Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When the perfect is the enemy of the good

As many of you know, in real life I'm a professor of science at a large university.  There aren't many of us women who have made it to the top of the academic ladder in science.   We tend to take longer to get there.  We are frequently paid less than the men, even if we have superior credentials.   We go to the full professors' meeting and find everyone else is pale (white), stale (old), and male.

 There is a positive correlation between a man's academic success, and being a parent, but for women, the correlation is negative.  Dare to have a family, and you are much more likely to be on the non-tenure track, or hover as an associate professor for your entire career.  Try finding space for pumping breast milk at a major conference, for example. 

Part of the problem is an attitude of some young women that they aren't going to engage in a deeply flawed system to try to change it.  "Fix it first," one told me once.  "THEN I'll come back." 

Well, honey, sorry but if you don't engage, you don't get to play.  Thing is, it's a big, very competitive field.  If you go stand off by yourself, and expect us to come to you hat in hand to beg you to join, that's not going to happen.  Because there are other women, equally talented, who will roll up their sleeves and dive in, not waiting. They are willing to effect change from the inside, which is the only way change will happen.  And each one of us who makes it to the top of that tenure ladder, fingernails bleeding, makes it a little bit easier for the one coming up behind.

They are not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  

I feel the same way about the people (and there are many) who are angry about the Episcopal church's liturgy for blessing of a same sex union.  It's not the BCP liturgy for a marriage.  It should be, i agree. (It's quite lovely).  But it's not there yet.  

Still, if you don't engage it, take the opportunity granted, you will not be able to make change happen. Because if you don't participate, why should they make any changes to it?  "There's no demand."  

This is one of the reasons we married prior to Prop8, knowing that with DOMA it was all very very imperfect.  Yet marrying BP was the greatest thing I have done in my life, despite the imperfections.  And look what has happened since....Prop8 fell, DOMA clause 3 is done.  In part, because of the witness of people who married even though it wasn't perfect.

And it's one of the reasons we jumped at the chance to get our marriage blessed, as soon as it was approved by our Bishop (prior to the current liturgy).  In San Diego, same sex couples have to write a letter to the Bishop explaining why they want to be blessed (or now, why they want to marry). Some of our friends are very upset by that, because straight people don't have to do it.  So what?  I did not mind being asked to articulate why it mattered to us.  If it educates people, if it gives the Bishop ammo to educate people who might be opposed, why should I object?

So, many LGBT couples will not engage TEC because it's not BCP-marriage and it's not uniform across the church.  I think that's a sad thing. Because being part of the process gives you a voice that standing alone in the hayfield never will.  

Eventually, I hope the liturgy will be available to both same- and opposite-sex couples (I mean, have you read the BCP marriage liturgy?  Talk about archaic views of women! ;-)  Eventually TEC will welcome everyone, everywhere. It takes time.  We can help it along by working from the inside and educating people on what it means.  We can show them what a married lesbian or gay couple looks like, and why it matters that we can marry.  Our witness is our greatest weapon.  

And we can't do that, if we don't engage. 

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.


8thday said...

Sorry, I don’t agree with you on this one. Your first example is one in which people have to compete for limited spots on the academic (or corporate) ladder. It is a competitive atmosphere where you do have to play on the field or always be in the bleachers.

I look at what church’s do to gays as no different than a person being in an abusive relationship. For someone to stay in that relationship, hoping that the abuser will change, slowly erodes their self-respect and identity.

Church is not a place anyone should have to compete for equal footing or to climb a ladder or be on the outside. There are no limited openings and no one should have to settle for crumbs in God’s house. I wonder if you would feel the same way if you were also excluded from the communion table?

IT said...

Well, I self-exclude from the communion table, so that's not quite apt.

Our church just celebrated a blow-out wedding of two gay men. So what if the liturgy is a little different? No one there thought it was anything other than a marriage. No one treated it as anything different. It WAS a marriage and thanks to the fall of prop8, it was a marriage legally as well.

And frankly, having recently re-read the BCP rite for marriage, which I find antiquated in its views of women, I'd think opposite-sex couples would also prefer the new rite.

8thday said...

I don't begrudge any gay person who is happy in their church, no matter what their church's position on queer equality.

My point was that I understand why gay people leave their churches instead of, as you suggest, staying to be witness and fighting the good fight. If someone feels that they are being abused or treated as a second class citizen, there is no shame in leaving and finding a better fit.

IT said...

I absolutely agree with you, and I am NOT arguing that people stay in a place that is abusive.

I think there's a significant and important difference between truly abused (as LGBT people in Roman Catholic churches are), and working in partnership towards full inclusion (as LGBT people in Episcopal churches are).

Consider the example I used: the two men whose wedding we attended, which was celebrated with a full mass and every bit of pomp and circumstance that an Episcopal Cathedral can summon up (which is quite a lot).

And compare to the two men in Rhode Island who were denied communion in their Roman Catholic church because they are civilly married (linked in the post below).

Anyone would agree that is a substantial difference between these cases, though the rhetoric from some angry LGBT Episcopalians implies there's not because they are annoyed the liturgy is different. But let's be real-- this weekend I saw two men married in church, in a joyful celebration of love. No one there noticed that there was anything "different" about the liturgy. That's a lot of progress, indeed I would argue that is a huge success story!

'm not a fan of separate but equal as a concept, and I'm not happy with a long-term separate"same-sex liturgy". But the more people take that liturgy and make it mean MARRIAGE the less it will be possible to ghettoize it. Let's grab it and make it work.

I am arguing for LGBT Episcopalians to recognize and participate and build on those successes. I'm arguing that failing to engage the Episcopal church because of what are really minor details is losing the chance to continue to influence its direction. It's not perfect, and it's not uniform, but it's getting there. The more people participate in the process, the faster it will get there. It's about bearing witness.

The Roman Catholics? Not so much. That IS an abusive relationship and I see no chance of effecting change. They haven't even put a sandal on the path towards inclusion. I honor those who stay and fight, but completely understand those who, like my wife, decide that the expression of their faith lies elsewhere, in a healthier, accepting community, where the sandals are not only on the road but heading up the mountain.

8thday said...

21 years ago my partner and I had to do quite the search to find a church that would baptize our daughters. The Episcopal Church was the only one who would do it without requiring that we become members. But it was done at a separate, gay service. My partner (being much more religious than I) was very grateful that they were willing to do the ceremony, but I was always uncomfortable with that separate but equal thing.

I think that what some people find abusive or being treated as “less than” is a very personal thing depending on background and how much discrimination a person has already experienced. My partner is very happy in the Catholic Church and has been made to feel more welcome there than in so-called “welcoming and inclusive” churches. I no longer tolerate ANY person or institution who treats me as “less than.” Different strokes for different folks.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very happy for the many churches who already have full inclusion and for those who are moving toward it. Personally, I just wish they weren’t so pompous about it - like they were doing gays a big favor.

IT said...

Our marriage was blessed in church a few years ago and far from feeling like they were doing us a favor, I felt like they were treating us as though we, and our relationship, was a gift to them.

And certainly our friends who just married in church--nothing of the "doing them a favor" thing about it.

Some of this may well be because we are still relatively new--5 years now. If we had had a 15 year history where we had felt behind the door, we might feel different now. But we didn't: the door was open the minute we walked through it, and the welcome warm and genuine. So, yes, we're happy to work with these allies to bring positive change.

The same way we got married before it was fully "legal" -- and didn't wait before DOMA fell to marry.

IT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JCF said...

"21 years ago my partner and I..."

21 years ago, SODOMY laws were still on the books. Times change, thank God.

I'm gay, and I'm proud.
I'm an Episcopalian, and I'm proud.
I'm a gay Episcopalian, so I'm Super Proud!

8thday said...

to IT -

Whether or not you personally choose to receive communion, I am still curious about how you would feel if the other sacraments were administered to gays differently? I am not Episcopalian, nor ever was, so I don’t know your traditions or ligury. Is it just the wedding sacrament that is different? And if so, why do you think that is?

to JCF - 21 years ago . . . times change. And pendulums swing in two directions. Just ask gays in Russia or women in Texas or North Carolina.

I would be happy to debate the pompousness of churches (and I am not singling out the Episcopal Church by any means.) ANY Christian church that seems to think their members or leaders can dictate who is allowed in God’s house, and whether or not a certain person, or groups of people, get equal seating at God’s table, contrary to everything that Jesus taught, I believe to be pretty pompous. In fact, I have more respect for the Catholic Church who openly proclaims what they believe about homosexuality and aligns their traditions with their beliefs, than Protestant denominations who say are welcoming and inclusive but still do not practice equality.

However, I will stick to the theme which I believe the original post was about - whether tis nobler to stay within an institution and try to change it from within, or to vote with your feet and walk away.

BTW - Isn’t the Episcopal Church filled with people who came from other denominations? Those who didn’t stay and try to change their original denominations from within but rather chose to go to the Episcopal Church where they were more comfortable, for whatever reason?

Using the analogy of what’s happening to women’s rights in NC and Texas - I certainly do admire those who are there, fighting the good fight, and trying to regain losses for women. Thank goodness they are there, willing to push back against the oppression. It is certainly crucial that they do so. But I do not begrudge any woman who needs an abortion, to go to another state where her rights and equality are not up for debate and she, and her daughters, can receive health care with dignity and respect.

In the same way, I am very happy that there are gay folks who are willing to stay within their religious institutions and be witness and continue to push for change they want and need. I was one of those myself, for quite awhile. But in the end, I felt that church was not the place I should have be fighting political fights, nor trying to convince people of my right to be at the table. Especially when there are so many other welcoming tables. I do not begrudge any gay person who would rather join a different denomination where they are welcomed without question or debate. Where their “lifestyle” and right to equality in God’s eyes is not the constant cause of division and dissent and thousands of blog posts. Where they don’t have to settle for crumbs while endlessly fighting for the full meal. Life is just too damn short. It’s not what church should be about, in my opinion. And I don’t think people should be judged for making decisions that are right for them, particularly those who have already suffered enough harm and just want to be able to worship their god in peace.

So, yes, you are Episcopalian and proud of it. My partner is Roman Catholic and proud of it. If you are going to wear a label, you might as well do it proudly. I am a non-denominational child of God and proud of that too. As it all should be, I think.

IT said...

Actually, I don't disagree with you.

But my post was not intended to be that general, but rather, specific to the Episcopal church on the marriage liturgy. TEC has made great strides on this subject and frankly has not made me feel "less then" in ANY way. (I know that is a feature of being in the particular parish we are in and others are not so lucky. ) Still, given that, it seems churlish to me when people (and I'm not including present company here) accuse a warmly welcoming place as being no different than a grudgingly accepting one.

8thday said...

And I am exceedingly happy that such places exist.


JCF said...

"BTW - Isn’t the Episcopal Church filled with people who came from other denominations? Those who didn’t stay and try to change their original denominations from within but rather chose to go to the Episcopal Church where they were more comfortable, for whatever reason?"

Yes. And I'm glad we could be that place of refuge.

But personally, I'm not one of those people. I was baptized an Episcopalian at age 5 months. I don't play the lottery; I've already won. ;-/

But SRSLY, there have definitely been moments when TEC has more than tried my patience (and I was aware of the MCC and UCC being much further along). However, I could ALWAYS see the (Holy Spirit led!) trajectory that TEC was on. If we stepped back one, it was only after stepping forward two (and w/ another two steps forward imminent).

"My partner is Roman Catholic and proud of it."

Um, OK. {Chomp}
Has anyone seen the other half of my tongue?