Monday, November 5, 2012

When Voting, It's People that Count

The Rev. Kristin M. Foster, pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Mountain Iron, Minnesota, sent the following editorial to local newspapers. Thank you, Pastor Kristin, for your timely and pastoral message.

When Voting, It's People that Count

I happened to be home a bit earlier than usual one evening this week when the phone rang.  The woman on the other end of the phone asked for Kristin, though clearly we did not know each other. She was calling on behalf of Minnesotans for Marriage, asking for my vote in favor of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, for what she called traditional marriage.

The Rev. Kristin Foster (second from right) with the
"Quilters Against the Marriage Amendment" of
Messiah Lutheran in Mountain Iron, Minnesota.
As a citizen and a Lutheran pastor who vigorously opposes the Marriage Amendment, I heard myself preparing to tell her just that, and then quickly get off the phone. Instead, I told her that we differed, but asked her a question. “What do you mean by traditional marriage?” I asked. What ensued was a conversation which lasted close to ten minutes. I knew that what I would say in favor of same gender couples having the freedom to marry would not change her vote. Likewise, she quickly realized that what she said in favor of constitutionally limiting marriage would not change mine.

Nevertheless we stayed in the conversation.  She spoke of the Bible and God wanting children to be raised in a loving home by and a mother and a father.  I spoke of God’s law of love and the youth and young adults I know who discover that they are gay in a community that still wants to pretend they do not exist. She spoke of her distress over the breakdown of marriage and its effect on children.  I echoed her distress, but noted the many people I know who are in loving, faithful, same gender relationships, or who long to be … including those who provide a nurturing, stable home for children.

We could have continued. I could have mentioned that half of the many weddings I performed this year were for couples entering a second marriage where procreating or raising children had nothing to do with the purpose of their marriage. Instead, though, our conversation needed to end.  She thanked me for talking respectfully.  I noted that although we differ markedly on this vote, I could tell that she and I were both coming from a place of the heart, of deep concern for the well-being of families.  

I am grateful for that conversation, for her willingness to take time away from her job of convincing people to vote yes in order to have a real exchange of perspectives.  I am grateful for hearing someone’s heartbeat on the other side of this proposed amendment, as I believe she heard mine … and perhaps not only my heartbeat, but of people with a minority “non-traditional” sexual orientation.  
Here’s my hope. When we hear the heartbeat of another person through a conversation, we begin to listen not just to the opinions that they embrace, but to who they are.  We recognize a full human being, pulsing like we do with fears and hopes and dreams, not just someone bearing a societal label or bristling with beliefs unpalatable to our own. Through conversation, we encounter real people and hear their stories, and those stories can change us.

I encourage you to go ahead. Have a conversation. Listen for the heartbeat. Share real stories, not hearsay, including of those who would be excluded by either the Voter ID or the Marriage Amendment.  And whatever the outcome of those votes, let’s keep having conversations!

Kristin M. Foster
Pastor, Messiah Lutheran Church
Mountain Iron, Minnesota

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