Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

When Extreme Liberalism Finds the Touching Point of Extreme Conservatism in a Church Function

March 31, 2014

Hopping mad. Like the Easter Bunny had nothing on me. That was how I drove home last night in the pouring rain. I attended a book group meeting. I had not been for the past few months (for obvious reasons). We are reading Saving Jesus from the Church which I happen to like. Like as in I haven’t stopped reading it out of boredom or over reliance on dead German theologians. I left about ready to punch a wall. Preferably brick. Preferably hard.

Why? I was lectured on “white privilege” by a white, heterosexual male who is working on his PhD at a university that starts with H and has a yard you (can’t really) park your car in. Excuse me? If anything defines white privilege MORE than an Ivy (or Chicago or Stanford) degree, I’m a bit surprised. Somehow we wound up on the topic which basically brushed up against a personal example of shibboleth. And that is where the extreme left met the extreme right in the Christian realm. I mostly kept quiet: I’m in that state of having beliefs challenged and rethought. I’ve always questioned the dichotomy of heaven and hell and the idea of forgiveness then mix in my mom dying? I was pressed a bit. I said, I’m not out to question anybody’s religion. I’m Christian because I was born to Christians, raised in a fairly liberal church but if I was Jordanian, I’d probably be Muslim. Shrug.

It doesn’t bother me. I lost track of the conversation as it was veering to the point that my lack of interest became apparent to the host. It isn’t fair when the host is a law professor. She asked me what I was thinking. I said the words that REALLY aren’t welcome in a lot of gatherings. I’m not sure it really matters to me if Jesus was a real person or merely an archetype or a narrative of a movement. Silence. What? One person said but the gospels were only written something like thirty years after Jesus died. (Never mind life span, the fact they contradict each other and John I swear was written after drinking some wine). I said it didn’t bother me if Jesus was real: it’s the message. I don’t know about works versus deeds. Or predestination. Or the bazillion interpretations we have all seem to come up with when reading one part of a correspondence and how the structure of the church doesn’t have the entire sacred text read in a 3 year cycle. It doesn’t matter to me. I can very easily profess my faith without having to know that.

You would have thought I had traded David Ortiz.

The PhD in ethics want to be said something like “how can you not feel called to seek justice” (uh, I didn’t say I didn’t) and how can I be ok with not being bothered by religions that are not tolerant to women or LGBTQI people? I said, well, if that bothered me I couldn’t be a Christian.

You really would have thought I had traded David Ortiz to the Yankees.

I pointed out he was ordained Southern Baptist and they don’t allow the ordination of women, let alone non-heterosexual individuals. How could he stay in the church (apparently he’s working for change which since he works for on UCC church and attends the same UCC church I do, I’m NOT really sure how he’s going to change the SBC)? I said it wasn’t my place to call somebody out for being a member of a tradition I disagreed with: maybe that is my deep belief in The Constitution. I don’t care if somebody holds different beliefs than I do: I do care if they seek to harm another. But I’m not going to go up to an Amish person and criticize their beliefs as much as I’m not going to say to a Catholic friend how I don’t see how she can stay with her church to a Muslim friend, you know, your sister shouldn’t have to wear a head scarf. The wide swath of the middle of really almost any faith tradition is fine with me. Fringes cause the problems.
I know I’m cranky. But I don’t need a guy telling me I need to be offended because something oppresses women: I think I can navigate that one on my own. I don’t need to be told I should work for the tolerance of LGBTQI individuals (no, really, I LIKE being a second class citizen with the perks and all).

Madder than a rabid Easter Bunny? Yeah, that is where I was when I left. And I am still irked today: we don’t get anywhere by telling people WHAT to believe. We only get there when we work to removing barriers. And I don’t know of a tradition that call for oppression of people. But then again, I won’t have a degree from that side of the river.

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Goodbye Mom. We will miss you.

February 15, 2014

Here is the eulogy I mostly delivered at today’s service of my mother’s life. Sometimes being an adult sucks.

On behalf of my siblings, Sarah and Nathan , their spouses Don and Evie , the grandchildren Donald, Patrick, Kathryn, Emily and Lauren and Evan , we wish to thank you for the love and support you have shown our parents throughout course of our mother’s battle with breast cancer. As the Boston daughter, I was often asked by my friends why I did not have my mother seek treatment at Dana-Farber in Boston or Sloan-Kettering in New York. I truly and honestly believe that the care my mother received at the University of Tennessee hospital by Dr. Timothy Pinella, her primary nurse Ruth Borden and countless others including Merritt Brakebill was equal to or better than the care she could have received in Boston. For this, I am truly grateful.

Cancer never defined my mother. Approximately 15 years ago, we received the crushing news that my mother had a 3% chance of survival after one year with the return of her cancer. As her children and probably her spouse, sister, mother, in-laws, nieces, nephews all tried to wrap our heads around the probability, my mother in her mom way simply told Dr. Pinella “I don’t have time to die, I have grandchildren.”

While others may have faced the odds presented with complacency, my mother fought cancer. In my eyes, she won. She continued to teach through chemo and radiation and she learned. She learned and re-instilled into her now adult children the lesson of a cancer diagnosis. Learn what is important: and if it isn’t important, it doesn’t matter. For her, this was simply her family, her faith and teaching. I’ve reached the decision that being a teacher must be like being a mother: you never give up the role.

Others will speak and have spoken about my mother as an educator: To me, she was simply, complexly Mom. Looking back through the pictures that were shown in the fellowship hall with my siblings; we laughed at the bad 80’s hair, the horrific 70’s plaids and discovered our parents as a couple before they had kids and cried at the pictures of graduations, weddings and baptisms.

Sorting through wedding pictures from nearly fifty years ago, I am reminded how my parents lived out their wedding vows: for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, sickness and in health, to love and cherish. Dad, she loved you. She loved telling the story of how, in vanity, she didn’t wear her glasses at her wedding and couldn’t see when you stuck out your thumb instead of your ring finger and the minister smacked you. She couldn’t stay mad (for very long) if you winked at her. She took great pride in causing the great Philadelphia Phillies collapse of 1964 and reveled in the fact that Yankees triumphed in the 2011 World Series over the Phillies. As hard as it is for your control freak daughter to admit, mom died how she wanted: at home with only you by her side. You were truly the love of her life as she was yours. As parents, you taught us the most important lessons: family, faith, service and the love of college sports.

Sarah and Don, Mom marveled at your ability to raise your family, volunteer, work in time consuming demanding jobs. Sarah called me and said “oh, Don just made a big mistake, he told me he wanted to collect cast iron. What’s going to happen when mom finds out?” Don, Mom took pride in converting you into a cast iron collecting college football fan. I think it’s time you raise the white flag of surrender; you’ve been assimilated. Sarah, mom was amazed at your ability to teach Kindergarten to Algebra II and just about every subject in between. Seeing you and Don as a couple, is like looking back at Mom and Dad. You have faced the challenges set forth in wedding vows and as a couple have met them. She was so proud of you. She admired your ability to be calm in the face of adversity and take one step at a time. It is a skill I wish I had. She told me this fall you two were probably the proudest parents in the state after Donald, Patrick and Kathryn lead worship: I know she was probably the proudest grandmother on the planet that day.

Nathan and Evie, well, let’s face it. Mom bought Nathan at a garage sale and then got mad when I sold him to a friend for some baseball cards and jacks. She made me take you back AND grounded me. Evie, I told somebody this week that the only s who can sing are the ones who married into the family. She loves the fact that you and Crystal sang today. She appreciated how grounded you were by your faith. Nathan, you totally inherited the rabid live and die with your team football mentality. She loved laughing at your Saturday antics and she never quite got how you became such a rabid UT fan especially when there was a perfectly good team located up I-75 in Columbus. She was thrilled that you took Evan to the Horseshoe last year for his first Ohio State home game.

Donald, Patrick, Kathryn, Emily, Lauren and Evan, Grandma loved you with everything she had.

Donald, Grandma always shook her head in amazement at you. From your helping any kid with homework, to standing up for your beliefs she was proud of the young man you’ve become. Her favorite stories of you, though, are from when you were a toddler: when you tried to mow the grass with your toy mower and you couldn’t quite figure out why the grass wasn’t getting mowed, to cutting your own hair because your head was hot and playing all positions in a one person football game, she was always impressed with how you managed to stay occupied.

Patrick, Grandma loved your inquisitive curiosity. She had so much fun finding odd ball treasures for Patrick’s collection (I mean, how many grandmothers would buy a blow dart?). Your voracious reading is just like Grandma. She loved your explorations in linguistics and vocabulary. She would often tell people about one of your teacher’s making a “Patrick vocabulary list”. She always laughed when remembering how I caught you climbing up a ladder to the roof and when I asked the 4 year Patrick what he was doing, I was promptly told “Climbing down”.

Kathryn, you are your mother’s daughter. Your mother was her mother’s daughter. I think, by extension, that makes you grandma. Grandma loved your fierce competitiveness. Your glare cracked her up. From the time you could glare, you glared: from not wanting to share kiwi, to a server taking your plate too early or simply clearing the table after dinner, we all know the glare. Somebody, usually your mom, could get Grandma to stop glaring. Nobody has been able to stop the Kathryn glare. Grandma marveled your adventures at Russian and Chinese camps. She loved watching you play softball. You have amazing artistic ability. She probably told everybody she knew that your carving won an award at the Oklahoma State Fair.

Emily, you are a fireball of energy that Grandma loved to enjoy. She called me last summer to tell me you cartwheeled UP the hill from Tic-Toc without getting hurt! She told me she didn’t think she could turn that many cartwheels ever. She was so impressed with the dress you made last summer.

Lauren, Grandma loved your library. She loved how organized your lists were. She made lists and thought it was the best way to stay organized. She loved the letters you wrote Grandpa. You are a much better letter writer than Grandma (and she’d always remind me how busy you were when I kept saying ‘Lauren owes me a letter’).

Evan, Grandma loved how you thought everything was awesome. She smiled every time you shrieked with enthusiasm. Your joy and happiness makes everybody happy. That is very special and Grandma loved it.

Emily, Lauren and Evan: Grandma loved Camp Chaos. She loved playing cards (she did not like losing to the kids), watching the dance competitions of kids versus adults (I think she secretly cheered for the kids’ teams since she didn’t dance) and having you at her house playing, laughing and breaking some of the rules. I know that Grandpa will be great at leading Camp Chaos this summer. Take turns, but each day one of you needs to make sure he wears his hat while working in the garden.

You six are her legacy. Continue to stand up for what is right as your parents have taught you. Do justice and love with all your heart.

Dad, Sarah, Don, Nathan, Evie, Donald, Patrick, Kathryn, Emily, Lauren, Evan and all of those who loved my mom, in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss that I was reminded of by my cousin Matt, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” We aren’t quite there yet. But we are working on it and that is all my mother would ask as a parent and an educator. Via con dios, Mom, go with God.

#IntlDayAgainstHomophobiaAndTransphobia? Support a #ballez

May 17, 2013

Really.  There is a day (ok, several different days) that basically say it’s not ok to hate the non-heterosexual community.  I’m going to spare everybody my rant on that simply because I’m tired of writing it, saying it, and above all thinking about it.  Put it this way, every day, I’m reminded of how I’m “different”.  I’m over this.  Over it.  People blog about the sexualization/objectification of Disney FEMALE characters, has anybody looked at the images they present to boys?

Katy Pyle’s re-interpretation of The Firebird, a Ballez is MORE than just a queer ballet.  It is so much more than that.  This show re-examines how we present people.  Take a look at the picture below taken by Chrissy Pessango:

Chrissy Pessango Picture

Chrissy Pessango Picture

What do you see? More correctly, what do you see? Look at the different body types, look at the gracefulness each of these dancers holds.  Maybe one, ONE, presents the body type you would expect to see in a ballet.  One.  And here they are a dance corps, musicians who identify as non-heterosexual but teaching a much broader lesson: the presentation of the craft is the important part.  Shaking up gender expectations is huge: doing so with health body images? Well that’s nothing short of spectacular.

The show opened last night as St. Mark’s church (an Episcopal Church in NYC).  Yes, a mainline church supporting queer art.

The $10,000 Pyle is hoping to raise is to provide better pay for those who have contributed so much to this project.  Please help fully fund her.  The show is sold out.  The importance of this re-envisioning is not just important for the queer community but for every person.  None of us are that “perfect” image.  Pyle’s work is groundbreaking.  Pyle’s dancers are taking very real risks in their professional lives.  The church that is supporting them will undoubtedly draw (more) criticism.  That is the risk of being a ground breaker.

This is the link to the KickStarter campaign.  Please give what you can.  The project is so close to being fully funded.

And no, I was not paid to write this review (and I wish is I was in NY so I could go see the show!!!)

The Act Bearing Witness: The Campaign for Southern Equality

January 13, 2013

I’m lucky: I live in a state that grants equal rights to all citizens. You know, that little tiny one that has a host of legal benefits called “marriage”. There is an organization that is working in the south try change the laws so that all citizens have the right to marry the person they love. The Campaign for Southern Equality is working to raise awareness, change the laws and bring equality to citizens in one of the most hostile regions of the country.

I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it a thousand more: I don’t care what your religious doctrine says about gay marriage. I truly don’t. My religion, church and congregation affirm marriage of all couples (and was one of the first in the nation to do so). It’s welcoming in the definition of the world welcoming: not the hip/trendy we are for gay rights that seems to permeate many congregations. I really, really, really don’t care what your interpretation of God is when it comes to my rights (but, unless you are willing to live by the entire literal teaching of The Bible, I’m also not interested in a discussion with you on the subject.

About this time every year, I become angry as I’m reminded I’m not a full citizen in the eyes of my government. I find it odd since apparently I qualify as a “Daughter of the American Revolution” (yeah, something about leaving Massachusetts for Ohio in the 18th century) and have some indigenous heritage as well (talk about not having the energy for apologist history). Every year when I complete my Massachusetts return, I’m reminded how in the eyes of the federal government, I don’t have the same rights. I don’t have the right to survivor benefits (Sally Ride’s wife doesn’t; Neil Armstrong’s wife does), I am not automatically given the right to make medical decisions for my spouse, don’t even go there with what can happen to inheritance issues in states that don’t recognize marital equality.

I’ll never understand how anybody can think my (non-existent) marriage can be a detriment to their marriages. This is civil rights: this is the equality of all citizens.

Tomorrow, two friends of mine will apply to have their legally obtained marriage license registered in the state of their current residence. It will be denied. They know it will. It won’t make it hurt less. It doesn’t make it less wrong. All it means is that in the 21st century, two people who I’m honored to call friends will be denied the rights that straight people take for granted. They both hold advanced degrees; they both work for justice. One likes basketball, one likes the Oscar Ceremonies the point of obsession. They are both normal women who love each other. And tomorrow, in the land of the ‘free’, they will be told and all of us who love them will be reminded of how they are oppressed by the state they live in and by the federal government. Yes, we’ve come a long way in under a decade, but we have so further to go. And until then, people like my friends will be told to their faces “their kind” (my kind) isn’t welcome in our country. And that is nothing short of shameful.

Pentecost and Cory Booker: an odd duo.

May 26, 2012

There is a passage in Acts that describes a gathering of individuals (hardly even the ultra-early church) where individuals spoke in his/her native language and was understood by the recipient in his/her native language (think text predictor gone right).  I’ve been to enough church services on enough continents to pick out some of the more ritual aspects of the services (some always confuse me: The Apostles Creed descending to hell or not, trespass/debts/sin variations on the Lord’s Prayer) that I can intellectually understand that passage to mean an understanding due to ritual, body language and common ideals.  Of course, I’m always bemused by Peter saying people aren’t drunk because it’s 9:00 am, clearly, the man had never tailgated in the SEC/Big 10 areas of the world: especially when it’s coupled with the German peasant phrase popularized by Goethe of strawberries by Pentecost mean a good wine crop.  (Note, there were ripe strawberries at the farmers market today in the Boston ‘burbs so I’m thinking it’s going to be a good wine crop. . . ).

As I drove around today making stops at various farmers markets, I couldn’t help but notice all the flags flying at half-mast (an oddly enduring Massachusetts tradition) and think about Memorial Day in the context of those gathered during the first Pentecost and wondering what we would collectively say to each other if what we were saying would be understood.  It would probably come very close to what has landed Cory Booker in hot water for saying what many of us believe: as Andrew Rosenthal wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed

“Cory Booker, the young, dynamic and often unpredictable mayor of Newark, got himself into hot water over the weekend by likening Republican attacks on President Obama’s former relationship with Jeremiah Wright to Democratic attacks on private equity. “This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides,” he said on “Meet the Press.” “It’s nauseating to the American public.”

He also touted the president’s pro-business record (“over 90% of Americans have seen tax cuts under this president”), and said that Mitt Romney “would have let the auto industry fail,” but the media focused on his apparent defense of Mr. Romney’s work at Bain Capital. “I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses.”

The sad thing? Booker has spent the week apologizing for his comments.  Booker spoke in a language everybody – right, left, center – understood.  We are tired of the finger pointing, hatred, vilification of opposition.  Discuss your plans, the concrete ones and how you are going to pay for them.  Show us how you will improve our systems.  If the only way you can win is by trashing your opponents, you aren’t worthy of the position.  Booker is right, it is nauseating.  We as a country are better than this: and when an individual feels he has to apologize for heartfelt, probably dead on accurate comments, there is one thing I’m pretty certain of: we all agreed on the message from Mr. Booker, it just hit some on the campaign trail a bit too close to home.

North Carolina and Amendment One: A Chance to Say No to Bigotry

May 4, 2012

Most of the time, state ballot intaitives amuse me: should we repeal a liquor tax? What about letting people smoke pot in public? I tend to think of it is the great political revenge of letting voices be heard on some entertaining issues.

Not so next week in North Carolina.  Next week voters in North Carolina are seeking to define relationships.  Currently, the Tar Heel State is does not recognize gay marriage. Now, they are seeking to ban it.  The legislature this year managed to place on the ballot the following:

Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

If this amendment passes, North Carolina’s Constitution would read as follows:

“Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”

Marriage, not civil unions, not domestic partnerships, is the only legal union.  To some people, there might not be a distinction between only allowing heterosexually married couples to receive the government benefits of marriage.  There is: this proposed amendment has the potential to impact domestic abuse charges, custody and support rights in non-married heterosexual couples.

There has long been the stereotype of the ‘narrow minded Southerner’.  This amendment promotes that stereotype.  In a telling quote, Majority Leader Rep. Paul Stam (R-NC 37) stated “They’re going to bring with them their same-sex marriages. They’re going to want to get divorced and have custody issues decided”, he said. “We’re not equipped to handle that.”  Rep. Stam, let me personally assure you, the gay community is not interested in rushing to North Carolina to get divorced.

Maybe one day I’ll understand how individuals can think my decision on who to marry has any impact on his/her relationships (aside from the obvious affair).  Passage of this amendment would be a giant step backwards.  Not just for the LGBT community but for every citizen of North Carolina, and by extension everybody who knows and loves somebody in the Tar Heel State.

I find it bemusing that the political party which staunchly opposes perceived intrusions into our personal lives supports such a reaching decision.  This is bigotry.  This is fear mongering.  This is hatred of the other.

My only hope and prayer is that the people of North Carolina see this for what it is worth and refute the amendment.  We all deserve better.

Grey’s Anatomy the Evening Before Easter

April 7, 2012

I think I’m one of a dozen people who has watched Grey’s Anatomy. I’m not sure HOW I missed it when if first came out (thank you Netflix) but I caught the first 3 episodes today.

If you surf back in my blog, I think there is an entry about Maude Thursday and Holy Week from last year complete with an edited version of what happened. This week was the opposite. I’m not sure where I stand about my role in the church, that’s a different battle for a different day. I know now I feel safe (emotionally) where I worship which is a far cry from last year.

One of the early episodes of Grey’s dealt with organ donation and the resident reminding the intern that it wasn’t “skin”, “eyes” when speaking to the family, it was the person’s skin that could help others. I’ve sat in these meetings, I’ve heard the surgeons try to explain what would happen, the stunned families still trying to process the death of a loved one being asked to give parts so another person may live. Nobody likes these conversations. The doctors try to be clinical, afterwards some are lost in thought, others are snarky – no matter the outcome. The families grapple with the decision because in essence, the grief process is condensed to the finality of yes, my loved one is gone. And the social workers/chaplains won’t ever say it aloud but are silently cursing over what was probably a senseless death and trying to gather enough about the person to speak to the family afterwards.

I’ve been on the receiving side. It’s strange. Each time the redo one of my hips they put in more bone grafts. I was watching Grey’s, and the wife of the organ donor said something along the lines of how do I hold a funeral when my husband doesn’t have any skin? (reality, they take the skin from the back and thighs but that is an aside). I thought about the dozen families who wondered and still gave the bones for my grafts. It is hard to receive that gift: knowing it was because of a death. I rarely think about the giving (ok, I rarely think about it period, it’s not exactly laced with happy memories, just a lot of scars of varying sorts) and the courage it takes to let a part of a loved one live even when s/he is no longer with his/her family.

Many of us owe a lot to strangers who in a period of great darkness and sorrow, found the compassion and strength to give. As I sit the night before Easter, I can’t help but give thanks.

Lenten Ramblings

February 26, 2012

People who know me … and have known me for more than 4 years, probably know the issues I’ve had around going to church. There is enough fodder there for a good-bad reality television show. Seminary, for many reasons, lead me away from the church. And by away, I mean only-when-visiting-my-sister-and-can’t-fake-food-posioning-again away. There are many complex layers that really are not fit for a public discussion (read, I’m not the only one involved and part of it, I flat out don’t want flying about the interwebs). There has always been a sense of missing the collective gathering (probably more of a Jungian archetype than I’d care to admit) for ritual.

I am sure that part of the need for ritual for me has been how ingrained church has been in my life for many years. My grandmother’s memorial service was held at the church my parents were married in. People at my sister’s church still tell the story of when my sister conned me into dressing up as an angel to hold the baby Jesus (that would have been a now 13 year old niece) while trying to keep a 2 year old from removing all the ornaments off the tree. Her wise words to a friend “my sister is going to kill me.”

Somewhere, I think, in this blog is about how most of that was taken away: not the memories. But the sense of belonging. The sense of being able to sit in community. Part of the training in seminary is a collection of mostly unpaid internships. One place noted that they would have not offered me the position had they known I was gay. Because the church is exempt from most hiring practices, this is not an uncommon stance. Hearing that comment, as part of a performance review, in an exceptionally liberal Christian denomination to this day remains one of the more painful aspects of my journey. In the span of 2 weeks, I went from a contract renewal to a concern of “deceptive” behavior because I did not tell somebody I was gay. During my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Experience) (read, unsupervised chaplain), during the discussion on human sexuality, I wound up being prayed over by 4 very conservative students from a different seminary that I might find “God’s grace and forgiveness”. When I tried to discuss this during supervision (the time when you met with the people who “supervise” (word used very casually) you), I was told I needed to bring it up with the entire group: that it was my job to educate them on equality. Huh?

After I graduated, the last place I wanted to see, be seen, hear, think, ever go to again was a church. Despite trying to bring attention to what happened to me, I received a clear message from the seminary, the CPE program and others: being gay was an issue.

And yet, the yearning for collective ritual remained. Some times, the pull was stronger than others. The Lenten pool is always the strongest. For me, Lent is a period of reflection: individual, collective over who we are as people. It’s that selfish period for me where I can reflect on where do I need to be. Where I can struggle with the questions of meaning in my life, where I can find a pause to think, reflect and try to find the balance.

I made a promise to somebody that I would attempt to attend church during Lent. I *like* Lent. I went today. A straight male minister criticizing one of the denominations in the federated church for upholding the excommunication of a minister for performing legal same sex unions (tied back to the promise of the rainbow). a congregant voicing concern over the burning of Koran in Afghanistan by members of the US military and stating that all religions have sacred texts and none is more sacred than another (and for the record, no, I was not in a UUA church!) and a singing bowl.

Healing words. It’s ok to be who you are here. We recognize different traditions or no tradition. We stand together in trying to make this crazy backwards world a better place.

Red Tents, Lowe’s & Tebow . . . . thoughts from mid December

December 13, 2011

Two stories seemed to populate my twitter feed yesterday: The Houston Police arresting the OWS protestors under tents, outside of the view of others.  And Lowe’s decision to pull its advertising dollars from All-American Muslim on TLC (in fairness, supposedly BOA, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and GM also pulled their ads but those companies said they didn’t have any additional ads scheduled).  Facebook seemed to be teeming with Tebow.

Ack. I’d rather swallow cyanide.  The arrests out of public eye disturb me.  I’m not saying the Houston police did anything wrong.  It is the perception of arresting individuals outside of the public view when the individual is being arrested at a public assembly.  I really don’t have enough vested in the entire OWS movement (aside to think it’s hopelessly organized without goals for first order change) to even think it’s going to make a difference (ok, let’s shut down ports for day labors to protest imports?).  What does disturb me is the keeping the press away from arrests, breaking up camps and events in general: it happened in Boston (in our pretty liberal city with a Mayor For Life).  I’m also bemused in that ironic way that defines me that the only time various cities can seem to act together is in arresting citizens who really aren’t breaking any major laws.  Heaven forbid cities work together for something like, oh, job creation, sustainable development or crazy things like that.  Let’s face it, the OWS protestors/campers really didn’t do a lot of damage compared to winning say, the World Series and a good Nor’Easter or such event would have sent many scurrying.

Oh Lowe’s.  Once again, a company caves to the views of a few.  First, the group that managed to get Lowe’s to stop ads managed to raise the profile of a so-so cable show (brought to you by the network of the pro-creating crazies in Arkansas (what are they at? 20 now?), the objectification of children as beauty pageant contestants and the whacko kate/jon/children drama).  The sad reality is that Lowe’s is (compared to Home Depot) a low activist company: very few dollars donated in the past election cycles.  Seriously? You are going to go after Lowe’s for advertising against the trumped-up right-wing ‘values’.  Um, while you are at it .  . . how about going after Delta and Expeida for supporting the LGBT community? Or Goya for daring to sell food that is traditional found in Latin American cuisine? And Lowe’s? Seriously? You are running from a fringe group.  I’d say boycott Lowe’s but most would run to Home Depot … and well, Home Depot has a worse record since buying local is “more expensive”.  Rolls eyes.

Which brings me to number 3.  Tim Tebow.  Ok, look, he is probably a nice kid.  He is a Florida Gator so…that’s a strike.  I don’t believe in a view of any faith that starts off with “Let me first give thanks. . . ” (I’m pretty sure there is a part in The Bible about praying in private….which makes that weird pose he does annoying).  My thought (and in all fairness, I’m suspect of any born again anything) on Tebow is this: he’s what 23? Who isn’t dumb at 23?  I’m bemused at best by his comments on marital relationships when he is admittedly an unmarried virgin who has already published his autobiography!  Look, I get that he is a PK missionary kid: he is a good quarterback.  He hasn’t done something to fall from grace like Lance, Tiger or Maguire.  I hope he doesn’t: not because OF his faith but because I hope he is a decent person.  I don’t believe he has a “divine talent”, it cracks me up the amount of time people have spent talking about Tebow (ok, this week Boston plays Denver so…).  Maybe Tebow became “hot” because of Penn State and people wanting to believe in football again (for those of us who follow the SEC, we’ve seen this annoying pose for y-e-a-r-s).  Maybe Tebow became hot because of the insane 4th quarter comebacks (note to Tim: don’t try it against New England or in the playoffs).  Who knows. But there are a lot of devout football players: the difference, most of them are not white quarterbacks.  Maybe why that is Tebowmania drives me nuts (that and his gator heritage).

But if you are going to boycott Lowe’s please don’t go to Home Depot. . . .

Proudly Spiritual, Never (again) Religious

September 2, 2011

Lillian Daniel wrote a daily devotional on the United Church of Christ (UCC, aka the Pilgrims) website that caused a bit of back and forth on my Facebook page.  I found her shortsighted and snarky in (to say the least).  I can give or take most comments/devotionals but one section grabbed me as probably one of the more broad brush strokes I’ve read in a while: “Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you.”  Can somebody show me where this appears in a religious text that conversations like this can only appear in a house of worship? Maybe I’m just fortunate,  I have a wide circle of friends, including a former-Marine dyed in the wool Libertarian.  We disagree on a ton, we agree on a ton: and we met by me yelling “Bullshit!” to her in the middle of a class our freshman year of college.  It was hardly a house of worship.  Using the Christian tradition of community, it is comprised as more than one: so my conversations with my friends are community, they are hair-splitting, they are wide-ranging and they are difficult conversations.  They are hardly religious but honestly? How many people actually attend a house of worship that has distinct political views/ethical views that they hold?  How many dyed in the wool liberals would attend, let alone join, a church that forbids card playing, dancing, alcohol?  How many dyed in the wool conservatives would attend a church that not only allows LGBT individuals to openly worship but openly ordains them?

I graduated from seminary. I (somewhere) have the diploma to prove it: I certainly have the debt.  Among my myriad of frustrations was the lack of engagement IN the difficulty of faith.  Start with the Revised Common Lectionary: it doesn’t even COVER the entire Bible.  What? In the 3 year calendar you can go to church every Sunday and not hear every verse of scripture read. Yup.  And the ones missing: the hard ones.  The ones that deal with rape, the ones that deal with social codes that are illegal in most parts of the country.  The part where a baby’s head is bashed against the rocks? Missing.  In my preaching class, I was dinged for not ending on a happy clappy note.  The text was the prodigal son: and I mistakenly challenged the congregation class to think about how they would react in two weeks (it would be Easter Sunday then): would we welcome those who attend once a year with open arms? (like the father) or would we react like the son full of disgust for not doing the work through the year.  It was an open challenge to think, think about faith, journey, how people might come back and the only comment from the professor was “Peter Gnomes wouldn’t like that ending.”  (note: I really don’t care.  Yes, Peter Gnomes was an amazing preacher but really? Who cares?).  I’m not interested in a sermon that is “we are wonderful because we are religious and not just spiritual!”

The more I stewed on Daniel’s piece, the more I realized one of the reasons I found her missing the point.  I heard a post-op transgendered individual say she didn’t attend church anymore.  She didn’t feel welcome.  Before her surgery, he had been active in his denomination.  After surgery, she asked that her Baptismal certificate be re-issued with her new name.  The Bishop refused (not a Catholic bishop, an Episcopal Bishop).  More interesting? The refusing bishop is gay.  For me, one of the most painful moments was when she said on Christmas Eve, she made herself communion and read the Christmas story at home.  She didn’t feel welcome: I’d say she was both spiritual and religious but Daniel’s would disagree.

A longer article appeared in the Christian Century.  I found her comments about the person who walked away from religion a bit disconcerting.  I vaguely remember something about not knowing how Christ will appear.  Her response? “Of course, this well-meaning Sunday jogger fits right in  to mainstream American culture. He is perhaps by now a part of the  majority—the people who have stepped away from the church in favor of  running, newspaper reading, yoga or whatever they use to construct a  more convenient religion of their own.”  I’m not suggesting the person sitting next to her is/was Christ: but the call to those in the Christian tradition to minister in the midst.  I find her comments regarding an individual’s commentary on his child more perplexing “But when you witness pain and declare yourself lucky, you have fallen way short of Jesus’ vision and short of what God would have you do.” So, according to Daniel’s God would have us do certain things: based on the tenants of her faith (and her denomination), she falls short.  I’ve watched love ones battle cancer: and I’ve felt lucky.  Does that make me shallow? Or does it make me human?  If I offer to help that person in any manner I can (asking friends of faith to pray, sending cards, bringing a meal) does that automatically make me a Christian? Jewish? Muslim? Buddhist? Or just a human who was raised with sound ethics and morals?

I’m not in the mood to hash out why I’m not a Daniel’s definition of religious.  Suffice to say there were 3 churches involved all of the UCC variety in different parts of the country. Do I read random theology books (including Barth?)? Yup. Why? It interests me.  Would I call myself Christian? No.  I’m not interested in what I see in action by that religious tradition.  I’m not interested in a religion that can’t even agree ON a creation story!

What upsets me the most about Daniel’s is that every once in a great while I float the idea of going to church in my head for a bit.  I was at that point: her piece reminded me why I left.  The Amish have a walk about year where youth leave the community for a year (or so) before joining the church to see the wider world.  It is part of their tradition.  Maybe sometimes you have to leave to see what you miss: and maybe sometimes you have to leave to see what you saw was a mirage.  And really? Sometimes people who write articles and blogs that are widely read need to remember that words do have meanings, and maybe all really aren’t welcome in her church or denomination.  And maybe, just maybe, some people struggle with the Christian tradition because of the judgement.  Even from the liberal side of the aisle.