Friday, October 09, 2009

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a cook."*

And as such, it affects how I think of things. Things like diversity.

I read that at this past General Assembly, "(Rev. Mark) Morrison-Reed believes we need to recapture what we had as children, before we had been taught racism, classism, and conformity all sorts, when we had a natural attraction to what seemed different or new."

I didn't hear the talk, as it wasn't posted online, but just that idea, of our natural attraction to what seems different or new, resonated with me and has stayed with me.

Chefs get this. A chef, looking for new ideas, will travel to another country. She is excited when she gets to taste something she's never had before. An explosion of inspiration.

Today, Rev. Sean is sharing an excerpt from Audre Lorde’s essay Sister Outsider. In it, she writes about viewing differences "as forces for change."

I am attracted to differences. If you have something in your life that makes you different than me, I want to know all about it. What was it like, growing up Dutch in a Houston suburb? What did your Jamaican mommy put in your lunch? Do you ever regret being mainstreamed with non-deaf students?

(That last is a question to my husband. And his answer is no. A story for another time.)

"People of a like mind." Sigh. I understand it. I've probably used it. Especially when you live in a larger community where the majority are your opposite in politics, in tolerance, and often, in values. In an area like that, a Unitarian Universalist church is a haven, a sanctuary.

The problem is when we want "people of a like mind" to be exactly like us. When we only want people with no children -- or only married-with-children. When we only want college-educated. When we only want atheists, or only want theists. Only vegetarians. Only non-smokers. Only Democrats. Only want those who will worship quietly, hands neatly folded. Only want those comfortable with linking hands and chanting.

Different is good. Different expands the choices. Different is richer, more complex.

If we have "different" in our congregations, we get to see that different isn't really that different. We get to see it as a benefit. New flavors. New experiences. And then we get to take that into the greater world, attracted to the differences. Not just tolerant. Not just accepting. Welcoming. Radically inclusive.

Now, there will always be those who view the new, the different, with mistrust. Going back to my earlier metaphor, the French chef, looking down his nose at anyone who ventures outside of Escoffier. They do not want their cuisine watered down by outside influences, their liturgy, their culture. Are there those French chefs among us, unwilling to make room amongst the NPR bumper-stickered Priuses for a pickup with a gun rack or a lowrider?

It's okay to want to be around people of a like mind. But on Sunday morning, let's limit that to religion. Ours. People who embrace continuous revelation, personal spiritual responsibility, and individual moral authority. Be they in their gimme cap, gypsy skirt, three piece suit, Star Trek tshirt. Carrying a drum, a tambourine, a Bible, or a bag of runes. Planning on lunch afterward at the sushi bar, the taqueria, or Mama's Sunday dinner.

And hey, if you go somewhere new, invite me, 'kay?

*C.B. Stubblefield, of Stubb's BBQ, where The Husband often filled his belly. back in college.

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