Friday, July 4, 2008

Class and the Country Club on the 4th of July

So somehow I accidentally joined a country club this summer. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm clinging to my working class roots like a kudzu vine, but somehow...yeah, it's a golf and country club. And I'm a member.

See, my two older sons were looking for a swim team. Not that kind of team with twice daily three-hour practices that steals your whole summer, but a summer league team that is just fun and friends and a good work out.

We found a good one, close to home, one hour practices and meets with THEMES! Like red-white-and blue meet! Yeay. When I went over to register and there was the sign right on the door with the rules about no jeans, and closed toe shoes and all, well I knew: Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

And really, it's been fine. It's a chance to sort out my deeply held prejudices about class. At the PNWD AGM Professional Day this winter we had this fantastic day-long workshop about class. Let me just say that Cathy Cartwright from Portland First is a genius and I adore her. But what I realized in that workshop is that while I FEEL like I grew up in a working class family, really by the time I was a kid, my family was pretty well off in a lot of ways. My parents put in an in-ground pool when I was 12. We did go on some kind of vacation every year. There was some expectation that I would go to college. If you've done these workshops you remember the "sorting" kind of questions. Yeah, not working class-blue collar, anymore.

But, man, I still have those blue collar feelings! And even though my husband and I are comfortable (of course thanks much more to his job than mine!) I still sit at these meets at the country club in my little folding chair and watch kind of like a refugee might in a new land. Not quite sure what's going on, but watching all the time.

And so, during yesterday's Red-White and Blue extravaganza meet at a lovely outdoor pool on a lovely day, I got to thinking about class, and our country celebrating our Independence Day and being an American. And I thought about my "Expecting Congregation" ideas and what it means to be of one class or another coming into our congregation. Clearly, I'm not feeling very welcome in this country club world. Is that how people feel when they walk into our congregation--especially if they feel like we're all well off financially?

I think the worst mistake we make in our churches is to ignore class. It's like ignoring race or ignoring gender or sexual identity. We have so much shame about class in our country, because we're supposed to be the land of the free, home of the brave, where everyone and anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and opportunity is everywhere. But shame and ignoring it, don't make it go away.

It's as real as the restriction on denim at my country club.

MORE things to think about here on my month off! Oh well, it's good work, if you can get it! ***"Smiling sigh!"***

Happy Independence Day!


ms. kitty said...

Kari, so nice to meet you today!

Tina T-P said...

Your comments really resonated with me. We (my husband & I) feel that class disparity is a huge problem in UU churches - in fact the "World" got more letters about their recent issue on class than any other issue. As a member of an small, mostly "blue collar" UU church, (Free Church Unitarian in Blaine) we even see it when we go to district events. I don't know if there is an answer for this issue...but I'm glad to see someone talking about it.

Like your blog - dropped by from Ms. Kitty's Roadshow. T.

Hi, It's Kari. said...

Thanks, Tina. It's good to know we're all here together thinkin' about it.