One shoe off

October 19, 2007

Finding Allies, Part I

So I had a job interview on Wednesday (prayers and well wishes welcome) and one of the questions they asked was “What does building collaborative relationships mean to you?” I gave what I thought was a decent answer, and they seemed o.k. with it as well, but it was kind of a fluffy answer, one that didn’t really deal with the difficulties inherent in the whole “Building collaborative relationships” thing.

Last week for TEC 300 we talked with Rev. Tim Ahrens of We Believe Ohio, a diverse group of faith leaders committed to social justice issues. That got me thinking about finding allies and building collaborative relationships. Then, a few days later I saw on the news that CONLAMIC, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, had filed suit against the state of Oklahoma to stop the implementation of H-1804 (the Oklahoma Citizen and Taxpayer Protection act of 2007, which I’ve blogged about on here before). (By the way, the CONLAMIC Web site is mostly in Spanish. You can find an English translation of the press release about the suit here. (also of note — the news release is dated the 4th. I don’t think the T.V. weasels — as we not so affectionaltey called them back when I worked for a paper — carried it until the 10th? maye the 12th?)

After I heard the story, I rushed to log on to the CONLAMIC Web site. I was excited, as I usually am, to learn about Christian social justice organizations. So imagine my dismay when I clicked on their platform, that their top three points — their key priorities — read like something off of the Focus on the Family Web site. 1. A constitutional amendment limiting abortion rights. 2. Reinstating prayer in schools and 3. Opposing gay marriage and civil unions, and any attempt to “legitimize” relationships between same-gender partners.

Grr. Everything I despise about evangelical politics. Their other points — health care access for all, access to public education, respect for the rights of all immigrants, documented or not — were ones I agreed with.

Can I be an ally of these people with whom I share so many values, but with whom I am in conflict on several key issues? Is it too coldly utilitarian to collaborate with people on one issue and one issue only, when you disagree virulently on so many other things?

I think of something Jesus said. (Surprise, surprise). Some of his disciples come to him after seeing another exorcist casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They tried to stop him, they said, “Because he does not follow with us.”

Once again, we have evidence that Jesus doesn’t care much about affiliations. Jesus says, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50).

Jesus is often disturbingly utilitarian in the gospels. Disturbing to me, at least, because although utilitarianism has always appealed to my need for simple solutions, it’s always struck me as the least nuanced of going about life. I like to think of Jesus as more nuanced, I guess. Probably because I like to think of myself as nuanced. The gospel evidence is, of course, quite to the contrary (cursing the fig tree, anybody?)

So what do we do as progressive, justice-oriented Christians? Can we collaborate towards a common goal with those with whom we disagree on so much? Those with whom we not only disagree, but whose beliefs we find reprehensible. Who are, indeed, “against us” on several issues? Can I find common ground with CONLAMIC as they oppose this unjust, racist, evil law? Even though I find other of their views to be unjust, homophobic and yes, evil?

Beggars can’t be choosers, especially in the Bible Belt, and I fear that, for now, my answer is going to have to be “yes.” In the fight for justice right here in Oklahoma, I’m going to have to find common ground with those who think that my identity as a lesbian is morally reprehensible. It seems that I may have no other choice if I am to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

(More to come, by the way.)

October 5, 2007

“That may work in Tough-girl land … but not in real life.”

Editor’s note: This post acknowledges the existence of women’s reproductive organs and makes general references to routine medical procedures. As such, it may not be suitable for “more sensitive” readers. In addition, it is extraordinarily long, particularly for a blog entry. And finally, it’s overly confessional, highly personal and barely even tangentially related politics, theological reflection, or the current topic in TEC 300. Look for THAT kind of stuff sometime this weekend.

My apologies to all … the whole working thing has been very mentally draining — YOU try dashing from exam room to exam room asking middle-aged, respectable Latina mothers about their sexual habits , wrangling distressed children and trying to explain possible vaccine reactions to their mothers, and trying to come up with the Spanish words for medical terms you don’t even know in English. Do THAT a couple of days and then try to come up with a hundred-odd words on theology and politics and stuff.

Despite my excuses, I really am enjoying my work at the health department. The initial awkwardness of being the third person in the room during gynecological exams aside (if you ever find yourself in this situation, I offer you my little sister’s — who’s also spent some time interpreting — invaluable advice: “Stand by the head and you’ll be fine.”, it’s very cool to be a patient advocate, to help ensure that women (and children) are receiving compassionate and adequate care.

I’m enjoying it so much that it’s got me thinking (argh! not again!) about a change of vocation. I’ve developed a profound respect for the nurse practitioners with whom I’ve been working, so an inkling of a thought about going into that field has crept into my mind. (Those of you who know me won’t be terribly surprised … I change my mind about what I want to do every six months or so.)

What’s surprising is how out of the blue this is — I have never had any desire to go into the health care field (all those Paraguayan summer afternoons whiled away over my mom’s copy of “Where There is No Doctor” notwithstanding). It’s just never appealed to me as a career choice. So it seems odd to me that, standing at the head of the table while a woman gets Papped, I should hear a voice (I’m trying very hard to avoid any off color Moses jokes. You should too) saying “Whom shall I send? And who shall go for us?” (Operation avoid Moses reference a success; incidentally, the citation is Isaiah 6:8.)

I know this is not particularly “Public” theology, and I had intended to write about some stuff I saw on the news tonight, but I seem to have rambled on and on about this. I may as well try to make it at least slightly theological.

Thing is, I’ve never known exactly how to think theologically about vocation. That may seem odd, because the topic of vocation seems like it would be a theological no-brainer. The fact is, I grew up around people who would describe every decision they made or new step they took as a response to “God’s call.” I went to college at a school where some people seemed convinced that God was dictating everything they did, from “God told me to wear this shirt today for a reason, so that lady at McDonald’s would compliment me on it and I could tell her about our mission trip to Cabo and witness to her about Jesus.” to “God told me that you’re going to be my wife. Will you go out with me?” When I first began to sense a call, I wondered if I just lacked any other language to talk about trying to decide what to do with my life. Plus, it was never a very specific call. More of a “You should be doing something DIFFERENT” sense, and a vague pull toward seminary … and then I went to a visitor day at CTS and that felt good, so I decided to go with it. In general though, I’ve tended to live my life in a sort of haphazard way: following my bliss or reacting to situations that arose. The first took me to Chicago, the second brought me back to Oklahoma. Despite the fact that I have a sort of general direction in which I’m moving, I often feel like I don’t live my life with a great deal of intentionality. Is intentionality necessary to vocation? I’ve finally gotten comfortable with the idea of being “called,” but am I ever going find out what I’m called TO? Is it this?

The whole tone of this entry is getting far too confessional for my own comfort level, so I’ll leave this discussion here, for the moment. Tomorrow, look for the theology of Marion Jones and some thoughts on personal and social holiness (see, class, I’m getting there eventually).

Oh, by the way, the title comes from something the commentator (if that’s what she is. I’m really unsure of several people’s role on the show) on Judge Joe Brown said. It really has no relation at all to the post, or to anything. But I thought it would make a brilliant blog posting title, and figured I’d better use it before it got lost up there.

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