|Exploring Creation Science|
Details, details, details.
In the second story, however, we read, "So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was his name." (Genesis 2:18-19)
The story goes on to say that the man gave names to all cattle and birds and animal of the field. When God created woman and brought her to the man, he (ish) even named her (isha): "....this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken."(Genesis 2:23b).
Yes, I know. One of the traditional - progressive - ways to explain this story is that to be fully human, one needs to be in relationship with others. It's about interdependence. It's about mutuality. It's about an affinity between humans that is not possible between humans and animals - although there are some who would claim that their relationships with four-leggeds and winged creatures and those who swim in the sea are more fulfilling than with other human beings.
Some who subscribe to a theology of "Natural Law" point out that (1) because man was created first, he has 'dominion' over creation and (2) God created Adam and Eve not "Adam and Steve".
Never mind that in the first Creation Story there is no hierarchy or seniority between man and woman. "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27).
Details, details, details.
Who was it who said, "The pen is mightier than the sword"? Since men wrote the Creation Story, the power of naming was theirs.
As Mary Daly once said, "If God is male, then the male is God". We've been struggling with that reality ever since.
This power of naming its attendant struggles are not limited to the "Battle of the Sexes".
I've long struggled with the church - and, in some places, cultural - fixation on words like "diversity" and "inclusion" to either describe the reality of community, or the goal of reality.
I have no problem with describing the goal of the reality of community as "diverse" and "inclusive". Indeed, I applaud it. I believe it to be an important goal, one that is central to any community that embraces either the reality of "the global village" at our doorstep or the realities of the imperatives of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What drives me right round the bend is when the words "diversity" and "inclusion" are used in ways that clearly illustrate that the one who names reality, controls reality. The one who controls the language, controls reality.
Let me give you a few examples.
I sometimes consult with congregations that are either experiencing conflict - most often, during a period of transition in ordained leadership. A few months back, I was working with one congregation and began by working with some of the principles of "appreciative inquiry". I asked them to name their strengths.
The Senior Warden, who could have been sent from Central Casting as "the elder statesman of The Episcopal Church" began by saying, in a deep sonorous voice, about their congregational diversity. I was a bit startled by this proclamation and quickly surveyed the room again to see if I had missed something. It seemed to me that, beyond male and female, everyone there was Caucasian.
"We have such great diversity in this church," he proclaimed. "We not only have male and female," he said, illustrating his firm grasp on reality, "we have college educated and high school drop outs. We have factory workers and college professors. We have white collar and blue collar people. That's certainly not The Episcopal Church I grew up in. We, at St. Swithins," he proclaimed proudly, "are a warm and welcoming congregation and we are diverse and inclusive of everyone."
Mind you, this was a congregation that had experienced a sharp decline in membership. It was also smack dab in the middle of a urban, downtown area, surrounded by people of color - not one of whom had apparently been "warmly welcomed" to their church.
I was stunned and for a few moments I wasn't really certain how to respond. One woman, sensing my discomfort, quickly added, "And, if any of our .....neighbors.... came into this church, we'd warmly welcome and include them, too. In fact," she said, "I think that would be very.... nice ... of us."
Judging by the disapproving look on the face of the Senior Warden, this was clearly not about being "nice". Not for him. He had had all the "diversity" and "inclusion" he could "tolerate", thank you very much. Which is why, I suspect, he was so keen to lift up "diversity" and "inclusion" as what he saw as clear strengths of this congregation.
And, because he had "named" his reality, it became the reality of the parish - which, it was obvious to me, was just an illusion.
I couldn't wait for a break to go outside and find a cup of coffee and blow off some steam.
When I was in traffic court a few days ago, I was keenly aware of the paucity of Caucasian people in the building. There were African Americans, a few Asian Americans and several Haitian and Hispanic folk, many of whom were day laborers and/or migrant workers. I was, without a doubt, one of the more swarthy-skinned people in the room, but those who were Caucasian were Very White - and, very few in number.
Who gets to name that reality?
It seems to me that the words "diversity" and "inclusion" can become the invisible tools of invisible white privilege. I can not - nor ever will - understand what it feels like to be a person of color or of different ethnicity in a dominant Caucasian, Western European American culture, but I do know what it's like to be Queer in a predominantly heterosexual and heterosexist culture and church.
Let me tell you what it feels like, as a Queer person, to hear the word "inclusion". It means that, even though I have had the Rite of Baptism and the Rite of Confirmation and the Rite of Marriage and the Rite of Ordination, I don't have any "rights" - or, the ones I have are of "second class status".
It's as if heterosexual people hold the first mortgage on the House of God and I am...."included". You can't be "included" if you weren't considered part of the whole in the first place.
See what I mean?
Sometimes, when I hear it proclaimed that this is a "Welcoming Church" or an "Inclusive Church" of LGBT people or people of color, I want to scream, "Really? Seriously? Whose 'church' do you think this is, anyway? Am I not baptized? It's MY church, too, damn it! Who are you to 'include' me? Thank you very much, but Christ already 'included' me at baptism!"
See what I mean?
Well, if you are white and heterosexual and have not examined your privileged status, maybe you can't. Not unless you have an inkling of an experience of it yourself because, perhaps, of your financial status or educational background or maybe even your zip code.
Try reading Peggy McIntosh's book, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," who argues that white privilege is akin to an invisible package of unearned assets that whites can count on cashing in each day.
Or, try listening to this little three minute clip , in which author and educator Joy DeGruy recounts a story about a time she went shopping with her sister-in-law, who happens to be light-skinned and often "passes" as a white woman. Perhaps it will begin to sensitize you to the power of unnamed, unearned, assumed privilege.
feminazi' as Rush Limbaugh has named it.
And, therefore, it must be so.
See what I mean?
As a child of God who was created in the image of God, I want to take back the power of naming reality that was given to humankind - male and female - at the beginning of creation.
The reality of those who are members of the dominant social paradigm of white, straight, affluent, able-bodied, well educated and male (or, male-identified) but who are not representative of any of those qualities or characteristics needs to be acknowledged and incorporated as part of the reality and fullness of life.
Until then - and, I'm not holding my breath waiting for it to happen - please do be careful when you use words like "diversity" and "inclusion". They are goals - important goals - but, with very, very rare exception - they are not reality in most of our churches.
When you proudly proclaim, "We are an inclusive church," or "We are a church that embraces diversity," please understand that you may be making a statement about yourself that you may not necessarily intend to make - one that reveals more about the privileges in your 'invisible knapsack' than even you knew were there.
What, then, should you say? How, then, should you name yourself?
Jazz great Louis Armstrong was once asked, "What is jazz?" He reportedly answered, "If you gotta ask, you'll never know."
After playing a set of amazing music, he was asked again, "What is jazz?" He reportedly responded, "If you still gotta ask, shame on you."
Do the work of mission and ministry, understanding that to be fully human, one needs to be in relationship with others. It's about interdependence. It's about mutuality.
The rest, like the Creation Story, is just details.