I am preparing a sermon titled Radical Love: Responding to the Christian Right to give at First Parish in Cambridge on Sunday, and, eventually, after some tweaking (I find the second time I give a sermon it is usually sooo much better) I’ll give it at FUUSM.
This leads me to point out what I think is a key quote of our times. It comes from an ad against Howard Dean that was run in Iowa. It goes like this:
A farmer says he thinks that “Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading …” before the farmer’s wife then finishes the sentence: “… Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.”
This represents, I think, the vision that *some* people have about a cultural divide in our country. I know that some of my lovely relatives in Kentucky might not feel very far from where the farmer and his wife are. And I’m sure that there is some equally catchy phrase that more liberal leaning folks could come up with to make fun of or point out the very different-ness of those who are more conservative. My sermon goes to the heart of what I study in religion and what I envision my ministry and life to be: I do not think that conservatives are somehow different people than liberal people. I think that all people want to be loved, want to raise their families in safety, want to connect somehow to the divine, want to have a purpose in life, want to have fun, and so on. The challenge for me and, I think, for our country and the future of our democracy, and our faith (that is UUism, but really the challenge to all faiths) is to find a way to better understand the ways that we are all journeying along trying to do this sense-making and find ways to build bridges of understanding and to increase awareness and knowledge about those things that seem amazingly (and scarily) different to us. I am, I am sure, to many in my hometown in Ohio and maybe to some of my family in KY who love me dearly, somewhat of a left-wing freak show. I am a latte-drinking, New York Times reading, vegetarian, recycling-everything, Unitarian Universalist, pro-reproductive justice, pro-queer, feminist bisexual. Yet, to those in my family who might be more politically and culturally conservative, I am just Elizabeth because they know me. I am not an other. We disagree, but there is not a complete rift because we are people to each other.
So, to me (usually, when I am being mindful) conservative Christian, mega-church attending, anti-choice, Republican, farming, Fox-news-watching, Bible-reading folks in Kentucky and Ohio (and around the country) are not “other” to me because I grew up around them and I know and love many of them and know they are not a freak show, but are real people struggling to make sense of their worlds. They may be less-informed, but it is typically not mean-spirited. I am not suggesting that this is The Answer to what can appear to be a deep cultural and political divide in our country, but I believe that it is the start of that. Seeing people as people, seeking to be in community with them. Seeking to truly love them in the spirit of unconditional love – the inherent dignity and worth of all people – and, really, seeing the beauty of all people. I think that the so-called culture wars will never be won if they are understood as wars or battles or red state vs. blue state. We need to be in community, real community, with people who are different than us. Conversation will cause conversion. Not force and not making fun of people or lamenting about them (ahem, I do this far too much) in the privacy of our own homes and insular communities.