Hospitality and Hostility and Wondering About That

Most of us – people, I’m thinking, human beings – are not good at welcoming and condemning at the same time.

That sounds obvious, but it was a hard sentence to come up with. Most of us – people, I’m thinking, human beings – don’t think of ourselves as “condemning.” We more often think of ourselves as “sincere,” or “straightforward,” or “ourselves.” When we are frankly expressing our sincere convictions – that the libtards or the trumpies are destroying America, for instance, or that the gay trans village people or the Christian mafia are what’s wrong with the world these days – we tend to assume we are among friends, and are just telling it like it is.

We don’t think of ourselves as condemning the Others we’re in the act of blaming, criticizing, and expressing our inability to understand how they can even exist at all. We’d never do that to Their faces.

As far as we know.

Which ensures that we never will know.

Which may have something to do with why it so often comes as a shock to us that some people “just never felt comfortable” with that person, or at that church. When we’re so “welcoming.”

This is on my mind because we are intentionally working on “LGBTQIA+ hospitality” at our little church, now that we’ve noticed that we actually are one place in the county where people are both Christian and can be friends with gay people. We are not the ONLY church in the county that could make that claim – the Disciples of Christ are surely as open and affirming as we are – but realistically, we may be one of two.

So we had a congregational conversation about hospitality yesterday after church, with a presentation on what this might mean for us, some information, an opportunity to raise questions and so on. Which, aside from the technical difficulties with trying to include people by Zoom, which turned out to be the opposite of “welcoming” or “hospitable,” seemed fruitful for those involved.

Except that someone suggested that we add “R” for “Republicans” to the alphabet of people we’re welcoming. “Maybe next we need to have a conversation about that.” At which mostly people laughed, and moved on. And then I heard from three different people afterwards about “Why would That Person say that?” and “That was so inappropriate and uncalled for” and “Politics doesn’t have any place in church anyway.”

No place, but for the fact that these days party affiliation is at least as definitive of “identity” as sexual orientation or gender or whether you went to college. And that “LGBTQIA+ hospitality” is a political statement in and of itself. As most things are, truth to tell. So, no place, except for the unavoidable one.

I thought to myself, well, how many people have left this congregation because they didn’t feel comfortable politically. I count at least two. That I know of. And how many people have tentatively expressed the sentiment that they know they are out of step politically with everyone else and hang in there anyway? I count at least two. That I know of. And how many people have stopped coming to Sunday school because they don’t trust themselves not to clash politically with another member or two, which would not be great for the peace unity and purity of the church? I count at least two, that I know of. So now I’m up to six people, that I know of, who have felt unwelcome at this church because of politics, and I’m not even counting the people who ostensibly left or drifted away for other reasons, that were political-adjacent. Like ordaining the LGBTQIA+ people in the first place.

It’s a dilemma. Because when we – people, I’m thinking, human beings – are in the middle of having a conversation with our like-minded friends in our safe space where we feel welcome about “what is WRONG with those people??” believe it or not, that does not exactly feel “welcoming” for Those People. It’s seriously hard to tell people to their face “I honestly think you and your kind are what’s wrong with the world right now” and at the same time mean “I totally want you to feel welcome here.”

So I am wondering what would have to change to really change that.

red line embellished

Image: “Red Sumac,” Paul VanDerWerf from Brunswick, Maine, USA, Paul VanDerWerf from Brunswick, Maine, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

6 responses to “Hospitality and Hostility and Wondering About That”

  1. the change is that human beings — people, I mean — need to know and profess and live what they’re taught about how our God created human beings — people, I mean — in and for love any label we attach to human beings — people, I mean — automatically closes them within a box that either separates them or welcomes them depending on how other human beings — people, I mean — feel about the label on the box.
    Love. Dignity. Equality. Equity. All of that stuff goes away once we label the box.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Tim – I think you’re right about the labeling, and reducing people to their labels. I also think this must have something to do with how we communicate – and think about – our various disagreements. I get that people want to stand firm on principles etc., but surely it’s possible to do this making some kinds of assumptions about those who hold different principles …

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Difficult questions; you surely have me thinking. Not appropriate for me to do, but I wish you would post it to the Facebook group Happy to be a Presbyterian. I’d love to see the follow-up discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Pete … I’ll think about that. I admit, I stay away from Facebook more and more, for all kinds of reasons. So if I did that, it might be a little trollish. But maybe that would be ok since it was by invitation 😉


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