Policy Change: a response to The Rev. Hugh Hollowell

Policy Change is a post written by a minister I follow on Facebook, The Rev. Hugh Hollowell. He posted it the other day in response to world events. Since I am a person who is anti-conflict and also considered a peacemaker, his policy change has been following me around this week exhorting me to change mine.

First, you must know that I lived in rural and/or conservative areas all of my life. Tallahassee, FL might be the one place that was freer. Even then, in 1992-93, it was not “safe” for me to be out as a lesbian. At the time, I was in seminary and though the congregation I served there was liberal and open, my seminary was not. At the time, the Lutheran Church (ELCA) had a policy that if a homosexual was in a relationship, they would be removed from seminary and/or the pastorate or ministry.

As I got braver and gave up my pastorate (unwillingly) in order to be truthful about the person I am, my way of dealing with the awful comments that people make was to ask them if we could “Agree to disagree”. I thought it was the most peaceful way I could respond…that it was a way I could allow them to have their beliefs while also embracing my own truth.

The world has changed substantially since the 90s. We moved a tremendous distance in human rights in the first sixteen years of this century that I thought we were seeing a revolution of love. That peace, love, and justice were winning for the first time in my life. It seemed a miracle. Then, well, policies began to change and the government seeks to reverse all human rights it seems that occurred in my lifetime. As a result, I decided to be a little more confrontative to the rural areas where I have lived in my life.

I sent in letters to all the newspapers of the towns and cities where I have lived. I doubted with the current political climate that anyone would publish it. However, the paper where I grew up did. I only know because people from that area who still know me contacted me about it. You can read it here. The headline was that big too.

 

ROBIN WHITLEY COLUMN: Coming out is not easy, for many reasons

To write the article was the most confrontative I have ever been when writing a newspaper. That felt scary and a bit dangerous. I can’t say that it was a policy change for my fearful self, but a need to do the right thing above and beyond my fears. Hatred is rampant in a way I have never lived through in America. Though I know there was the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and Vietnam, I was a child and rather sheltered from the news by my parents. As a result, we as children were isolated or harbored from the cruelty of the larger political arena. I can no longer claim that. When I read Rev. Hollowell’s post, I knew it was a call to justice in a way I had not considered before. With his permission, it is reprinted in its entirety for your consideration.

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Policy Change by The Rev. Hugh Hollowell (www.hughhollowell.org)

Policy Change:

I will no longer “Agree to Disagree”. Those are weasel words, often used to put a veneer of civility on a massive disagreement around systemic injustice.

I like pineapple on pizza. We don’t have to “agree to disagree”. We can just disagree. It’s OK.

If you are in favor of asylum seekers being put in concentration camps and I don’t, we don’t have to “agree to disagree” in some kumbaya-esque sense that we are the same, you and I. We will disagree, vigorously on my part.

That phrase is most often used by people who feel uncomfortable when confronted by their oppressive behavior who want to appear benevolent while not actually changing or contemplating their actions.

I cannot imagine a Black man being beaten in 1962 for attempting to vote saying that we can just agree to disagree. I do, however, know many white supremacists who have uttered those very words around reparations, say.

I cannot imagine a gay man being fired for being gay (which is legal in much of the country, by the way) agreeing to disagree. I have heard many a religious fundamentalist use those words in regards to equal rights for LGBT folx.

We never have to agree to disagree. We will just disagree. This isn’t me being confrontational – just me being honest. Because if we are going to disagree on the fundamental worth of other people, I am not going to let you get away with pretending to be polite about it. [1]

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Can you hear the justice in his message? Can you hear his call to mercy? I want to err on the side of mercy and kindness, but this part, in particular, calls me out, “if we are going to disagree on the fundamental worth of other people, I am not going to let you get away with pretending to be polite about it.” Though I want to be kind and polite, I believe in the value of each person. From now on, I pray for the courage to disagree with you on behalf of those who are oppressed and in need. It is vital that we people of faith must speak up on behalf of all children.

Jesus Blesses Little Children

13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

Matthew 19 NRSV

It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.

Luke 17:2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

 

What is your policy when standing up as a person of faith? Jesus was willing to risk his family, friends, reputation, and own life so that we all might know the true meaning of love. With an example of love like that, we must follow or accept that we don’t know what we are talking about when we harm another. It is time the people of faith stand up for loving the child and saving them. It is time for people of faith to speak up on behalf of the refugee, the homeless, the outcast. I’m changing my policy. How about you?

 

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[1] Used with permission. Please visit his website at www.hughhollowell.org

 

 

 

 

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