Monday, March 28, 2005

Diversity 101

James 1:2-5 (King James Version)

2 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

Last week there was an interesting response from a Gazette reader about the marriage amendment that is going to be on the Kansas ballot on April 5th.

The text of the amendment follows:

“(a) The marriage contract is to be considered in law as a civil contract. Marriage shall be constituted by one man and one woman only. All other marriages are declared to be contrary to the public policy of this state and are void.

"(b) No relationship, other than a marriage, shall be recognized by the state as entitling the parties to the rights or incidents of marriage.”

A yes vote is a vote in support of the amendment. A no vote opposes it. Pretty straightforward, I’d say.

Normally local elections around here generate little or no interest. It’ll be different on April 5th. In addition to electing county commissioners, dog catchers and what not, we Kansans will be making a really important decision that day.

It’s generated a great deal of interest, even here in Emporia. It’s supplanted the ‘dogs at large,” “worthless checks,” and “failure to obey stops signs” that adorn our local rag day in and day out.

But I’ve digressed. Back to the Gazette reader’s response. Someone named Melissa Dailey Ellsworth from Brunswick, Maine had this to say:

“In response to Mr. Michael Stubbs religious sermon (letter), published in the March 5 edition of the Gazette, I would like to respond.

Mr. Stubbs, you wrote “When we keep the lines between morality and immorality clearly defined, those who have made wrong lifestyle choices have an easier time finding their way home.” How do you know that your morals are right and mine are wrong? If you are the Christian your words proclaim you to be, why are you so judgmental? Isn’t that for your god to decide in the end? That seems rather hypocritical, don’t you think?

Furthermore, why do you care who your neighbor is sleeping with. Why should government have control over that? I wonder, if you are so concerned with people of the same sex being married, are you concerned with people of different races being married as well? Look around Emporia, because your beliefs are not the norm any more.

I’m reminded of the John Lennon song “

The line “…..and no religion, too” seems to fit. Live and let live. You may think your religion is right and you are entitled to do so. I’d like to think that as long as I’m a decent human being, I’ll see you in the same place in the end, except that I don’t need to judge anyone while I’m still here.

Rest assured, Mr. Stubbs, my husband and I have already voted against the marriage amendment by absentee ballot.”

Aside from the inference that we cannot legislate morality, which is incorrect, Melissa was right about some things. Christian values may not be the norm any more, even here in the Bible belt. And she was absolutely correct in saying that Mr. Michael Stubbs did say, “When we keep the lines between morality and immorality clearly defined, those who have made wrong lifestyle choices have an easier time finding their way home.” Mr. Stubbs did indeed say that and he said it for all of Emporia to hear.

I know Mr. Michael Stubbs as “Pastor Mike.” He’s the pastor of the church I attend. He’s a good man. I didn’t know him in his younger days, but I’m told that he was quite a rogue back then. Then he met a pretty young Christian woman and things changed. Jesus saved a vagabond and Jannie, the pretty young woman who is now his wife, helped him channel his energy in a more productive manner. I was tempted to say that she tamed him, but I know better. “Pastor Mike” isn’t the type of man who is going to be tamed. And that’s one of the things I admire most about him. With “Pastor Mike” what you see is what you get. There’s no pretense, no political machinations that preachers are so prone to engage in. He is what he is by the grace of God.

A month or so he took me to task about something. That’s right, “Pastor Mike” got foolish and took on a pillar in the church, a tither, a man endowed with great spirituality and wisdom. Of course, I was wrong and he was right. I needed to hear what he had to say. I think a lesser man in his position would have considered his vulnerability to the “pertinent” facts and let sleeping dogs lie. Acting out of principle is one thing. Cutting off a potential lifeline is another. I mean, why bother a big spender, a man of means, a man with a lot of intellectual and spiritual capital. But he never made an economic impact study beforehand. He didn’t consider cutting an intellectual and spiritual giant some slack. He did what he believe was right and that was it.

Now it wasn’t one of those major situations. It was important, but not momentous. In the end we discussed the matter, hugged, expressed Christian charity, and moved on.

My point is this. “Pastor Mike” does and says what he believes is right regardless of the estate, high, low, or different, of the object of those words or beliefs. I find that refreshing at a time when folks are out there laying social and spiritual minefields for others to navigate through. At a time when “nuance’ seems to be everything, Melissa is very right about him. His beliefs aren’t in that “norm.”

I decided to respond to Melissa’s letter. I’m not sure that the Gazette will print it. Religion is a touchy subject around here, especially if it doesn’t fit into the pattern of the “norm.” We’ll see.

This is what I had to say:

“A few days ago Melissa Ellsworth declared her position on the marriage amendment to be decided on April 5th.

While I disagree with her position, she has the right to express it and I have the obligation to defend that right.

I do, however, want to respond.

I know “Mr. Michael Stubbs” as my pastor. If I’ve ever met a man who exudes grace and love it is “Pastor Mike.” In my Christian journey he is one of the few in any leadership capacity I’ve ever known who, while he differed with the gay community, made it clear that Victory Fellowship (and the Church universal) must welcome gays into an ongoing dialogue in spite of those differences. As “Pastor Mike” so ably put it, we need to help “those who have made wrong lifestyle choices have an easier time finding their way home.”

I know “Pastor Mike” eye to eye and heart to heart. He is a man who does, as the Almighty has commanded, exhibit grace and love. He’s not a racist or a homophobe, as your comments suggest.

I am voting for the marriage amendment, not because I have an axe to grind with any community within this larger community. I will do so because I believe that same-sex marital unions don’t warrant government blessing, any more than I believe that we should sanction anything faith, reason, and tradition have shown us are clearly wrong.

Melissa, in the end all of this will be much less subjective than you realize. Our votes may be subjective, but the answer to the question of eternal destiny, while deeply personal, is far from subjective. In fact, the Christian belief is that the standard is very objective indeed. He’s the reason we are, on Easter Sunday, celebrating.

There is a way home.”

One of the interesting things about Victory Fellowship, the church Mr. Michael Stubbs pastors is that it is far more diverse than most churches I’ve even been in. There are African-American members, there are Hispanic members. There’s a sizeable number of young people and a sizeable number of “grey panthers.” There are handicapped members. There are some who have just been redeemed from the rough edges of society. There are accountants and engineers. There are smokers and tea-totalers. Some of the members “cut cows” at the slaughterhouse for a living. Some are poets and some are rednecks. We have people of one race married to people of another. We have a number of foreign exchange students from far-flung parts of the world attending. Although it’s never been a matter of open discussion, I think, given the demographics of this country, there may even be a few gays attending as well. My guess is that a member or two has expressed road rage at one time or another. There may even be a pickpocket or two for all I know. I feel confident in saying that the church I attend is diverse.

That’s just how “Pastor Mike” likes things. Last summer Nancy and I went on a short term missions trip to Los Angeles with him. We spent a week at a Foursquare Ministry there called “The Dream Center,” learning more about the nuts and bolts of how to set up ministries within our community. The diversity of the Dream Center is the model, in Pastor Mike’s mind, of the diversity we need to embrace here in Emporia, Kansas. He sees a need to reach out in every direction, to disaffected minorities, to the poor, to the widowed, to the young and the old, to the gay and the straight, to the poet and the redneck. His dream is that no one be left behind.

That, I submit to you, is diversity.

I retired from the corporate world a bit over a year ago. In the course of those years I attended more diversity classes than the average citizen of the Kansas Flint Hills. One of those classes, a week in Memphis, Tennessee, comes to mind. It was an amazing five days to say the least. I learned a lot about colors that would offend a Japanese citizen and about where the American “OK” hand sign is considered rude and offensive. But it was the last day of the week that I found most instructive. A gay employee made a presentation, making his case for diversity and understanding. I tried my best to understand. At lunch I made a point of sitting with him and trying to learn more about him and his philosophy. The conversation began with my halting words, “If I understood your presentation right you said that your sexual preference is normal and healthy.” He smiled and replied, “That’s right.”
“Is my aversion to homosexuality abnormal, then?”
“Of course it is.”
I fiddled with my salad for a second or two. “Do you think that heterosexuality is normal or abnormal?”
“As far as I’m concerned it’s abnormal.”
I decided a hypothetical should be next. “I have two sons. What would you tell them about sexual preference?”
“I’d tell them that being gay is normal.”
“And how would you respond to a father like myself who believes that homosexuality is a sin?”
His answer was direct. To be honest it was what I was really looking for. “Your sons’ sexual preferences are none of your business. A good father would love his sons, whatever their sexual preferences.”
“Are you saying that a good father couldn’t do both, that he couldn’t disagree with his sons and still love them?
“What I’m saying is that homosexuality is normal and you need to accept it. That’s what love is all about. It’s live and let live.”

Later that afternoon as the class was winding down the preceptor asked if anyone had final questions. I had a few. “At what point is diversity too diverse?” “What about those who disagree?” “What should I as a manager do on Monday mornings when one of my employees, Adolph Hitler, comes to work? Should I just live and let live and ask him how his weekend was?” “If I object to these “concepts” where do I fit in this diversity stream?”

I got no answers and was left to read between the lines. Other corporate interests, productivity, harmony, and profitability won the day. I came away from the experience wondering whether or not we were seeing the rise of the new storm troopers, adorned not in hobnailed boots, but Bally’s and Birkenstocks.

Based on Melissa’s standard I am not “normal,” nor is Pastor Mike. The new world is going to be diverse and there are to be no dissenting opinions. So much for the new philosophy of live and let live. So much for diversity.


James Fletcher Baxter said...

A TV message often ends with the line, "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." The obvious value presented is that when you care about someone you do not countenance error that may produce tragedy - you make an effort to protect the ones who are in mindless jeopardy.

Melissa considers such behavior as being "judgemental." Correcting error is an act of love - especially when it comes to human value, life, and eternity.

Melissa referenced no standard in her own life that might have justified a silence of correction regarding un-natural, unhealthy, or subnormal homosexual behavior - let alone unGodly.

A lack of standards removes the human ability to anticipate consequences of choice.

The Creator's Criteria is unsurpassed by any man-made 'opinion' and validates our Biblical trust as founded on greater historical evidence and daily proof than all the causal results of the mindless ignorant and unfaithful.

Yes, in the end God will judge. In the meantime, He has given us His Word - filled with Criteria for making wise, healthy, and normal choices, in league with His creation, nature.

Thus, in the meantime we are under His orders to take life positions with His scriptural approval. In His love, we are to correct error that will produce ill-health, tragedy, and corruption of human value. And, 'diversity' may include many forms of error.

The Lord will not accept our silence as virtue. Quite the opposite...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry if none of you got what Melissa was trying to tell you. Hopefully Snake will stop slithering for one moment and contimplate the fact that it's not what was said that is important. It's the fact that she was not allowed to defend her point of view because "YOU" never gave her the courtesy of notifying her so she could respond, defend or ignore your response to her.

It may not be a law but it should be. In any public forum when you take someones comments from one website to another a notice of intent should be posted so an indivual can follow if so desired.
What you did was just wrong.

I'm sorry if this got side tracked off diversity but you caused that.
I come from a very diversed family (Aunts, uncles, neices, nephews, cousins). I love them all. The white ones, the indian ones, the black ones, the mixed race ones, the gay ones, the normal ones, and the abnormal ones. I have them all. They are family. Family COUNTS!!