I dared to hope that the decisions in yesterday’s delegate sessions at #MennoCon15 would surprise me. They did not. Yet last night I felt as stunned and hurt as if I had actually believed a better outcome was possible, as if I was shocked the Membership Guidelines resolution passed, as if I had expected better of my church. Perhaps it is only that I wish I could have expected better. But working for inclusion in recent years has made me cynical and reluctant, withholding of trust, and perhaps it hurts that much more to be hit when you see it coming, when a peace church chooses to continue its practices of internal violence, when so much screams that inclusion is a lost cause.
Love should never feel like a lost cause.
It’s hard not to feel that way though, when just this morning on Twitter a Mennonite brother called me, and others, lame and ignorant for our support of Pink Menno. Is name calling, being bullied and then told one needs a “thicker skin” and “isn’t ready for this” (whatever “this” may be) what disagreeing with one another in love looks like?
I don’t go around calling Mennonites who disagree with me names; I have never called the conservative voices in our church lame or ignorant. I know our disagreements are more complicated than that. But that’s the thing: I know I will be held to a higher standard than those carrying the majority opinion. I have to tread carefully. I have to be polite and well behaved, a nice, sweet church lady, or else no one is going to give me the time of day. Straight men with authority can call me names, and they will lose nothing. Nothing but my respect, which perhaps means nothing to them anyway, since to some I am just an ignorant woman. I am not ignorant, though – I understand something about power, and I know that playing by the rules doesn’t help you change them. That disruption, resistance, direct action, and strong words are necessary. (Strong words, yes; name calling, no.)
That both the Membership Guidelines and Forbearance resolutions passed simply confirms what I already suspected: that plenty of people are happy to pay lip service to the idea of bearing with one another in love, so long as they can continue the practices of exclusion they've held to all along.
I am tired of playing nice. I am tired of being your well behaved church lady, tired of writing with nuance and balance, tired of trying so hard to get you to listen. Yet here I am again, because as we saw yesterday, you are not going to listen to your queer sisters and brothers when they try to help you understand their lives and their experiences. You aren’t going to listen to their stories – that you have made unbelievably clear.
You are scared. I can see that; anyone can see that. And this decision will do nothing to dispel your fears.
Perfect love casts out fear. But this? There is no love in this. And so your fears will grow, they will fester, and beautiful, faithful Mennonites will continue to be silenced by your fears, and by your violence.
Make no mistake: this is violence.
Do not call it unity, when you widen the cracks in this already fractured body. Do not call it unity when you reject God’s own. Do not call it unity when you choose to ignore not only queer voices but the very voice of the holy spirit moving in your midst, clothed in pink.
I fear that after remaining controlled and polite and gracious for so long, I will lose it. I will give up, or break down, or turn tables. I will tell you what I really think – to your face – instead of letting someone vet my words first, helping me edit out the passion, the anger, the indignation, helping me play the political landscape in hopes that maybe then you’ll listen.
I can do all of that, and still you will not listen. You will never listen because you do not want to hear. This much I know to be true.
Why won’t you listen, when we want so much to gather with you, to sing with you, to live with and worship with you?
What are you so afraid of?
Are you so afraid of what might happen if love goes unchecked? If you give in to the immense, overflowing, gracious, abundant love of God? If you trust that love, vulnerable as it may be, would not overwhelm us, but would bring us together?
I keep looking for a turning point here, a hopeful conclusion, a place to stand and look forward to a better future, but I can’t find one. Can’t – or won’t.
You don’t deserve that today. What little hope I had you crushed.
For now, at least.