Last Sunday we saw Gail Geisenhainer, a UU Minister, tell her congregation how she came to the Unitarian Universalists. When she first visited one of the smaller UU fellowships more than 20 years ago, she was an over-the-top in-your-face lesbian, wounded, lonely, and hurting. She found acceptance with that congregation–except a couple of weeks after her first visit, a lady stood up and said in effect, “I don’t know how we can have gays in our community. They bring their filthy diseases and dangerous ideas with them, and should be quarantined, preferably on some remote island away from all of us decent people, so they can’t spread their loathsome creed to us healthy people.”
Need we say? Gail was stunned. She crawled into her shell, drew her aura in about her, and ran for her car. She didn’t want to see or talk to anybody; she was just in that space where holding your breath and hoping the world would stop was all there was. As she reached the exit door, one of the congregation opened it for her, looked her straight in the eyes, and gently said, “See you next week.”
This shocked her out of her trance. Was he crazy? What was he thinking? Was he on another planet? Impaired? But no, he didn’t seem crazy; he was looking her straight in the eyes and he spoke in a soft, pleasant voice. “See you next week.”
That next Sunday she decided to gather her forces and brave it out. In a part of the UU service called “Joys and Concerns”, almost every member of that congregation stood up and said, “There were views expressed last week which I didn’t agree with; I will not stay in this congregation if we believe that gays are diseased and should be quarantined.” It all took a long time, because almost everyone spoke, saying essentially the same thing; but Gail realized that she was home. Thinking about it afterward, she realized too that nobody had denounced the woman who had attacked her.
This was an interesting epiphany. She stayed with the fellowship and eventually became a respected UU minister.
Our point is this: The congregation as a whole was tolerant of diverse views no matter what those views were. If the congregation had criticized the woman who wanted to quarantine gays, then she would have dug in, cast her ideas in concrete, probably left that UU church. Since she stayed, her views had a chance gradually to change.
You cannot change people’s fast-held opinions overnight, nor can you torture them out of them. Always remember that the Buddha said, Hate generates hate.
We think this is a lesson that all we Wiccans can gain from. Blasting someone for his/her opinion does not work. You can defend your beliefs on a topic; in fact you should, especially if that means you have to think them through. Not, though, by attacking someone else for theirs; we see that too often in the pagan/Wiccan community.
We ourselves were partially doing it with BDD. Everyone is entitled to their opinion–yes, even the Christians–but to be a community, we must think of life and the lessons it brings in terms of “we” the community, not “Mine is the one and only right and true way.” The Christians say, “Love your enemy.” We like better the idea, “Tolerate your enemies and their views.”
In the future is it to be I, or thou, or you, or we, or us — ?
Blessed be. Gavin and Yvonne