Monday, December 9, 2013
Dear Seminole fans: enough with the castigating of ESPN's Heather Cox. I am not joining your Facebook page calling on the sports network to fire their sideline reporter. I am not still stewing over her line of questioning of quarterback Jameis Winston. Time to do as your quarterback did: move on.
Ms. Cox has earned the ire of FSU football fans for her post-game interview of the freshman football star. The team had just shoved Duke all over the field to continue its quest for a National Championship title. Winston had performed pretty well, although not nearly as sharp as he'd been during the rest of the season. And this is not surprising, given that the young man had been through a very public, daily examination of an event that happened on December 7, 2012, in which Winston had allegedly sexually assaulted a woman. After three long weeks of having the state attorney's office look into the case (which only became public when a reporter from Tampa made an inquiry), the determination was that there would be no charges filed. This took the proverbial monkey off Winston's back, and now sportswriters, who suddenly had concern for the 'moral character' of athletes, could feel OK about voting for Winston for the Heisman Trophy. Meanwhile, from what I have heard in the news reports, the young woman, whom the Tallahassee police supposedly advised not to file charges in this 'football town', is no longer at FSU.
You would think this would be a "case closed" situation. And it pretty much is. Except that Ms. Cox brought it to the fore in the post-game interview with Winston. After asking one question about the game, every subsequent question was about "the investigation." Winston kept attempting to move the narrative back to the game, but Ms. Cox kept pressing him. She asked him what he learned from the whole episode, and he told her he had learned he needed to grow up and "have some maturity." Fair enough, but Cox wanted to know more about why he'd stayed silent during "the investigation." It was at this point that Jameis Winston decided to exhibit his new-found maturity: he turned and walked away, with Ms. Cox yelling after him a "Congratulations!"
As a former broadcast journalist, my own take on that interview was that once she got him to say the bit about his maturity, she needed to wrap things up with some talk about their next steps to a National Championship and be done with it. Sideline interviews are not 60-Minutes; they're about 60-90 seconds. She was absolutely within reason to bring up the events that had been surrounding him because that is part of the Jameis Winston story, sad as that is. And I would have thrown the penalty flag for her not knowing when it's time to keep the interview going forward and not going back over an already dead subject. In football speak, this was "Roughing the passer."
But 'Noles fans are demanding that this not just be an ejection from the sidelines for Ms. Cox; they're calling for her to be fired.
And the message to reporters becomes this: we love our athletes, and you need to leave them alone! What about your President? Congressional representatives? Your governor? Your state legislators? The private business owner who won't serve blacks or gays? Are reporters supposed to look past their flaws, their foibles, their troubles? The public has an insatiable appetite for every drunken, drugged up stupid thing any actor or actress in Hollywood does, no matter their age or maturity. Why should a college athlete be treated any differently?
I feel for Heather Cox. If there had been a Facebook during the days that I was reporting for Florida Public Radio, there might have been a "String up Susan Gage" page started for any number of times that I asked a person in a position of authority and power an uncomfortable question that their fan base didn't like. I was aware of the phone calls made to the local public radio station, complaining about me being everything from a "gay agenda pushing bitch" to a woman with a "personal vendetta" against Publix (that one always floored me since I shop at Publix.) The Development Director in 1996 was horrified that I had done a reporter's commentary on witnessing an execution and that WFSU-FM was playing it during the morning rush hour when he was in the middle of a pledge drive. He didn't demand my resignation, but he was apparently having a fit and fretting that my not-so-happy news report was going to silence the phones, and there was a level of "How dare you?!" in his tone. Even the press staff of Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles went after me because I asked a question about a bill that would have revolutionized how Florida dealt with the AIDS crisis. The House and Senate versions of the bill contradicted each other in a major way; Chiles' staff had put out a release indicating he supported both measures. The Governor kept waffling in his answers to questions about all of this until I finally said, "Governor, you don't seem comfortable with this bill?" Chiles responded, "I think you're right, you're absolutely right." That began a barrage of phone calls from Chiles' press office to my boss, calling into question whether I really had understood the Governor's answer, and whether I could accurately report the story. It was relentless and disturbing. Thanks be to God that there was no social media to add to my misery.
I understand 'Noles fans being upset. But Ms. Cox is paid to ask questions, and sometimes the subject matter isn't always nice, and that is no reason to call for her head. Jameis Winston did exactly what he should have done and has every right to do: he walked away without another word. There is no law that says he must answer any journalist's questions ever. He showed the maturity he talked about. He has moved on to thinking about Pasadena. So should we.
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to
preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our
Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples;
the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.--Matt 21:23-32
was able to get through on the government's Healthcare.gov website.
I have been highly skeptical about what type of coverage I'd be able to get
under the Affordable Care Act. After so many fill-in-this, choose-this,
answer this, computer screens, I reached the place where I could see
the plans and what they would cost.
I could not believe my eyes! With a tax credit courtesy of the Obama
administration, there were a number of plans available at less than $80/month.
That's unheard of, normally!
But no sooner had I finished wiping away tears of joy from the thought that I
could finally afford insurance, my partner informed me that if we go through
with a plan to get married next year, our incomes would be combined, and I
would, therefore, no longer qualify for the tax credit; hence, I'd be denied
health insurance again because, on paper, I would have too much money.
Her conclusion? Don't get married.
Tears of joy gave way to wailing--and I mean a deep-throated wailing--over
the continued signs of discrimination in our society. If we were straight,
this wouldn't be an issue because she works for the state, and I'd likely
have been on her plan from the beginning and would have no need
for Obamacare. And, because we live in a state that hates its LGBTQI
population, there is no way that a state employee, married to their
spouse of the same gender, can tap into this benefit for their
beloved. And thus is the life of a queer in the southeastern United
And so, this is the troubled spirit that is meeting the Gospel readings
from Matthew in the morning. I come with this broken and contrite heart,
filled with bitterness toward a state and a nation...and even a church...
that demands I fit into their "marriage norm" at a huge cost to myself.
And here Christ meets me in this place and says, "Yeah. I get it! Stick with me!"
This Christ feels my anguish, and reminds me, the "other," that I am part
of a legacy of "others" who have been despised by those of "the norm"
and yet we are closer to the source of Love. Does it change the here
and now? Not in a literal sense, no. Does it change my reaction to my
here and now so it doesn't dominate me? Yes, it has the potential to do that.
Does that free my from getting trapped in a cage with those who only want
to know "by whose authority"? Absolutely!
There is only one light on the Advent wreath, but more candles will be added as a symbol of the growing enlightenment that can happen with Christ's entry into the
world and into our lives. May it be so is the eternal hope.
Monday, December 2, 2013
‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’--Matt 21: 1-11
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Across the United States, parking lots at department stores, malls and shopping plazas, were full of cars and retail outlets were teeming with people in search of bargains and big sales on Black Friday. In fact, this year, the excitement surrounding the traditional day after Thanksgiving shop-a-thon was SO huge, some of the major retail outlets announced they'd be opening ON Thanksgiving Day, so that professional shoppers could hit the stores early and get the best deals on great big flat screen TVs and such. We also have small business Saturday, and Cyber Monday for online shoppers.
And so, this is Christmas.
I'm always irritated when I hear self-righteous blowhards on Fox News carrying on about the so-called "War on Christmas." Sanctimonious talking heads will bemoan the use of the phrase, "Happy Holidays" as an attempt to oppress Christians and not recognize that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." (Forget the historical facts that indicate Jesus wasn't born close to the pagan holiday around the Winter Solstice where they are celebrating the return of the sun.) They blame the atheists. They blame the pagans. They blame the Jews. All the non-believers are involved in some pluralistic conspiracy to deny Christ, and destroy Christmas.
Now, let's go to that good Christian retailer Wal-Mart and buy some cheap stuff to put under that very Christian symbol of the Christmas tree.
Those of us who are Episcopalians are familiar with a season that precedes Christmas. It's called Advent, as in marking the time of the arrival of a major event, thing or person. In the case of the Christian mythology, the arrival of Jesus, who is Emmanuel or "God with us," qualifies as a pretty significant event. That is the season that we're entering into right now as we wait in anticipation for the day of Christmas, the birth of Christ. We'll be lighting candles every week, adding a new one each Sunday, as we hear the stories and sing the hymns that remind us that we are welcoming into our world an amazing force that is both fully human and fully divine. And, if we dare to draw near to this force, we may find ourselves changed in unexpected and wonderful ways as our own inner light burns brighter with having been in contact with this newborn king.
This is the awe and wonder of the season of Advent. And so, as Episcopalians, I would expect us to have a little more give on the whole worldly noise about whether saying "Happy Holidays" denigrates Christ. It really doesn't. In fact, the time is a happy time as we wait for what this king may have in store for us and our lives. It can be an uncomfortable time, too, for that very same reason! As Episcopalians, I would expect us also to be the ones who recognize that even as the world turns on a dollar and a dime hawking all the things we don't really need, we would simply see it for what it is: the God of More Stuff, and not fall into that pit.
Most of all, I would hope that those of us marking Advent would pay attention to the words in our Sunday lectionary that call on us to stay awake, and be ready because we don't know the hour when the Son of Man is coming. I take that as the charge to all of those worried about Christmas to ask the reflexive question: What am I doing to prepare for the arrival of Christ into the world?
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Sunday, November 24, 2013
And there you have it: the kingdom of Christ is anything but the expected. As I've said before on this blog, Christ the King is a non-conformist, a rebel, a genderqueer, a weirdo. He knows what the rules are, and how they came into being, and he knows that those rules more often than not have served to tie everybody all up into knots with lots of "No" "Not at this time" and "That's the way we've always done it."
It is an interesting juxtaposition to have the readings for this Christ the King Sunday coming at a time when the "church news" headlines have been filled with the story of the 30-day suspension of Rev. Frank Schaefer of the United Methodist Church. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Rev. Schaefer had the audacity to preside at his gay son's wedding in Massachusetts back in 2007. Now, in 2013, the United Methodist Church, which still holds fast to the idea that homosexuality falls outside the teachings of Christianity, has suspended Rev. Schaefer and is giving him 30 days to "reflect" and presumably repent of his action which violated the laws and canons of the denomination. Given that Rev. Schaefer has other gay children, and he pulled out a stole colored in rainbows, I somehow doubt that he plans to take them up on that offer. Rev. Schaefer knew the rules, and he knew what he was doing was going to get him into trouble with the denomination. And he doesn't need thirty days to consider a different way. At his trial, he said: "I cannot go back to being a silent supporter. I must continue to be in ministry with all people and speak for LGBTQ people. Members of the jury, before you decide my penalty, you need to know that I wear this rainbow stole as a visible sign that this is who I am called to be." (closing statement, #MinistryOnTrial)
It is refreshing for those of us who are LGBTQ and among the "lost and scattered" sheep that the prophet Jeremiah speaks about to listen to the words of a Methodist minister who understands the meaning of laying down one's life for one's friends. Rev. Schaefer did not physically die, but he is risking a kind of death in not being allowed to function within the Methodist church as a pastor. As one who has been through that difficulty of giving up a career that had become enmeshed in my sense of self-identity this type of situation definitely qualifies as a kind of death. But, just as with the robber who hung along side Jesus, I feel Rev. Schaefer will be with Christ in Paradise. That Paradise, for the time being, will be in the company of the many lost and scattered sheep of the LGBTQI community, and our friends and families, who will look to him as the real shepherd who will bring them safely home, and closer to the banquet hall with Christ, a king like no other.
In the very likely event that Rev. Schaefer finds himself no longer a United Methodist, I imagine another denomination, such as the Episcopal Church, would prove to be a welcoming place for him. We seem to be the home for those who cannot find rest in any other place. Come, taste and see that God is good.