Saturday, June 27, 2009

Escaping the Vicious Circle

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which are generally thought to mark the beginning of the Gay Rights movement.

I'm 40 years old myself, and I realize I've gotten to see and hear a lot of this movement up close(ish) in ways I didn't even notice at the time. Growing up in the Bay Area, I heard about the assassination of Harvey Milk when it happened. The AIDS crisis hit San Francisco hard while I was in high school. I remember signing petitions when I was in college against the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Gene Robinson was a candidate for bishop in Rochester while I was in seminary several years before he was elected in New Hampshire.

And now the movement to legalize gay marriage. Who would've thunk it?

Two things this week have been milling around in my mind. Or maybe one thing in two parts.

First of all, I realized that I'm very tired of the same old arguments about gay marriage. I feel like it's on autopilot and anybody could play the parts. I almost feel it would be entertaining when getting into this kind of spat to stop in the middle and say, "Let's trade roles!" and see how well we do in articulating the other side's argument.

I found this graphic this week that captures it well. (I don't even know where I found it now.)

I hope you can see it here. (I see that you can't, but you can click on it for the full view. You can also look at it on the web at It captures for me the futility of how we keep saying the same things again and again and again.

However, this week I also stumbled across a project called Bridging the Gap which offered what they called a Synchroblog. Over 50 bloggers from all over the religious/political spectrum offered their thoughts on issues relating to homosexuality and Christianity in a way that is loving and respectful. It was so refreshing. What's more, I was able to listen and I learned a lot. It gave me hope that the argument doesn't have to be like a dog chasing its tail. It doesn't even have to be an argument.

One of my favorite entries on the Synchroblog came from this blogger who described the familiar experience of online debate where "The arguments were endless and repetitive, and I can't remember how many times we rehashed that same conversation over those early months."

One evening, when he sent me a message to initiate the same old routine, I decided that I wasn't in the mood for it. As I sat there for a moment, I decided that our conversation was going to be different that night. I decided we were going to talk about something else. So I started steering the conversation in various directions, such as what I had done earlier that day. I also asked him about his day and various other questions. As a result, we had a twenty minute conversation that night that was completely debate-free and even a little pleasant, if somewhat forced. The conversation ended when Thyle said he needed to go and we exchanged pleasant goodbyes.

I learned that it takes two people to debate, but often only takes one person to redirect the conversation away from that debate.

He's realistic about the need for debate sometimes, but when the debate is simply a rehash of well-rehearsed positions, it doesn't seem to make sense to keep going. Instead, "When we force the debates and disagreements to take a more appropriate place amidst all the positive interactions a group of people can have, there is room for a beautiful picture to emerge and develop over time."

There was a lot more in these blogs and if this topic interests you--or tires you, actually--I recommend you take a look at what people wrote. Lots of good thoughts written with generous spirits. It gave me a lot to think about.

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