The intersections are where life gets interesting. This immersion is at the intersection of faith and public policy. Since the 1980s, the loudest faith voice in the public/political arena has been the religious right. There are good people in that huge camp, but the leadership has used fear to push for conservative policies that keep control in the hands of the dominant class, while convincing those outside the dominant class that these policies are good for them. And so we get the image of all those powerful white male legislators making decisions about health care that affect the non-powerful, non-white, and non-male citizens of this country without taking our needs into account. This way of creating public policy rejects the intersections in our culture.
There is another way, a way that recognizes that there are a lot more people and ideologies at the table. A way that acknowledges and welcomes and explores the intersections, because that is where we really live.
Everywhere I go in Washington, I am at those intersections. At All Souls Unitarian last Sunday morning, the minister said, “We mortals are the fellowship of the brokenhearted.” It is through sorrow and suffering that we are able to empathize with the suffering of others and to use our collective, brokenhearted power, our faith and our humanity, to stand up against racism wherever we see it.
Last weekend, I saw a production of HIR by Taylor Mac. In this play, gender expression, gender roles, and family roles intersect in both empowering and destabilizing ways. Although I laughed a lot at some very funny moments, I was left with an awareness of the necessary losses people often feel when paradigm shifts occur. Our willingness to navigate and participate in the shifts – rather than being unwilling “victims” – will make the process more rapid and smooth.
I reached another intersection on Saturday night, when I attended a play called Sioux Falls at 10th Muse Productions. This play by Megan Dominy is about abortion –the unique, personal circumstances that lead three women to seek abortions and the hurdles they face to get services they have a legal right to. In South Dakota, where there is only one clinic that offers abortion services, roadblocks to abortion include requirements for a sonogram and mandatory counseling at least 72 hours prior to getting the abortion. An underlying tenet of the play is that reproductive health options including abortion should be available to all. Instead, reproductive health services lie at the intersection of personal healthcare, politics, and religion. Surprisingly, women’s lived experiences at the crossroad are typically ignored.
I stumbled upon the Memorial Day observations at the U.S. Navy Memorial. The event included a color guard, a fine military band, a speech by a 95-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, and the playing of Taps. It was beautiful and patriotic and made me weep. Yet as I left the memorial, I looked around for who was not represented at this intersection of national pride with national shame. And I found myself hearing Langston Hughes’ words in my head:
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
When we live in the intersections, me must acknowledge our own intersections and context as well as the intersections and context that others live in. This acknowledgement takes vulnerability, willing destruction of our preconceived notions, and opening to the unknown and uncomfortable. The intersections are where Beloved Community can truly happen. That’s where we find Grace. As Sharon Welch writes in A Feminist Ethic of Risk, grace is a deep and holy love for others that “lifts us to a larger self…as it leads us to accept blame and begin the long process of reparation and re-creation.” Let us live into the intersections, in full recognition and with the full participation of all those who meet there. That is where we can truly love our neighbor as ourselves. That is where we can form a just and equitable society – a Grace-filled Beloved Community that is heaven on earth.