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Monday, September 17, 2012

Learning how to speak

I'm in Chicago, learning about the difference between talking and speaking.

We learn to talk when we are infants. We learn to speak when we mature.

Say the word abortion and, depending on the person to whom you are talking, they will either shout "murder" or "justice". Both will be absolutely certain that they are absolutely correct.

Talk with someone who is trying to move the conversation forward, and they will not linger long at either end of the conversational spectrum. Instead, they will calmly, confidently, authentically, invite you to consider the research on medical facts and statistical, bipartisan polls. 

They will not make firm pronouncements but, rather, ask open-ended questions into which they will ask facts. They will speak from their own experience and the experience of those in their care as the source of their authority to speak. They will tell stories - true stories - which weave together golden threads of The Truth.

No matter where you stand on the issue, it is holy, sacred work, this business of reproductive justice, the point being to find the place of God's truth about who decides about the beginning and end and quality of life. And, what is important about life - the definition or the reality; the potential or the actuality.

I am in awe of the present generation of justice workers. They are clear-eyed, smart, compassionate and passionate. They are less concerned with winners and losers and more concerned with finding a place where each one can stand at peace with him/herself and their God and their understanding of what is good and right, noble and true.

I feel as if I am in the midst of a renaissance of  the political process. I seem to have forgotten the essentials in the midst of the progress we've made, which may well be the reason we have lost ground.

I've been re-reading Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope". It's easy to pick up a paperback copy of his book, written while he was Senator of this great state, just about anywhere in Chicago. 

He writes: 
A government that truly represents these Americans - that truly serves these Americans - will require a different kind of politics. That politics will need to reflect our lives ast they are actually lived. It won't be prepackaged, ready to pull off the shelf. It will have to be constructed from the best of our traditions and will have to account for the darker aspects of our past. We will need to understand just how we got to this place, this land of warring factions and tribal hatreds. And we will need to remind ourselves, despite all our differences, just how we much we share: common hopes, common dreams, a bond that will not break. 
The work I seem to find myself in these days, is creating a place where we may nurture an environment where we can remind ourselves of these common hopes and dreams and bonds that will not break. 

It requires learning how to move from merely talking to speaking with intention. 

Time to grow up. 

It happens to the best of us, eventually.


DallasLEMminister said...

Thank you for this ...Elizabeth
David Ross Lyon

Terri said...

...and so, in my mind this means we must exhibit a level of maturity in all of our communications. Twitter, which on some days I can barely stand to read, is the hallmark of witty, snarky, sound bite remarks.

Thought provoking perhaps, but it is discouraging to me to read so many snide remarks being made by all sides of an issue. This may be what twitter is for - a place to get these thoughts off our chests - but it adds fuel to the lack of civil discourse and immature conversations.

I could say more, but enough for now. It's awesome you are doing this. Thanks for the post.

Mary-Cauliflower said...

Sounds fascinating. Would love to hear more.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You're welcome, David

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Terri- I think Twitter and FB offer a place for people to blow off steam. Taking conversations on either seriously is a serious mistake. No one is going to move forward a conversation on a volatile issue on Twitter. That's just not how it happens. Or, has ever happened, for that matter. Converstion and transformation are incarnational.

Now, if you want to talk about the decline of polite public discourse, that's a different matter. My theory - which I'm going to try and blog about - is that it started when people started drinking coffee out of cardboard cups.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mary C - You will. I'm traveling today so I don't know how much Im going to accomplish but wait for it.

Marthe said...

Dear EK –

In the late ‘70s I was a journalism student at Utica College of Syracuse University and many of my peers were dual majors in public relations/journalism and all of us, whether single focus or double, had to take a few intro courses in public relations. I never “doubled” because those intro p.r. courses horrified me. The surface messages were about “helping” companies manage their images, deftly “managing” bad news by focusing on the positive in any situation and getting good media coverage for corporate clients. The more subtle instructions were clearly taken, with gleaming eyes and arrogant smirks, as professional approval for being a pathological, or at least clever, liar. They were teaching what we now call “spin” and “re-framing the debate” as a path to success. Facts were just fodder to be mulched at will and that great steaming pile of corporate miss-conduct was to be re-cycled into “growth opportunities” and “teachable moments” and “food for thought”. This is the same school that taught “creative destruction” without serious consideration of the destruction part of that phrase. The brightest and best of that class went on to large PR firms where they made a fortune being professional liars without conscience, without consideration of anything but their own success and they are now the “honored alumni” invited to return to speak to a new generation of p.r. students. I read the alumni publications and see nothing but more and more skillfully crafted cover stories for amoral behavior dressed up in the language of professional dishonesty.

Civility in the public discourse? Ah, such a lovely ideal, but one which rarely exists. No such thing as the “good old days”, actually, but the difference now is nearly universal access to the internet and a near total lack of personal self-restraint in venting whatever emotion or opinion or anxiety the moment exposes, the more hyperbolic the better for the 24 hour news cycle, and all “endorsed” by a version of the freedom of speech completely free of responsibility or consequences or consideration of the damage done unto others.

The difference now is not that human beings are any more dishonest than ever, but there just doesn’t seem to be any sense of shame or guilt associated with lying or cheating (see rigging the vote to win by those who so aggressively claim that they are the good people, the righteous people, “real Americans” and “patriots”), only a cynical turn to the belief that any means necessary to “win” is not only fine, but applauded, the “big lie” a useful tool no “professional” would leave in the drawer.

The difference now is that there is a professional degree in manipulation of the truth and far too many people who willingly pay for, indeed think they simply must have, professional liars on their teams to be competitive. Facts and thoughtful consideration of multiple experiences and points of view? The ultra conservatives sneer and call it political correctness, lefty mush to be rejected that just slows down the rush to the bank, muddles the minds of the exploitable masses, quaint, obsolete thinking and far too many characters for either Twitter or the scroll on the bottom of the screen. No, I do not long for civility – that seems too much to hope for – just some actual facts scattered in the network news would do, some actual objectivity, some calling a lie a lie when it is a lie. A new austerity of expectations, perhaps, for a not so brave new digital world in which there is, apparently, nothing to lose in even the most outrageous twisting of reality. Sad. So very, very sad.

Anonymous said...

"No matter where you stand on the issue, it is holy, sacred work, this business of reproductive justice..."

Needless to say, I will vigorously dissent, at least in regards the participation of Christians on the pro-choice side. From the first Christian century (cf. the Didache) abortion has been seen as the behavior of unregenerate pagans bound for the fires of Hell and a sign of the evilness of the Roman Empire. The fact that many 20th century Christians dispute the sub-apostolic witness (and 19 succeeding centuries) has nothing to do with holiness and everything to do with the zeitgeist, historical ignorance, and moral cowardice among the baptized.

Charles Peguy had it right: "It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive." (Notre Patrie, 1905).

I'm a little more sympathetic to non-Christians such as Jews, Buddhists, and Unitarians involved in the debate. Lacking the Spirit of God dwelling within, I give them some credit in trying to make sense of the situation given the dim spiritual light in which they live. But Christians?


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Marthe - Well, this training was not anything like you describe. It was all about integrity and authenticity and how to communicate your message. I do understand what you're saying - God knows we're seeing the fruits of that kind of work in the political arena, but that was not this.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael, Michael, Michael - I can't believe you put half of this stuff about yourself into print. Out there. For everyone to read.


JCF said...

I have to say, I don't see abortion as "justice" per se. In a Perfect (and hence, Just) World, there would be no unplanned pregnancies (not to mention no fatally damaged fetuses), and hence, no need for abortion.

But the INJUSTICE of attempting to criminalize (or even merely judgmentally harangue!) women who NEED abortion (or their doctors), is TRULY {ahem} "behavior of unregenerate pagans bound for the fires of Hell and a sign of the evilness of the Popoid Empire".

Ah, Popoids: so blinded by their "Petrine Infallibility" delusion, that they can't see Jesus and his GOOD News...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - I think I understand what you're trying to say but because the world is not perfect and women continue to suffer gross injustice worldwide, the issue is to work for "reproductive justice". That's what it's about for me.

Anonymous said...

No, 'reproductive justice' is not 'holy, sacred work' when it results in the murder of a life which is God's own creation. No manner of fudging casuistry from one who calls themselves a servant of God, will overrule that.

Anonymous said...

I see the responses prove my point about historical ignorance.

Can you name a single pro-choice Christian church or individual prior to the 20th century?

Pro-choice Christianity: the zeitgeist fully alive.


Anonymous said...

JCF: a little history-- long before Petrine infallibility was formally defined by Vatican I, the severe Christian strictures against abortion were in place, East and West.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Right, Michael, and historical significance is so central to being a good Christian.

The Church's history is filled with theological errors and horrors - the Crusades, thinking left-handed people and people with seizure disorder were possessed by a demon, and imprisoning people for thinking the world was not flat as so accurately described in the Bible. It only took a few hundred years for the church to apologize for that.

Show me one place - ONE place - in Holy Scripture where Jesus spoke directly about abortion. Or, for that matter, homosexuality.

We are followers of Jesus, are we not? It seems to me he had a lot to say about the social issues of his time - poverty, religious expression, oh yes, and DIVORCE.

He also said a great deal about forgiveness and grace. You should read what He has to say and the things he had to teach about the way to live your life. Much more instructive than what you'll find in books about church history and man-made laws and interpretations.

If you are anti-abortion, I'm sure you consider your work "holy". I won't deny you that. I believe working for justice to be "holy" because I am pro-life - which includes the life of the woman who is pregnant and doesn't want to be.

I consider that pretty holy stuff. Then again, I honor and respect and trust women to make the best decision about their own lives and bodies. Church history may be against me on that one, but I don't believe God is.

After all, God created us in God's own image - male and female, God created us. That's one "historical fact" that is at the core of my faith.

JCF said...

Yes, xxMichael, the human SINS of patriarchy&misogyny (declaring women's uteruses, and their contents, the PROPERTY of men) are ancient. Ancient barbarisms. Your point?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - well, ancient AND modern. Those beliefs continue to today. I can't speak for him, but I think that's Michael's point. Not in those exact words, of course. They will be carefully finessed. But, that's the point: Ownership. Property. Control over creation, the creative process and the "end result".

As Mary Daly said, "If God is male, then male is God."

Anonymous said...

Since Jesus is the eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity who entered this world, all Scripture inspired by God was inspired by Him. Thus the OT and NT criticisms of homosexuality and abortion are from Jesus.

And since you are so intent on getting at "pure Christianity," then the surviving written works of the first and second centuries should be important to you. Abortion, infanticide, and the awful Greco-Roman eroticism were uniformly condemned by the early Church.

"After all, God created us in God's own image - male and female, God created us. That's one "historical fact" that is at the core of my faith."

Unless "us" happens to be in the womb, in which case his or her life lies at the mercy of the mother up to the moment that all body parts are delivered clear of the birth canal-- and thanks to the O-bamanation, not even necessily then (cf. the Born Alive Act controversy).


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael, Michael, Michael. Your logic is so flawed as to cause first year students in Logic 101 classes to run screaming out of the room.

Just because A=B and B=C does not mean that A=C. That's basic stuff, Michael. Perhaps if you spent less time lingering in the past you might learn something that could help you understand the past you so cherish.

O-bamanation? Michael, Michael, Michael. Careful there. Your Tea Party membership card is showing.

Can I ask you something? Why do you comment here? I mean, you are most certainly welcome to read my blog and leave your comments, as long as you abide by the rules. I just don't understand why you bother. No one here believes the way you do. You're not going to convince anyone here.

Does it give you some sort of pleasure to inject your opinions - misinformed as they are - into a blog like this? Do you enjoy exercises in futility or do you take pleasure in the mere thought that you might be pissing someone off? Or are you trolling for a statement of over-reaction from me or someone else that you can troll over to someone else's blog so they throw verbal darts at it, or laugh, or scorn?

I just don't get it. Enlighten me as to your motives.

JCF said...

Thus the OT and NT criticisms of homosexuality and abortion are from Jesus.

"This Null Set is from Jesus!" While we're talking about non-existent things, xxMichael, perhaps you'd like to meet my pet pink unicorn. Whatever.

I know so many faithful Roman Catholics (many clinging by their fingernails, as they fear being booted---including clergy, like the priest who was condemned merely for reading the Scripture at his cousin's wedding. A wedding w/ a case of Teh Gay). Why do they remain faithful to Christ, while you are enraptured by these Popoid heresies?

And "O-bamanation"? QED.

[And I echo Elizabeth's question: why are you here? Episcopalians follow/eat JESUS...take your Popoidism down the hall!]

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - Actually, I don't mind Michael being here or even commenting here. He's a reminder of what some other religious leaders are teaching their flock and what some people retain.

I do notice, however, two things, after he does (1) He only leaves comments on issues like reproductive justice or the Creeds - never any other topic - and they are always inflammatory; and (2) My site meter count increases after he's paid a visit.

I suspect Michael may be a Troll for other, conservative sites. If that's so, I hope they're having a good time.

Anonymous said...

Why do I come here?

I read a number of TEC and splinter Anglican websites, both reappraiser and reasserter. As mentioned long ago-- I think at Fr. Tobias' site-- it initially was to survey the "canary in the mine," to see how the advance of theological progressivism in TEC worked theologically and practically so as to better fight it in the RCC. I have learned a great deal from reading the blogs over many years. You happen to be an excellent writer (as is Fr. Tobias), so I enjoy reading your prose and stories, even if many of them double my blood pressure.

Why post? I don't post on other Anglican sites anymore save for the Midwest Conservative Journal. Our two churches have diverged so widely that there is little to say. Good catch on noting that I only comment on credal items and sexual morality. Since the Anglican Communion's ecclesiology is so different from the RCC and TEC canon law is foreign to me, I have nothing substantive to offer and so post nothing. But since we ostensibly share creeds, basic Christological dogmas, and a basic Christian moral worldview, I feel freer to comment on those areas.


Anonymous said...

"(2) My site meter count increases after he's paid a visit.

"I suspect Michael may be a Troll for other, conservative sites. If that's so, I hope they're having a good time."

I'm a single RCC priest with a web browser. To my knowledge I've never met in person anybody encountered online at Anglican blogs. I've never communicated with any Anglican blog host or commentator other than through the comment boxes. I certainly don't go online for anybody's purposes but my own. I have no idea how an increase in site meter numbers would come about because of my comments.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael - Here's the thing: If you leave a comment over at MCJ or any other "orthodox-evangelical" blog which references a post on my blog, that will absolutely entice some of the readers - especially if it has to do with Reproductive Justice. That will cause my site meter to whirl. It's just cause and effect. If you didn't know that before, you know that now.

I sometimes get some Very Nasty comments - anonymous, of course - but since I delete them, I'm the only one to read them and I take great joy in hitting the delete button on a particularly noxious comment.

You are welcome here any time and to post any time. I experience your posts as harsh and devoid of any compassion which is shocking for a priest in the church of God, but I figure you're a big boy and can take responsibility for your own words.

Just don't think that one of your parishioners will never know that it's you. People are remarkably adept - much more so than I - about figuring these things out. So, you might want to taste your words before you spit them out.

Just a little bit of advice from one sister priest to a brother priest.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael - Oh, and thank you for your kind words about my writing. I don't see myself in that way but my RC upbringing taught me to always choose the path of humility and never see yourself as better than you are. I'm grateful for that.