Today, this morning, I was told to stay silent during discussions. It was in the midst of a Bible study with 15 of us and we were looking at Peter’s decision to include the Gentiles via the movement of the Holy Spirit. I was trying to listen and made a comment trying to expand on a point that someone else made. It was right after I mentioned it that someone else quickly dismissed my comment in a fairly rude way. He described my example as an “extremist American situation.” I was more than a little pissed.
I did approach the gentleman after the Bible study to express my resentment at the way he dismissed my comments and he (a Canadian) said that in his experience Americans tend to dominate “these kind” of discussions leaving out those from other countries. He wanted to make sure that I, an American, did not dominate the conversation. I made it clear that I was offended by his method and that I would have appreciated him making that statement in a different way. We left sharing gentle pleasantries about the leaves in New England this time of year.
On the whole I vehemently disagree with his view. If this was a gathering organized by the World Council of Churches, or another Western leaning organization I could see some of his point. Yet this is supposed to be a safe space where everyone can share and the assumption is that everyone’s experience is valid and important. Yet I was told that an American’s experience is not as valid (I also think he was saying that a young person’s experience is not as valid because he played the “old, wise experience card”). Now, because of his actions, I do not feel safe or very welcomed. I understand that he is not speaking for everyone in my group, but the experience is still very real.
I’m holding back from drafting a list of expletives but won’t hold back from my newly embraced skepticism and cynicism.
What is the point and purpose of this gathering? So far it seems to be a space where we can say, “gee, isn’t it great that everyone from so many different places can get together? Aren’t we just awesome?” and then to go no farther. There still seems to be a very real reluctance to discuss major differences. Even now I am listening to one of the speakers saying with great passion that we are one in Christ. That is nice, but do we need to have a conference to make such statements. Theological pleasantries should not be that expensive that one would have to travel halfway across the world to hear.
As to my continued active participation in discussion groups, I’m not sure what I will do. I will go to the small and large group gatherings, but right now I do not want to share at all. Again, I do not feel as if it is a safe space. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will lead me otherwise.