speaking up now doesn't mean they won't someday be moved to do so. Some people take time to understand their voice and speak their truth.

As for someone like me, a gay, excommunicated man who still attended (well, until recently) my Mormon ward in silence, is my silent attendance necessarily showing support for an anti-gay organization? Maybe I've gotten more out of going than Jay Bakker surmises. And maybe the fact that I have continued to go has had a positive effect on those around me. Maybe they think about gay people differently now. Maybe they think more positively about gay people and their relationships because of my own example. Maybe they're thinking about how they feel about this issue. I know they are. I think my silence has often spoken volumes that couldn't have been effectively communicated in any other way.

Jonah replied to his friend's status post:

"I've been thinking of this. What I find is that God has truly made us different for a reason. There are those of us who were made to be outspoken and those who are not so outspoken or as Jay Bakker calls them, 'the silent ones'. But let us all remember that God has a plan for those who are silent, too. Yes, there are times when I wish these people would scream from the mountaintops as I, but sometimes these silent ones can be just as big an example as us by just being who they are. We shouldn't assume that these silent ones aren't making an impact or doing what they can to change things. Remember, change starts from within and it doesn't happen overnight. I believe change is coming and one day the hard shell of these churches will break. Each and every one has their own journey and just because one is not going to an all-inclusive church doesn't mean they don't want change."

Anyway, I just found the whole topic of conversation very interesting. What do you think?


LCannon said...

This is why you need to stay with your blog. Your thoughts are profound. There is no right or wrong. You allow your reader to form his or her own opinion. Your comments matter. Please don't go away.

J G-W said...

I think there is a difference between gay folks attending Church in silence and straight folks attending Church in silence... At least in relation to this issue. I think gay folks, by their very presence in a space where various non-welcoming messages are sent is a powerful statement. If straight folks are going to be silent under such circumstances, however, they maybe have to find other ways to express their support for gay folks... If they are truly trying to be Christ-like and inclusive.

I think the way this plays out is different in different churches and communions is also very different. The LDS Church is not governed democratically, like most Protestant churches. So it may be more beneficial for members of Protestant churches to "speak up." In the LDS Church, there really are no appropriate venues to "speak up" about this issue. So straight allies need to be more creative.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Good points, John.

LCannon said...

I think all of us are doomed to feel excluded whether we speak up or not - not in all meetings. It would depend on our topic and the Spirit. Sherri Dew carries a great Spirit. She has contributed so much to the single and the married. But I think it is the single woman who identifies with her best. Especially when the topic is on eternal families, not being able to enter God's kingdom because of being single. Could this not apply to gays as well?

Fortunately it is God who knows our heart and God who will be our judge - whether we are silent or not - and by what reasons we have for remaining silent or not.