So. Here we are in February.
Before I jump in I wanted first to check in and let you know that I walk in solidarity with all those who still can’t shake the dregs of this cold-flu-virus-thing that seems to have gripped the entire city. And like many of you, I am ready….. SO ready….. for winter to be over. First world problems I know, but just the same.
All that being said, even though I have been back in the saddle … er pulpit … for three weeks, it’s good to be back here too. You can disengage only so long before being rested turns into being stale.
At first glance, the past weeks seemed to me to be a collection of random events. But prayer has opened me to the greater spirit that is always at work when we intentionally look for the chance to connect and collaborate rather than spar and separate.
And so, NOT SO IDLE THOUGHTS comes to you in three mini chapters – kind of like those movies with an ensemble cast and multiple stories that converge at the end.
Chapter One – # MeToo; Let’s be honest before blaming a victim.
Many people can point to having been victims. And in the wake of former Ontario Progressive/Conservative party leader Patrick Brown being taken down in what seemed to be an overnight trial in the media, guilty before being proven innocent, there were many who said that #MeToo had gone “too far” somehow. But I think that blaming #MeToo is wrong.
It’s fair to say that, if we take the Patrick Brown affair in a larger context, it had a revenge-like quality to it. And that is sad. But let’s be sad for the right reasons.
Its not sad because the alleged victims took revenge. They didn’t take revenge. They spoke anonymously. And in the vacuum that was the wake of their experience, what was likely a deafening silence for some that screamed for years, revenge could be stirred up. Those who judge the anonymous nature of their claims are wrong. Because they are not entirely anonymous. They confessed to someone who finally listened. In that moment of confession and telling the story, it was not anonymous.
I am not convinced they had much choice but to come forward in the way they did.. There is a culture that looks beyond justice in the fairness sense to a standard that devalues the status of these kinds of aggression. All this to say that where there has been no justice, there can only be this now. If the CBC can turn a blind eye to Jian Gomeshi for so many years in the name of better ratings, then… well I think you get the point. (On a side note – I am sure that these breaking stories have been hard on many journalists who no doubt have their own stories to tell).
I think back to what life was like “back then”; you know the days where sexism was somehow “okay” because… well… we like to delude ourselves now that we didn’t know better then. Not true. We did know better. It was perhaps that in those days, aggressors had a better chance of getting away with it. And they knew it.
So let’s be honest. As individuals and as a society, we have chosen to turn a blind eye to victims of sexual harassment. We have always known it is not okay. If people were taken seriously right away, there would be fewer Patrick Browns that rise in this world. In fact, Patrick Brown himself may have turned out to be someone entirely different. (Let’s not judge him either, even as we don’t accept the choices he’s accused of making.)
Chapter Two – Changing O Canada is an investment in the future.
I wholly applaud the change in our national anthem. For sure, there are some of us who understand that traditionally “sons” means everybody. But it doesn’t mean that in 2018. And the words we use matter.
Would you like a “for instance”?
Two weeks ago, we were having round table discussions as part of our project to become an “Affirming Church”. (The United Church has a history of being an innovator in cultivating welcoming community. Our “affirming process” is geared towards welcoming the LBGTQ community).The animator at our table used the words “gay people” when he was talking about the project’s focus.
Makes sense, right?
Not to one of our table members who happens to be thirteen years old. Why? Because his world has been supported by two generations of people who have been working hard to use respectful language when talking about sexual orientation. So to his ears, “gay people” was offensive, as if we were making fun of people. He actually looked an the animator, some 50 years older than him, and said straight out, “I don’t like it when you say ‘gay people’.” We had to explain to the young man that we were not in fact being disrespectful but just using the term matter of factly. An awesome coming together of two people from two different generations using language to bridge the gap instead of widening it.
So now I am sure you get the point about the national anthem. What seems like short term political correctness and opportunism will no doubt change the societal norms of young people for the better tomorrow because we are changing our thoughts and words today.
Chapter Three – The coolest thing is to really hear each other.
I sat in the pews like a normal person during one of our worship services. We had invited Member of Parliament and United Church minister, the Rev. Dr. Rob Oliphant to share his wisdom about church community and its soft power to change society for the better – in the compassionate sense – by becoming affirming, not just to the LBGTQ community, but to everyone whose voice is in danger of being rubbed out because of the self interest of others who believe their sense of self trumps all others.
And then it hit me. Somewhere towards the end, when we had prayed and sang and listened and there was so much energy in the building that hope was real, Rob said – “You are headed in the right direction. You can feel it. Don’t change a thing”.
I had not played a big role in the service that day; a pretty small one actually. In that moment I felt big in my smallness because I know that churches do small things every day that are founded on big ideals. Big enough I’d say that some call us crazy for believing.
There had been many moving parts to the worship service. No one person tried to out do the other. So much so that sitting in the pews of my own church felt like the most natural thing in the world. The whole experience felt like a dry run of the real things we try to do during the week. We practiced hearing each other and listening for the voices looking to be heard.
And in that moment, I saw that I have a choice.
I can choose to let my limitations be grounded in trying to deny that #MeToo is for the better. And that while I do not wish a witch hunt on anyone, the very fact that I use that term means that something’s gotta give. I can choose let my limitations pull me down into buying into regressive cynicism that says somehow we are “losing” by making this fundamental philosophical change to O Canada. Words matter – big time. (If they didn’t then there would be no fight to stop the right thing from happening in the first place.)
Or……. I can choose differently.
In the spirit of hope, I can choose to celebrate my limitations because they enrich me. They create space for others.
And that, my friends, is a really cool thing.
Be Blessed. Be a blessing.
Rev Eric Lukacs