November 24, 2013
“Safety in a community gets defined by how the most marginal person in the community is treated. We all believe that if people could see into our hearts and know who we really are, we too might be rejected, so we notice how those at the margins are welcomed.” – Emily Sander
I rarely go to church in my community but one day last winter, for reasons I did not initially understand, I was compelled. I cursed the cold and donned my winter boots, layers of pants/shirts/fleeces, hat and mittens and arrived to see the pastor underway with his sermon, his breath and that of huddling parishoners, clearly visible in the cold air.
While I believe everyone in my community is Catholic this pastor has a history of being open and respectful of other religions and practices different than his own, evidenced the day I ‘outed’ myself as a Buddhist and proudly hung my prayer flag outside of my house. He asked many questions and was genuinely curious in a most respectful manner. So I was particularly surprised when his sermon circled around to emphatically state that marriage was only ‘right’ when between one man and one woman and that same sex unions were “NOT normal.” I am personally strongly opposed to this opinion and, not wanting to confront him in front of the church goers, sat awkwardly silent for the remainder of the service, quickly filing questions for later.
That conversation was successful since it was aimed to seek further understanding rather than provide attack or blame AND he was very open to hearing my opinion and differing cultural practices in the US (culture sharing goes both ways as a PCV). I emphatically differentiated between ‘not normal’ vs ‘less common than the norm’. He understood my point that it shouldn’t matter what your sex is if you truly love another human and I offered several examples of gay friends from back home who have been together longer, and happier, than a number of my hetero married friends. While he’s not jumping on my bandwagon any time soon, we agreed to disagree and parted with a better understanding and mutual respect for the other’s opinion and cultural norms. Beautiful and magical. And, for once, when I really needed it, my language did not fail me!