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either you are welcome or you’re not.

i’ve got something on my mind. something that i think that we, as a society, need to think about. or, without sounding too pretentious & judgmental, something that i think is important for us to consider.

and that is… when we say that we are open (if we say that. i am aware of many people who do not ever say that they are open) or that people are welcome, do we actually mean that? because it doesn’t work to say that “everyone is welcome” and then put conditions on who is welcome.

ok. let me back up.

i was asked to join/be a part of an email group of leaders trying to organize some meetings and programs this past summer. i had never actually met any of the leaders/members, but i knew that in the fall that i would have a chance to finally get together with them. but, fall has now started, programs are underway, and i still haven’t met them. well, i did see one the other day at another meeting i was attending (though i had no idea he was part of this leader’s group). why have i not met them, you ask? well, long story short, they “discovered” that i was married to a woman. yep. they hear through the grapevine who i live with & who i love. so, i heard from another person (not even a part of the people in the meetings) that, because i am married to a woman, they did not want me to be a leader in the group. no message from them. no words at all. they had someone else tell me, that they did not want me to be a leader in the group, but that i was more than welcome to attend the big programs. in other words, i could be present, but just not do or say anything.

please. spare me the condescending words.

yes. this is discrimination. straight up. in my face. all of the sudden, everything about who i am, what i can do, any gifts or talents i may have, any intelligent ideas i might have… all of it disappeared. the only thing that mattered was that i was married to a woman, which was not something i was keeping a secret. but, i don’t go around shaking peoples’ hands, introducing myself as “hey. i’m liz. i work at blah blah blah, and i’m married to a woman.” why would i do that? do i need a warning? do people in heterosexual relationships do that? and, when & if you find out that i am, in fact, married to a woman, does that all of the sudden magically erase my personality, my intelligence? uhhh… no. i am who i am.

so, anyway. back to the group. a few weeks after the person told me that i was welcome to visit, but not welcome to be a leader, i received an email from the group’s chairperson. that person wrote to me that they had heard that i had been told that i could not be a leader, and therefore i would not be included in receiving any more emails from the leader’s group. i mean, it would be irrelevant, right?

but, of course, at the end of the email, the chairperson warmly welcomed me to any of the large group programs and asked me to be sure to pass on the information to others who may be interested.

i read the email one more time. and then trashed it.

ok. excuse me here, but, what the hell? how am i supposed to feel welcomed when i’m not welcomed? get my drift? how can someone say that i am welcome to be in the same room, but not welcome to be on the same level (= less than) as my peers? how, just how, am i supposed to feel welcome in that situation? it is not welcoming to invite someone to come to something, and then remind them or tell them that they are different, that they are not equal, and ultimately that they are not worthy.

  • it’s like saying that black people are welcome to drink water from a water fountain, but they must use a different one.
  • it’s like saying that a teenager is welcome at church, but only if they wear a dress or a tie and don’t have any piercing or tattoos (ok. maybe no one says that, but there are many people who think it, and make it obvious by ignoring visitors that look a little bit different).
  • it’s like saying that the church exists to share hope & make a difference in the community, but turning away homeless & drunks who come to ask for help.
  • it’s like believing in human rights, but spending money on business & monopolies instead of feeding the hungry.
  • it’s like saying that woman are equal to men, but paying them on different scales.

of course this is not the first time this has happened in my life in one way or another. i’ve experienced it before, and sadly in the place that should be the most open. the church. yeah. the church. the discrimination i have faced has shown up mostly within religion (& in the US government, of course). funny that i work within religion. ironic, huh? but, maybe i hold on because i am a believer of change, in challenging the status quo, in making a difference. i’m an independent thinker. a care-free spirit. a wanderer & lover of life. and more that anything else, i am an idealistic believer that this world not all bad, but that it is in constant transformation. i love theology. but, i love even more when our theology is lived out practically in our lives = when we discover within religion (any religion) that love is the most important part of that religion, and then we live our lives with love at the center. and, for me, that means acceptance of everyone, just as they are, for who they are – even if they look different, have different opinions, live with different customs, speak different languages, have different intelligences, ages, talents, etc.

yes, discrimination of all kinds exists all over the world. but, what if those of us who do not believe that discrimination of any kind should exist, did all we could to make sure that it didn’t exist?

so, tonight, i’m thinking about how we welcome people. about how we take our beliefs & put them into practice. are we living with integrity? are we  saying one thing and doing something different? are we speaking words, but not following through with actions? are we willing to open our minds & our lives to each other. should we, perhaps, ponder what it really means to be welcoming?

for me, you’re either welcoming or you’re not. you can’t have it both ways. if you say welcome, you mean it. not strings attached. because all are worthy.

sending all my thoughts & prayers to you, that you feel loved & accepted, wherever & whoever you are. rest well. and welcome someone, in someway, tomorrow. peace.

Published in culture + art lbgtq

Comments

    • liz liz

      thanks for the support & comment. it’s good to know i’m not the only one who feels this way. 🙂

  1. Nicole Nicole

    Wow, I cannot believe this! Idiots. It must have been such a slap in the face. And what a sneaky, mean, completely unchristian way to “drop the news”. I was thinking about our church here in Dublin and I think it’s the first methodist church I’ve gone to where really everyone is welcome… at least from what I’ve experienced so far. It’s the most verstatile, mulitcultural congregation I’ve ever been to. Pure chaos but I absolutely love it. Next time you’re in Dublin we’ll have to go. HUG!!! oh and I’m constantly working on me being unconditional. Tough!!

    • liz liz

      it was unbelievable. but, oh well. i would loooove to visit your church in dublin! the things you’ve said over the years about it are really intriguing and it sounds like a little piece of heaven on earth. hugs!! xo

  2. I feel bad for the people who don’t welcome you- they are missing out because of thier ignorance and stubborn ways. We all deserve equality.

    • liz liz

      well said! thanks for your sweet comment!

  3. I hear you. Being discriminated and slapped that way is way too painful. However, as you said yourself you are where you are because you believe that you can make a difference.

    Not sure how it works with religion and churches and other similar institutions but I am sure you can make their lives a little miserable. Is there a way to right an article or make this a little bit visible to the point that it makes them look bad and draws attention?

    In other words, is there a way to invite them to the table for a conversation in a way that they can’t refuse and maybe are forced to due to some negative publicity?

    I am not saying retaliation or revenge, I am saying challenge to make them think

    • liz liz

      awesome idea! within the church, whenever i stand up to preach in front of the church where i work, i can make sure to always speak about equality – and i generally always do slide something in about equality. but, perhaps i can step it up a bit. as for the group that locked me out, i will possibly meet one or more of them in other settings in the future, so i can most definitely strike up a conversation with them and see how it goes. surely they will hear me out…

  4. Anonymous Anonymous

    First, let me say…It is their loss. Second, you are absolutely correct when you say that welcome should mean welcome. Third, keep your wits about you and be the force of change that you want to be. Look at how the world has changed over the last fifty years. I am proud of you 🙂

    • liz liz

      Thank you so much for believing in me! (who are you?!) 🙂

  5. Yep. everything you are & all the good in the world that you do is reduced to an imagined sex-act…I’m sorry Liz, and it’s sick they do that, but they do. This kind of discrimination is a part of why gay rights are being demanded. Haven’t you ever heard the diatribe about two guys holding hands & then the inevitable, “you know what they do”? I find it extremely unsettling- like, in my entire life, I have never imagined this to myself- about anyone.

    True unconditional love & acceptance requires being solid & true in yourself & your motives- that’s why these people can’t offer it to you- they aren’t “solid”. If anything Liz, they are the “lesser-thans”.

    • liz liz

      you’re right, tracy. it’s sad & sick, but it is what it is. and yes, they are the ones who lose, in the end.

  6. Barb Barb

    We are all a work in progress and have our own shortcomings. It is sad when our own shortcomings negatively impact others, and it mades me very sad to hear that people are so uncomfortable or disrespectful that they don’t even give you a straight response.

    I think you would be better qualified than I am to share a message about perseverance, what I will be talking about at a retreat in a couple of weeks. One thing I have taken as a lesson during my preparations is that we all have our own race to persevere through, and no one can run another person’s race. So in that sense you are stuck. The good news is we all have access to the same source of love and strength to accompany us along the journey. Be true to who you were created to be. Blessings to you!

    • liz liz

      i am sure that you will do a great job in sharing your own stories of perseverance, for we all have them. good luck and i’ll be thinking of you! thank you for your thoughtful comment(s). 🙂

  7. Barb Barb

    By the way, the challenge to live out unconditional love is a good one. I have certainly been pondering what that means in my own life, which is mostly spent with like-minded, like-looking people. Is that a conscious choice I have made or is that the kind of society I live in? I think it is safe to say, not the latter. Thanks for the reminder! I will keep trying to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone. The bishop has asked us to pray for “the Spirit to transform and boldly use us, without limits, delays, or excuses, to reach and make new disciples of Jesus Christ and to transform the world”. To seriously pray that, I have to be willing to take the consequences!

  8. These sorts of contradictions are, in part, what led me to move away from religious circles. But kudos to you for working within for change…

    • liz liz

      As I said to Heather, I will always keep fighting, but sometimes I wonder if the fight would be better fought outside of the church. Or perhaps that’s just my exhaustion getting the best of me at times. It could be good to take a break in the future from working within the church. Who knows… But, thanks for your support. 🙂

  9. <3 this rant. I think it should be sent to the newspapers and magazine, it's time people quit ignoring the discrimination that is "growing less" in the world. I feel for ya girl. You have a strong heart and mind, and I admire you for getting angry instead of giving up. Keep it up!

    • liz liz

      I will never quit the fight. 🙂

  10. A very thoughtful post on how unfair the church can be… I would have imagined it to be different in Sweden. I guess they are more conservative than I thought.

    • liz liz

      Well, the state church here is progressive and open. It’s the free churches (other Protestants) that seem to be hung up on the issue. Ugh.

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