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.