I was recently reminded of the old parable of the frog in a pot of boiling water. The parable goes: If you place a frog directly into a pot of water that is already boiling, the frog will jump right out. If, on the other hand, you place a frog into a pot of room temperature water and slowly raise the heat level to boiling, over a long period of time, the frog will boil to death. Sorry. It’s a grim tale.
When I was told this tale, it was implied that I was the frog. You were the frog. We are frogs. And, therefore, that we must be vigilant against hot temperatures in our surroundings. How should we be vigilant? I don’t know… jump early? At any rate, we must be vigilant.
Let’s flip the script…
What if the frog is an idea? A belief? A harmful belief? What if the frog is the belief that it’s appropriate to have separate drinking fountains for people based on skin color? That all women aren’t as intellectually capable or physically strong as all men? What if the frog is the patriarchy?
Then maybe this fable can teach us something about change. How do we change folks’ minds about such things?
Last week, reporters revealed that Pope Francis gave verbal support to same-sex unions through comments he made in a documentary film. Further, regarding the participation and welcome of LGBTQ folks, he stated, “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” the pope said. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.”
Is Pope Francis turning up the heat? Is the frog homophobia? Is this how change happens? Is it by dropping incremental seeds to slowly guide the community along the moral arc of the universe?
On my recent podcast interview with Casey Stanton, I was challenged to contemplate change with new eyes. As a community organizer, she knows what it takes to make change happen. When the Catholic Church starts ordaining women to the permanent diaconate, she said,
It got me thinking. So, how does change happen? Is it by dropping small seeds along the moral arc of the universe… providing space and nourishment for new ideas to take root and grow? Much as I want the Pope to come out tomorrow and announce ‘women deacons are welcomed to serve the needs of the people of God.’ Hell, *everyone* – women, nonbinary folks, queer people – everyone is allowed access to all seven Sacraments because… human dignity. This may sound radical to many, but my heart is past that guidepost on the path and hungry for even more.
However, I can acknowledge that such a grand pronouncement might not ‘stick.’ That is, there are still too many folks whose hearts are not prepared to hear this good news.
I believe Francis knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s turning up the heat.
When I contemplate the life and way of Jesus, he frequently made grand pronouncements that people’s hearts were absolutely not ready to receive. Simply read the Sermon on the Mount for one of many examples.
So which is it? Subtle hints and winks here and there? Or sweeping statements, radical pronouncements, overnight change?
(Come on, man! Say it! LGBT folks are full humans, deserving of human rights and dignity!)
As is so often the answer with God (I find) – it’s both.
Change happens in many ways – some excruciatingly slow and plodding, some direct and quick, some in a spiral way – moving around and around the same circle, though each time at a different level.
It seems the rate of change often depends on the size of the crowd. When the size of the crowd is one heart, change can come about rather quickly and directly. When the size of the crowd is a planetful of people, change can be excruciatingly slow.
The moral arc of the universe is long. I really used to think he was talking in decades. Now I am coming to believe he is talking in millennia.
Each of us has a role to play in turning up the heat on the ills of our times and places. On the eve of the U.S. Election Day 2020, let’s contemplate where God is calling us to apply heat *after* the results are finalized. Let’s allow the outcomes of this election to be informative (now what?) rather than performative (we did it!). White supremacy, homophobia, xenophobia (to name a few) will all be there after Election Day. They’ll all be soaking up that froggy water. Let’s boil those frogs.