Posts Tagged ‘Koran’

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.

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And what have we learned?

September 11, 2010

Of course you remember where you where: in class, at work, in your car, watching TV.  The pictures from that day are etched in several generations.  The ramifications are still unraveling.

And this year? The memories hurt. There was a spirit in the year that followed of bended but not broken; together we can build a better world. I took the first regularly scheduled flight out of the Colorado Springs airport when the airports re-opened. It was an early morning flight to Salt Lake City.  I often think of that flight as “unzipping” the morning.  It often brings the sunrise into Salt Lake.  I remember everybody nervously glancing at each other – probably all a bit grateful that we were on a regional jet. 

My friends had asked me to reconsider my trip.  I couldn’t. I remember arguing “If I don’t fly; they win”. I made it to Salt Lake for a 3 hour layover (to fly east to Oklahoma City) and wandered through the chaos. Armed guards, dogs and people.  Everybody, it seemed, was trying to fly east. People begged for flights to anywhere on the I-95 corridor. Richmond instead of Philly? Fine, I can take the train.  The chaos, panic and sheer desire to want to be home was palpable.  I had a fleeting thought of “why am I on a plane…I could go see my sister next week.”

The stress that was etched on the travelers heading to DC, New York, Philadelphia, and Boston showed the emotions that had been so unspoken in the Colorado mountains earlier that week.  These were people heading home: to what, many didn’t know. I remember speaking to a guy from NYC. He had driven from LA to Salt Lake to get a plane to NY. I stood to watch the National Prayer service amid a group of strangers. A rabbi or minister or imam asked the congregation to pray. It was instinctive: a group of strangers, in an airport restaurant bowed and began to link hands.  Tears fell. Strangers hugged. Nobody had words.  It seemed so insurmountable and so necessary: we can’t let them win. Not a fight on mentality but a let us build a better world. Let us remember that the actions of a handful are not indicative of many.

I remember my oldest nephew always needing to know where I changed planes until we finally put it together.  I remember my brother’s wedding later that year and thinkin the one thing I don’t want to see the hole in the Pentagon: and seeing it. I was in France in early 2002: the outpouring of love for simply being an American.  I stood by the gargoyles atop Notre Dame and had a conversation with a Palestinian about the world and where this all would leave. A random conversation in a new world.

We had the love of the world holding us.

And we blew it.

I feel like they won.

Pundits, historians, politicians can all debate what the “purpose” of the 9/11 attacks were. For me, it was to disrupt the “American way of life”. They have. We have people threatening to burn holy texts. We have a leading real estate mogul making statements about “riots” if a cultural center is built.

We are a different nation. We are not a better nation. We have become us versus them. Good versus bad. We are polarized. We point fingers instead of linking hands. It wasn’t just Americans who died. It wasn’t just Christians. People from 112 nations, of faith or no faith died. People survived amidst great odds.

And now? We shout. We argue. Over things that can so easily be fixed. Why?

Nine years later, our way of life has changed. We blame. We point fingers. We would rather stand apart than find the common thread.

We let our fears win.

And now, it’s time to remember what we stand for: equality, freedom and compassion. If the hate wins in the end, they win.  If they win? It will be our fault. We can disagree on policies and politics. But we cannot hate.  We lost far too much and it is never what we stood for.

On the summer of 2010

August 29, 2010

This morning, I scanned my page on a networking site and noticed a friend had posted Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech via YouTube.  The comments had to be disabled because of the hate comments, the arguments, and the debate between people.  Many, if not most of us, know the closing ideas “Let freedom ring. . . “I read the entire text.  Shocking ideology: equality. Shocking idea: not painting the idea of “all” when speaking about a group of people.

A section of Dr. King’s speech leaped out at me:

“But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

Let us not drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred. If, as a nation, we needed that message it is now.  We are standing in a summer of 1968: embroiled in an unpopular war, hate rhetoric screaming from both sides. Pastor Terry Jones is holding an “International Burn a Koran Day” on September 11 at his church the Dove World Outreach in Gainesville, Florida. In an interview with Chris Matthews, Jones cited Islamic codes anti-gay, anti-feminist stance.  Jones, it should be noted, protested the inauguration of Gainesville’s new openly gay mayor with the no “homo” mayor protest.  In the blog announcing it, he cites the same issues in Leviticus that he finds offensive in the Koran (and is using as justification for the burning of the Koran)!

We live in a nation that among its principles is the right to religious freedom: or freedom from religion. For me, there is no mistaking the Islamaphoia: it is hatred and fear of the unknown. Any religious text, any, can be used to justify almost anything. Religious text, by nature, set out codes.  To those who say “The Koran says to kill if x action is taken”, my response is simple: read Leviticus if you claim to be Jewish or Christian.  The Koran provides a passage of tolerance of the other Abrahamic faiths: The Qur’an says, “Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, – any who believe in Allah (God) and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Qur’an, 2:62) (Parenthesis in quotes mine). 

Our summer of 2010 shall be remembered as the hatred and the exclusion of the other. Granting gay individuals the right to marry, developing an immigration path for children who are now adults and where brought here illegally, demonstrating, that we the people understand that the actions of a few to not represent the beliefs of many.  Heeding the words of Dr. King, cautioning against drinking from the cup of bitterness, it is time this summer ends. In 1969, we, as a nation put two men on the moon. It is time we strive for that: for something that is positive, something that can move us as a nation forward.  We cannot ask our government to do it: as individuals it is up to us to stand up and say no to those around us who spread hate, no to our leaders who by inaction continue to promote it and no to corporations who through donations and policies continue to allow actions to continue.

The time for intolerance is over. It is not a founding principle this country. It is not a tenet of any religion: please do not confuse a person or group of people with an entire faith tradition.  There is something we can do every day by choice, to build a bridge.

There would be no better way to honor those who died on 9/11, than to demonstrate that as a nation, we embrace an Islamic Cultural Center several blocks from ground zero. We would show that we are a shining light. A nation working embracing diversity; and a people who realize that in the other, we find and better the self.

Until then, we continue to drink from the cup of bitterness and hate. And that is not a founding principle of my nation.