Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Words Matter: Empathy vs. Judgement
Some of you know that I'm attending the Board Meeting of the RCRC - Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice - based in Washington, DC.
We - people of all faiths: Christian, Jew, Muslims - are meeting today with Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill regarding issues of Reproductive Choice and Justice.
Well, the word is actually "lobbying" but we don't want to say that, exactly. Which, in fact, gets directly to my point.
Which is: Words matter. A. Lot. More than we realize. Especially in the super-heated political climate that is our current national reality.
To. Every. Word.
It's all about how you frame the discussion. It's about connection. And, it's about the power of story.
It's all about relationships - the one thing the church says She's all about and yet fails miserably.
It's not about proving your point or making sure your opponent knows that you are right (right as you may be), but eliciting from your opponent not a sense of judgment or righteousness, but rather, a sense of empathy.
Here's the thing: We know that the Religious Right is wrong. Very wrong. But they have won many of their arguments on the mere supposition that they are right and to be right is to "win" - to be "superior".
And, in this time of economic fragility, superiority has a currency all its own.
We know of another regime which will not be mentioned which killed millions of people who were considered "outcasts" because they did not fit the narrow description of what "they" determined was "right". Or "good". Or "normal". Or "superior".
We are in serious (no, I mean serious) danger of repeating history.
We do not want to become what we reject. What irony! So, the idea is to move from the repugnant judgment of the Right to a stance of empathy.
Yes, we want to protect the religious liberty, conscience and health of all individuals by opposing attempts which would allow discrimination by religiously-affiliated institutions.
Liberty means protecting choices, not eliminating them.
Instead of talking about "choices" we want to talk about "personal decision making".
We want to affirm dignity, respect, empathy, families.
It is a big job to be a parent and every woman needs to be able to decide when she wants to become a parent so she can be the best parent she can possibly be and share that parenting with a man who will be a great father to their child.
We want to move away from the self-satisfaction of calling someone "anti-choice" to a place where we can say that they are what they are: people who think that a woman can't be trusted to make her own decision.
It doesn't trip off the tongue as easily and it's not as self-satisfying as throwing judgement at judgement, but it not only says what is truth but....and this is important....elicits empathy.
We want to acknowledge that it's okay to differ - this is, after all, America - and this is not about "them" or "they" but "us". Americans. Dedicated to the idea of liberty and justice FOR ALL.
And then, we want to back all of that up with personal stories.
As one person pointed out: "They may forget what you said, but they'll never forget how you made them feel."
It was very humbling as well as deeply enlightening to hear these young people prep us for our meetings with Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill. This is the stuff of true religions - to be humble. To not boast or judge. To 'lay your life down for a friend".
In the end, I think this will win the war. Oh, we'll lose a few skirmishes and even a few battles, but empathy and not judgment will win the war.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Those are the first words of the first chapter of John's Gospel.
Word to your mother.