Inside and Outside
A community consciousness and brain health essay.
Who Are We Exiling?
“Is it true you used to be a Mormon?” He was tall, dark, and handsome with a bright warm smile.
“Yes” I said to the man who was on Benay Lappe’s Queer Talmud Retreat with me.
“Me too!” He said as we explored what we had in common.
“Do you think they will ever change their stance on gay marriage?”
It is a common topic among queer ex-Mormons.
Last year during all the furor over a woman being excommunicated for blogging about the possibility of women getting to hold the priesthood in the Mormon church, my sweet liberal Mormon uncle gave me a hug and said, “If we let women hold the priesthood, will you come back?”
Deep down I feel most of us understand that need to be recognized and included.
I think the Mormon church will open its membership to queer people before women will get the priesthood. My reasoning is this: in 1978 men of African descent were able to hold the priesthood in the Mormon church where before they couldn’t. Change has happened in the past. It can happen again. This may mean that women will eventually be priesthood holders. That was a less politicized battle and white Mormon families (the majority at the time) could say to themselves, “This issue (blacks and the priesthood) doesn’t affect us, doesn’t affect our family.” They would be wrong of course because when we marginalize any group based on race, gender, culture, religion, etc. we become less vibrant and smaller.
Today, no Mormon family can be completely assured that the “gay” issue doesn’t affect them. Some parents throw their gay children out on the street when they come out, but most do not. Most are torn up about how their children are seen by the church. For many people, women and the priesthood is not as heart wrenching an issue as gay marriage. And it is everyone’s heart that is getting wrenched.
I had a teacher who called it the “crotch syndrome”, one foot is in one camp, the other foot is in the other camp and the two camps are getting farther apart … something has to give or your pants split. As Rabbi Benay Lappe would say, “You crash.”
Gay young people can stay hidden and closeted in the Mormon church but that is the path to suicide — physical or mental. Young people can leave the religion of their childhood, tear up families, support systems, and communities or together we can create something new, taking the best of the old and creating something new that will actually thrive for the next hundred years and beyond.
What will your community or organization feel like in the hands, hearts, and minds of people in 2115? Will there be anyone left who thinks like you do today, values what you value, or views the universe the way you do? Who is on the margins of your community?
In 1990 a prominent sociologist compiled the statistics for the 1990 National Jewish Population survey saying, “There is good news and there is bad news. The good news is Judaism will exist in a hundred years. The bad news is it will be unrecognizable to us.”
Rabbi Benay Lappe, founder of Svara, a radically queer yeshiva told this story ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBWIEAR_GQY ) and continued by saying, “What I would like to share with you today is why this one queer Jew doesn’t think an unrecognizable Judaism is particularly bad news.”
“Every religion comes into being to create meaning and meaning comes by way of a “master story,” like Torah. But every master story will eventually…crash,” according to Rabbi Benay Lappe. She lays out a roadmap for navigating the current “crash” in Jewish life, arguing that it is those on the margins who will be the leaders of the next Jewish future, and outlines the curriculum that will equip them to be “players.”
When I heard Rabbi Lappe speak at a weeklong Talmud (Jewish learning) retreat, I started to think about the different communities I have been a part of and why I have deepened my connected to some and walked away from others.
Ultimately, we are each a member of the human race but then we further divide ourselves into like-minded communities. We do it by differentiating and comparing our beliefs and identity to others. It is a natural thing to seek out people like ourselves. We often feel more comfortable with people like ourselves, whatever that defining characteristic may be. But in forming communities of like-minded people we also marginalize or exclude others who we feel don’t fit in our community.
And who gets to decide? Who chooses whether one person is a valued or marginalized member of your community? Do people get to self-define and include or exclude themselves based on where they want to be? What community characteristics can be defined? Can gender or race be self-defined in your community as easily as what genre of books are engaging or religious affiliation?
How long will it be before there are fewer people within your community than the number of people who say, “Yes, I used to be a part of that community but I left?”
Have you considered whether your community is marginalizing the very person who will find the path for your community or organization to thrive and grow into the next 100 years?
Originally published at http://www.innerchildmagazine.com/the-community-of-humanity.php on July 15, 2015.