The topic in church interested me the other day. As some of you know, I have involved myself in my wife’s denomination, the episcopalians, so that Aliyah can have a “christian” upbringing. The topic was on changing the vocabulary of the church to be more inclusive and welcoming to both genders and was moving from a patriarchal church to a less-chauvinist perspective. I sat and listened for a while to the speaker list the reasons behind these changes, and found myself thinking ho-hum this is such a drag…of course all this should be done…can’t we talk about something more interesting, more meaningful.
Well, wait just a second here…for those of you who don’t really know me, I’m a bastion of liberalism, despite being a member of the republican party (best place to effect a change is from the inside I always say). I have always stood, sometimes quite by myself on the side of inclusiveness and unity. I whole-heartedly believe that women have gotten the nasty side of the stick for the last several thousand years and have made a point to take a stand against it, actively supporting planned parenthood, feminism, and gay rights, among several other political initiatives. As a young child I could never fully embrace “all men …” as being a fair thing to women. I received no end of rationales from everyone around me, that men/man/guys/etc. meant everybody, and too bad if I thought otherwise. But the problem is/was I believe that prejudice of any nature is a sad, backwards misuse of our brains ability to generalize in working towards a conclusion. It’s wrong, we are sahped by what we say and how we say it. We must all recognize it, and we need to rise above it! So why was I, of everyone in the church blowing off the fruition of one of my deeply held beliefs?
I gave it some introspection amidst the various prayers and religious rituals that still make me wince, and came to the conclusion that I had given in to the status-quo. Somewhere along settling down, I gave in, just a little bit, a little but enough to be uncomfortable with making changes to prayers I had said (when I was saying them) since I was a little child; and this opened my eyes a bit more. I felt bad for the long standing members of the congregation, in a way that I never had before. I felt compassion for their discomfort with change, even though they were the origin of it in themselves.
Look I’m not a traditionalist; I don’t do things by rote. The fact is I’m lucky if I do things in an even remotely similar manner each time I do them. I like to try different things in different manners – just because they are different. I drive every conceivable route to and from work – why not, I’ve found some really neat back routes to places that I would never have found if I just settled for the most direct. I’ve been a practitioner of a variety of religions, and still am, because I could be (and if I’m going to hell because of it, god better grow up and get a sense of humor – I mean he made me and put me in this world with this personality, so what could she possibly expect of me…you might as well ask a dog to eat at the table with kitchen utensils in its front paws.) Anyway, somehow I had fallen asleep, forgotten about the things that needed to be challenged, and was only roused when I started reading the lord prayer. Because, when the lord’s prayer didn’t sound much like the lord’s prayer at all, I suddenly started to feel very uncomfortable, thinking, “look I know I believe this but do we have to make this change now?” – AND– “well I can understand the need for this but it’s going to put off a lot of ‘other’ people” – AND – “yawn, why are we wasting our time with this?” (I like the last one the best, it is just so tricky and self-deceitful - a redirection that implies agreement.)
I attended the adult forum afterwards, to hear what others were saying, and they were pretty much all saying the same tired jargon, in several variations, but it came down to this – “I’m comfortable doing things the old way. I don’t want to CHANGE.” (I’m tempted to make an easy joke here about change being inevitable, and so much heavier than cash, but I’ll spare you (psych…:).) And I think that’s it. Even when we like the idea, change is frightening, it isn’t comfortable, you have to think, you have to pay attention, you can’t do things automatically, and sometimes you have to admit you were wrong.
So I went in and just listened and tried to just hear out other people coping with the challenge ahead of them, let them know that I understood. I also let them know, once they felt heard, that I thought that this change was long overdue, and that we all agreed with the idea of including our fellows. I also resisted the temptation to tell everyone laity and church-goer alike that it wasn’t enough. God made us all in his/her/its image across species boundaries as well. Every damn, cat, goldfish, invertebrate, everything is in the form of god because god is boundless - all inclusive. I resisted because I knew they had feathers and tar somewhere, and probably wouldn’t be afraid to use it.