08 October, 2008

Challenging Ourselves

In Sunday's Oregonian, an editorial caught my eye. Becky Ohlsen wrote, "Portland, Get Over Yourself: Wrapped in self-satisfaction, city snoozes on the issues". The article begins:

"Every few years, in lefty mags like the Utne Reader, someone declares yet again that Portland is a bastion of "livability," a wonder of civic planning and a model of progressive politics. And, to some degree, it is all of those things. But when you've lived there for a while and then left, as I have, you start to wonder if Portland isn't more like one of those willfully anachronistic Amish or Mennonite communities: idyllic but isolated, utopian but irrelevant.

With few exceptions, Portlanders inhabit perfect liberal values. They recycle with a vengeance. They're into slow food. They shop at organic grocers and farmers markets, or they grow their own vegetables in a community garden. They don't think it's rude to ask the waiter if the salmon on the menu is farm-raised or wild; if it's farmed, the diner will opt instead for the salad of locally grown beets and wild greens picked in the meadows of nearby Mount Hood. Being vegan is cool, not annoying. Portlanders drink organic beer and wine (except for the dregs of the demimonde, who insist on Pabst Blue Ribbon and are mocked for it). They bicycle to work, and they frown at cars as they pedal by. Those who must drive are forgiven if they own a Prius or if their vehicle flaunts a BIODIESEL sticker across the back. Public transport works well here, and people use it. Gay rights and racial equality are taken for granted as goals, if perhaps not yet total achievements. Everyone does yoga; serenity is a family value.

So what's the problem? Isn't this a virtuous and exemplary way to live?..." For the full article, see: http://tinyurl.com/4fyb24

What struck me about her main assertion was that even progressives must do their inner work to stay relevant. It reminds me of a common dynamic in the welcoming church movement. Many "progressive" congregations and denominations fall into the trap of "we did that", "we took that vote years ago" or "my tradition has been a leader on LGBTQ issues". While those specific things are often true, many times congregations don't move beyond that point. CWC offers a workshop called, "So we are Open & Affirming, now what?" for just that purpose.

Letters have been coming in to the Oregonian by people stating that her opinion doesn't represent their view of Oregon. And I think the author was trying to motivate and encourage people to get engaged and not to just say, "we did that". And regardless of how we feel about Portlanders and their seeming (or not) self-centeredness....I think there is a kernel of truth that communities in the "welcoming church movement" might do well to consider. We all can do more in terms of expanding our own individual ideas on inclusion and equality. We can do more individually...and as communities. We must not rest on our laurels and say....oh yeah...that inclusive stuff, we did that.

Does the article strike you that way too? I'd like to know.

Peace and joy,

Rev. Tara

1 comment:

Genko said...

Well, I think all communities can tend to self-satisfaction (just like all people can). It's true that we have to continue to work to stay relevant, authentic, etc. It may be that the article was trying to get to that, or it may just be that it was trying to sell newspapers. It's very tricky to point out this stuff without just whipping up defensiveness.