Monday, May 21, 2012

For sure, the next time...

In last week's church leadership meeting where the Bishop was discussing some recent concerns of the stake and area authorities, a discussion insued where a very sweet and kind elderly brother, the slightly short, round and balding type with a white beard not unlike Santa in Miracle on 34th Street, got off on the current state of politics in the country and the recent events surrounding the same-sex marriage debate. He then said something that was very mean-spirited... "You know, Bishop, this gay marriage thing is so ridiculously stupid. First they want equal rights in marriage, and then what... will they want to marry a chicken?" The Bishop responded with a nervous and a bit uneasy half-chuckle: "Yeah... kind of ridiculous, huh?" and then looked at me for support. I looked at him with a disturbed and uncomfortable demeanor. I was biting my tongue. I wanted to strike out and speak up and respond with some kind of rebuttle of how "ridiculous" the statement even was, how insensitive and mean-spirited and uninformed, and inappropriate it was... but I didn't for fear of being too contentious and fearful of inappropriately losing control in such a setting. Like always, I stirred inside and let it go, convincing myself that anything I said would come out wrong and mean-spirited in return. However, after the meeting, the Bishop pulled me aside into his office and we had a one-on-one at his request. He asked me for advice about how to handle some issues at hand, and then said: "Is something bothering you?" I responded, this time without hesitation, "Yeah... I'm feeling really uneasy about the mean-spirited nature of the comments regarding same-sex marriage. I don't think that was appropriate, and I should have said something." "I hear you," the Bishop said directly, which surprised me a bit, particularly with his tepid response in the meeting. "I was not sure what to say myself and I felt I should have said something more." He could sense my discomfort level and pressed for my input... so I let him have it...
"If you want to take my temple recommend away, then so be it, but I need you to know that I don't support this current attitude of free-to-make-fun-of gay people who desire to live in a loving monogamous relationship and seek society's blessing and encouragement to do so. I don't support the Brethren like Elder Packer who lead members in a way to lack compassion, empathy and understanding and provide an avenue for such public open ridicule where stalwart members feel it safe to express such mean-spirited comments in a church leadership meeting." "I agree..." he nodded supportively encouraging me onward... "And I feel that this issue is not going to go away, nor should it. I firmly believe that a change will come with the next generation of church leadership. It may take this generation of elderly misguided brothers in the ward, as well as in the Quorum of the Twelve, to pass on... but it will come, and with it will come more compassion, informed understanding and embracing of our gay brothers and sisters... But it won't come and it won't happen as long as we allow such discussions to take place without correction, especially in a leadership meeting situation. I am sorry I didn't speak up." "I'm sorry you didn't speak up as well. I totally believe the same as you," he said sensitively. "Really?" I questioned. "Really! I need your support..." At that point, there was a knock at the door and his next appointment had arrived and so we deferred the discussion to another time... but at least, if there is any consolation to all this, the foundation has been set for another discussion on this matter, and hopefully next time I hope to have the spirit of love within me, that kind that John G-W so easily exemplifies, to counter without contention, to instruction without malice, to correct without judgment. And in the spirit of this election environment, there most certainly will be another opportunity to do so.

15 comments:

recover and thrive said...

glad you at least had that one on one afterwards....I'm glad I haven't faced those comments recently, not sure what I would do!

Bravone said...

Nice job!

Andy said...
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Andy said...
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Sean said...

It's good to hear that your bishop was receptive! I hope that you will be able to change some members views in your ward, which will hopefully snowball.

ControllerOne said...

So perhaps then you will have the opportunity to speak up again, and can act as Abraham Lincoln felt at the end of the Civil War - and as it turns out his life:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in ... to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves ..."

Mike Woods said...

I love having a supportive Bishop as well. He is always there for me.

Andy said...

I'd like to apologize for my above comments. Sometimes I don't think before I speak, or write. I blame it on never completely out growing my adolecence.

I should have been more empathetic to my co-worker because is just doesn't know. His comments were out of innocent ignorance, not purposeful bigotry. I should have taken the time to educate him. I was afraid and didn't.

Beck, your bishop is amazing. He didn't have to seek you out to see how you felt, but he did. That speaks volumes to what kind of a person he is. You are fortunate to have him in your life.

Beck said...

THRIVE: Thanks, but really, I felt bad that I didn't speak up at the moment, even though I know, with my demeanor at the time, I would end up making things worse by losing my cool.

BRAVONE: Good to see you hangin' around!

ANDY: There are so many "non-starters" that it makes you scratch your head as to what to even say. And wouldn't same-sex marriage decrease AIDS if society encourages monogamy? Oh well...

SEAN: Go to see you hangin' around as well! I hope, when, not if, the opportunity arises again, to start that snowball rolling.

CONTROLLER: It's the malice-toward-none attitude I need to develop. I've got to get my head around a response that is full of firmness yet charity for all, so that it doesn't sound combative. I know it's a fight, but in this type of setting it's got to be done with the right spirit of "peace" or no one benefits.

MIKE: The bishop is supportive, but he's a "closet supporter". I think he was looking for me to be the outspoken one instead of him, and that disappointed me - 1) because I didn't take the opportunity vocally, and 2) because he didn't. But knowing where he stands now, I think I can lead out next time... I hope...

Beck said...

ANDY: You're right... I've been judging the bishop for not speaking out, but he did seek me out afterward and did open the door for the dialog and he didn't have to. He could have brushed it off and let a nervous laugh be sufficient. So, thanks for the encouragement and insight to see the positive and I will take that as we go forward.

Miguel said...

It may only seem like baby steps but now you know that next time you don't have to feel bad for at least putting the conversation down in terms of "really, that's what us as Christians feel about our fellow men?" --you don't have to reveal anything about youself other than making people think if that's what Jesus would do? Don't miss the chance to teach people and all will be edified accordingly.
Hugs,Miguel

Neal said...

Beck - you rock! And so does your Bish...

Mr. B. said...

I was at my cousin's wedding this past week and I overheard a family talking to another. They were talking about how they hated reading comments by their brother (a non-Mormon) who supported gay marriage (I live in Washington State).

I was surprised at the tone of the comments. I wasn't part of the conversation, but thought later that I should've said something. It isn't easy. I (we) need to get stronger. I hope there are others that would support if we stood up.

Bror said...

yes, I am glad you have such a bishop. I am guilty of not speaking up myself.

Beck said...

MIGUEL: "Don't miss the chance" is easier said than done. Sometimes the "chance" is in an odd situation where the consequences of confrontation isn't worth it. But I appreciate your advice.

The trick is how to do it calmly, and without attacking back. The attack may win the immediate battle but no conversions are made.

NEAL: Thanks, but why don't I feel like I rock? I guess saying my mind to him is better than silence all together, no?

MR B: It isn't easy! That's the point. Even lashing out is easier than speaking properly. I've got to work on an appropriate response when such cases, even at family weddings, present themselves.

BROR: Guilty! That's how I feel. At least I'm not alone...