It's been ten days since EC13 and I think I am ready to begin unpacking the event. Having spent much of that time in bed recovering from gastroenteritis I haven't been able to do much other than think about it and read what others were saying about it and marvel yet again how when you put four people together in a room you'll get at least four different versions of what took place in that room. Now multiply those people by 100 and imagine the variations of experience that took place at EC13.
I worked behind the scenes. Sometimes that vantage point is a bit like being behind the curtain with the "great and powerful OZ" and seeing that the wizard isn't all he's cracked up to be. Heck, most of the time that's what the behind the scenes vantage point is to be honest. None of us, not even the wise and wonderful Phyllis Tickle, are without our broken places and blind spots. It is part and parcel of being human. That said, I've been somewhat baffled by the brouhaha regarding the final session. I think many of us are in danger of hearing through our own baggage and perhaps over-reacting to what we think we heard.
Yes, Phyllis did say that birth control radically changed our society in a way that was detrimental to the sola scriptura role of women as the keepers at home. Can we honestly deny that? We know that at some visceral level or we wouldn't be so outraged at the rhetoric coming out of the Tea Party and their ilk as they try with all their might to undo the progress we have made as women by usurping control of our reproductive rights. Whether you liked what she had to say or not it is truth that the advent of legal birth control and later of legal abortion brought about historical change in our society so significant that we are still fighting in 2013 to keep it.
Perhaps if Phyllis had left it at that, if she hadn't tied it into the raising of children and the transmission of the faith, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Something I have noticed though is that a lot of us are ok with women having the right to do whatever we want...as long as what we want doesn't include being a full-time wife and mother. What the Bible called a keeper-at-home. Somehow when that role is the one that is chosen it is seen as colluding with the enemy. For Phyllis to hold up that role as one that perhaps we threw out prematurely in this 500 year rummage sale was tantamount in many circles to raising a red flag in front of a bull.
I am a woman who has chosen the role of keeper-at-home, at least for this season of my life, and I never cease to be amazed at those who say that by doing so I am "wasting my degree", among the kinder of the accusations I have had leveled at me in the last decade and a half when I left the career world to come home and raise and homeschool my daughter. I've had to develop a really thick skin over the past 15 years just to be true to who I am supposed to be at this season in my life. For ME what Phyllis had to say was life-affirming. In a world culture that tells me daily that I am wasting my talents, indeed robbing the world of something it seems to believe it is owed from me, hearing that there is still value in the work of keeping a home and transmitting the faith to one's family was water in a desert place.
So perhaps that part of Phyllis's message was not for the greater Emergent conversation. Perhaps that part was for me and for other women like me that were present in the cathedral that day. Perhaps not. I only know how I received it. That does not make what anyone else received from it wrong. Let us continue to converse and consider this issue with grace for one another, grace for Phyllis who was very ill and grace for this thing we call Emergence that is really still in its infancy and will continue to suffer growing pains as it finds is identity apart from those who have "parented" it thus far. Emergence isn't Phyllis...or Brian, or Jay, or Nadia, or Doug, or Tony...it is both bigger and smaller than the individuals who have been identified as its leaders thus far and while it figures out what that is lets be patient and gentle with each other. If a message doesn't speak to your reality feel free to let it pass, someone else, a desert rose perhaps, may need it more than you know.