Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
In looking at this text, post Year One of Education for Ministry, something leaped out at me that I hadn't seen before:
Hannah was a woman living in the margins. She was a woman ridiculed by her rival, misunderstood by her husband, and chastised by her priest. And still, here is God in action, bringing this woman out of the margins to make her the matriarch of another important chapter in the history of Israel.
More than that: here is God establishing, as God has, does, and always will, that in the view of God... the piece of paper in which God has drawn all creation does not have margins, or lines. No one is on the "first line"; no one is placed to the right or to the left of a red vertical stripe on the sides of the page. Everyone, everything, exists for God on a blank sheet of paper. We are the ones who draw the lines that separate "us" from "them" and attempt to push those we see as "random" or "unimportant" out into the margins which we have created and imposed on God's blank sheet.
How often does this occur? How many times has a Peninnah or an Elkanah or an Eli in our lives made us feel as if we belonged somewhere closer to the hole punch on the page or possibly that we don't even belong on the same page at all? And when we feel ourselves getting drawn out of the picture, do we respond as Hannah and turn to God to see what is really true. To see that these lines that have suddenly appeared on the page are not God's, but that of other humans. Furthermore, as I consider the sacrifice that God made as Christ who challenged and "provoked" in his own way, I think of how all the lines that had been drawn were wiped clean in that moment where he announced, "It is finished." Why would we then insist on restoring those horizontal and vertical divisions between ourselves instead of rejoicing in the liberation from such restrictions?
On this Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks to a God who sees a full, whole, blank sheet and doesn't set us apart on lines or in margins. I am thankful that I have been shown a view of God, the creator and keeper of blank sheets.
"My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired
themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,
and on them he has set the world."
--Hannah's Prayer, 1 Samuel 2: 1-8
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Officially, it seems the Episcopal Church has taken the position of taking no position on the legislation; hence this meeting. The Church HQ is advising people when they call about the horror show in Uganda to contact their elected representatives and tell them they want the State Department to take action. I agree: we should have Secretary Clinton's voice in on the outcry over this brutality of LGBT Ugandans. AND our Church should also take a position that sentencing people to life in prison for being gay or jailing them for supporting gay rights is a violation of human rights. Does the Church not see the injustice? Does the Church not understand that the dignity of every human being is at stake here? Was the Church this skittish about speaking out against Hitler and his attempts to wipe out the Jews? (I really don't think I want to hear the answer to that!)
I'll give them credit: they're at least finally going to teleconference on this issue... once they're done giving thanks to God on Thursday that they don't live under such threat of violence in their own lives.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
This passage was in yesterday's gospel, and raises an interesting point for me. Eunuchs, who were in many ways "the other" in the First Century world, were the ones who were not to marry but rather to serve as attendants to a harem. They may have been people with same-sex attraction; they may have been people who were asexual. But, as noted above, Jesus' discussion of eunuchs indicates that some were "born that way", some were made eunuchs by others (possibly a physical castration done in war or by force) and then there were those who chose not to marry "for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven" and thus remained celibate. In any case, there are some who see this mention as Jesus talking about the existence of lesbian and gay people and they note that he doesn't dismiss them. I would take this another step to say that Jesus not only observes the existence of lesbian and gays, but this may also be noting the presence of the transgender community of this Greco-Roman world.
All that aside, my attention to this passage was on the last type of eunuch, the one who is celibate, done so for "the sake of the kingdom of Heaven." I suppose this is where the Roman Catholic Church has gotten the idea that priests need to abstain from sexual relations. And in some quarters of the Episcopal Church, this same demand is made on lesbian and gay people in the priesthood. The rationale given for this demand is that we queer people, if we are going to serve God and the People of God, must remain chaste, celibate, asexual, "other-worldly" beings because sexual relations are only permissible within the bonds of a "Christian marriage". And since in some places (Florida!) marriage is now constitutionally-barred by the state, any gay person called to the priesthood must also take a vow of celibacy. And in the eyes of the Church, and lots of other heterosexual human beings, the only way to know that a gay person is celibate is for them to remain single. No living with another person of the same gender or nothing. Single. Alone.
I recently read the thinking of a Presbyterian minister who, after much thinking and praying, has come to realize that this effort in his own church to subvert God's will of having gay people in the pulpit is, well, un-Godly. He made a great observation about the beginning of time... aka Genesis... and what was happening in the second version of the creation story. Yes, God made Adam and Eve. And that's been a favorite of all homophobes in the church. But the reason God made Eve was because of a recognition that no human should live alone. God starts by trying to give Adam animals and birds of the air etc., but none of them were quite the partner that Adam needed. And so we get Eve. But the point this man was making is that to expect human beings to live alone without a partner in this world is cruel. God will always be with us to the end of the age, but humans need companionship on earth as well as in heaven! And given the demands placed upon priests and ministers, having a partner in life may be the one thing that helps keep them centered.
To become a eunuch "for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven", from what I read in Christ's words, is a special vocation. So, does that mean that the only gay people God will call to the priesthood are these uniquely eunuch people? I somehow doubt that. I somehow doubt that the same God, who chose a con man like Jacob and whose son claims his lineage to be that of King David, the adulterer, and who had prostitutes saving scores of people from death and destruction in the Old Testament would only pick the "purest of the pure" the "spotless and without blemish" of the LGBT community to become leaders. Certainly, if a person can and is willing to be celibate, that's great and it certainly would make all the straight people much happier. And isn't that what the celibacy demand is all about? Making straight people comfortable?
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The gospel reading is from John. Pilate, the Roman Governor, is questioning Jesus, the Jew. Jesus is confounding Pilate by answering questions with more questions:
Pilate: Are you the King of the Jews?
Jesus: Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?
Pilate goes on to talk about how the chief priests and the elders have turned Jesus in, and now Pilate wants to know why. Jesus doesn't give him a direct answer, but more of the "reasons behind" the current predicament:
"My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, then my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from here."
And Pilate, like others before him, takes only the plain-meaning of this statement and heads straight to "the rank":
"So you are a king?"
"You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
For reasons I don't really understand... the grand minds that create the lectionary stop the reading there. But the next line in that gospel is interesting and important:
Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"
Boy, that's the eternal question, isn't it? We've probably fought more wars, burned more people at the stake, bounced more people out of churches and synagogues, and erected more billboards over that question than anything I can imagine. In Florida, it's not uncommon to see the war playing out on car bumpers. There are those who have the Christian symbol of the fish, those who have the Christian symbol of the fish with legs and the name "Darwin" inside the fish, and those who have the Christian symbol of the fish that says "Truth" devouring a smaller fish with legs that says, "Darwin". This is not to exclude those who have made a total joke of this war by having fish symbols with words such as "Gefilte" and " 'n Chips" inside the fish!
Jesus never gives an answer to this because he, in a way, already answered: those who listen to his voice know 'the truth'. In other words: hint, hint: I'm God. This would be "the truth". At least, this is what works for those of us who are Christian. But is this the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? How do we know that this is truth?
Rationality and scientific testing won't prove God exists. We know this as "truth" because we believe and we have faith that it is truth. We get to that belief and faith in this truth through the testing that we do in our own lives and experiences. Each of us has our own story of how that happens and it quite often involves some extraordinary something that suddenly makes us stop and realize we are not alone. We come together in that truth as a community of believers who may be quite different people in lots of ways, but we have all reached the place of believing that there is something to this story about a God who reached out to us by entering the world as a baby, lived and taught among us, became popular and yet despised by the ones who had had a corner on popular belief, got killed, but overcame death through resurrection and ascended into Heaven where he has laid out a banquet table, prepared a room, and keeps entreating us to join him. And that call gets louder and more insistent during those times when we start to lose faith that this is the truth. And given these times in the world, I am surprised he's not going hoarse in the effort to get heard above the static!
As we enter Advent, the challenge, I think, will be to keep listening for this voice that calls to each of us. Keep our eyes focused, our ears alert, and our hearts open to the truth, the love and the light.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I agree that visually, the Church could have done a much better job. And I would say, living in a place where the Episcopal Church NEVER advertises itself in the newspaper in any way, this is at least a start. It clearly got the juices flowing in people! Good stuff showing the diversity of the People of God who call themselves Episcopalian. Visually showing the words that are in the Church's full-page print ad.
Perhaps bloggers ought to flood the offices of 815 with their "better ideas." I mean, the thoughts of the laity are supposedly taken seriously according to the original ad!
The Archbishop of Canterbury is in Rome to meet with Pope Benedict XVI who has outlined the procedures for Anglicans who just can't stand the idea of women as bishops... and really don't like gay people very much either... to go back to Rome. They won't have to surrender their prayer books, but they will have to surrender to the infallibility of the Pope.
The ABC doesn't believe this move by the Pope to cater to the "traditionalists" in the Church and set up a "Catholic Lite" track for them does anything to injure the relations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics. And I suppose it wouldn't; it might make our side of the equation nicer because all the malcontents can become RCs. And we might gain some more of the open-minded members of the Roman Catholic Church who can't stomach remaining with an institution that would invite in more bigots, and insist on celibacy for their priests, while allowing married Anglican priests to be considered "on a case-by-case" basis.
The ABC's visit, which had been on the schedule for awhile, will be to discuss the relations between the two churches. I admit to feeling a little uneasy about all this. I'm wondering what ++Rowan will "offer" to maintain some kind of civility between the two men. O God: Help, help, help!
Friday, November 20, 2009
The ad also sends a message to those crafting and clinging to the Anglican Covenant.. when it notes that, "Lay people exercise a vital role in the governance and ministry of our church." Not bishops only: laity=vital role. Sorry: it's not a purple shirts only club!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
It gives me hope that in eastern Pennsylvania, and southern Ohio, moves toward being inclusive are happening, not with loud trumpets, but with a steady drumbeat of what is the right thing, the good thing, and the joyful thing to do for those LGBT faithful who have lived on the other side of the gate for too long.
The question I have is when will the music make its way southward?
Perhaps what's needed is the same thing that happened with the spread of Sacred Harp or "Shape-Note" singing. The tradition had its roots in New England, where music teachers developed song books and taught this simple (and loud) method of acoustic singing in four-parts. The music teachers would travel from town to town, and eventually started going south where it became hugely popular to convene in a church and sing for hours. So, maybe that's what's needed. Maybe these new "song masters" of the loyal order of Purple Shirts need to to take these new songs of God's inclusive love into the south land and share their song books, and teach us a new tune.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I have mentioned the name Father Lee Graham before in this blog. He is the priest with whom I have the pleasure of serving with on Fridays at the noon-day service at St. John's. And this Sunday's collect is "his" collect. I say it belongs to him because these are often the words that he'll pray aloud before he begins his homily. This particular collect has its roots in the Reformation and is based on words in Paul's Letter to the Romans. But beyond the academics of the Collect, I think it expresses a truism about what we are to do with "The Good Book."
For some, the goal is to memorize the passages from the Bible so they can spout them off in the heat of a dialogue with a "non-believer", or a Christian who isn't from "their" Church. Fundamentalists and Baptists seem to enjoy this art of debate with Episcopalians because we are notoriously bad at knowing chapter and verse, but we're always impressed with how often the Bible quotes our Book of Common Prayer! ; )
While there are certain passages of Scripture that I do have readily available in my brain, I haven't gone about my studies of Scripture with a mind toward memorization. Instead, the encouragement I receive from listening to Fr. Graham, or Mtr. Phoebe or my mentor is to think about what is being said in the Scripture. Listen and hear first what is in the lessons of the morning, and often the sermon will provide one person's insight into what these passages mean for us in the here and now.
This past Friday, our reading for the noon day Eucharist service was from Wisdom 13: 1-9, a passage that notes how some of our ancestors would look to the stars for gods, but not see the work of an artisan God who gave them the stars... and lots, lots, lots more. As I read through the passage, I saw it to be a distancing from pagan cultures of the time, and a personal reminder to go look deeply into the heart of a rosebud and not only see that rose blooming, but to know that it receives its nourishment from the earth and the sky, which are all part of the creation that we, as God's people, are to look after. When we got to the homily portion of the service, Fr. Graham said much the same thing about the Wisdom reading, and went further to remind us that the gifts of God (the bread and wine) are also part of that earthly piece of creation... having once been wheat and grapes growing on a vine.
The joy for me in this journey is when we come across a passage in Scripture that pings me in the head, and makes me take notice. And then, in looking at it again, and putting it in context and then broadening out from there to get a sense of why these words resonate with me, I am doing the very work that the Collect of the Day is calling on us to do: take these words into your body, and see how they fuel your thinking and being in the world. Such attention, I think, is the road map that keeps us on the journey and living into the eternal life that is promised to us.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
After the Revolutionary War, those of the Church of England in the newly-freed American colonies were left without a bishop. Clergy had had to go back to England to be ordained. Now with our new relationship of no relationship with the Crown, there was a bit of a problem: who would be the bishop? An assembly of clergy held in Connecticut chose Samuel Seabury to go back to England and seek to be consecrated. Seabury went, but was told that unless he would swear allegiance to the Crown, he could not be consecrated. Afterall, the Church of England was (and is) a state religion. No "God Save the King", no mitre for you!
In Scotland, the Episcopal Church had already fallen out of favor with the government. The Roman Catholic King James I had been deposed in 1688, and most of the Anglican clergy and bishops had sworn allegiance to him. They said they couldn't undo this oath during his lifetime and became known as the "non-Jurors". Because of all of this, the new monarchs and Parliament of Scotland declared the Presbyterian Church the new state religion in Scotland. This left the Episcopal Church of Scotland unrecognized by the Scottish government. As such, they didn't have to swear allegiance to the monarchy, and were free to consecrate Samuel Seabury a bishop.
On November 14, 1784 in Aberdeen, the Bishop and Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen, and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness laid hands on Seabury, and he returned to the colonies as our first Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in this country.
Part of the deal was that Bishop Seabury had to agree to use the Scottish prayer at the consecration of the host, which apparently is a lot longer than the one they were using in England at the time. We made some slight modifications over time, but largely the prayer used today is modeled on the 1764 rite from the Scottish Prayer Book **.
So, today we celebrate our independence... again... from England, recognizing that our Episcopal flag carries the cross of St. Andrew in rememberance of our special relationship to the Scots. And Samuel Seabury's name lives on in the church with Seabury-Western, one of the eleven Episcopal seminaries.
( information gathered from satucket.com/lectionary )
** corrected from original post. Thanks, frdougal!
Friday, November 13, 2009
It was a pleasure to be a participant, and not a ringleader, for such an event.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Today, I was perusing Facebook and found that one of my friends, a fellow blogger, had posted something about the very tiresome, two-bit California beauty queen what's-her-name Prejean (you can see how much I care about this woman and anything she has to say about gay marriage or anything else, for that matter). At any rate, he bemoaned how "christians" embraced this woman, but as her soft-porn past is made more public, are trying to run away from her. One of his readers made note of the connection that seems to be there between "female christian heroes" and "beauty queens". And then she added, "I guess I have to add Esther in that one, too."
Having a Jewish partner, my eyes did a roll, and my fingers went to work to respond that "Esther was a beautiful *Jew*." Some time later, this person responded with acknowledging that Queen Esther was, indeed, Jewish, but she is also a Christian heroine. (?????) And if I didn't believe her, I should Google the line of toys and see for myself. And so I did.
And, yes--- in the world of "Christian Action Figures", you can find the beautiful Queen Esther, the heroine of her Hebrew people who saved them and her Uncle Mordecai from the evil Haman (although they don't tell you that's the bad guy's name... even though getting to drown out Haman's name is a big part of the Jewish Purim celebration). Queen Esther, the Christian Action Figure, talks... but she doesn't say very much. You see, the makers of the toy only want her to quote the Scripture that *they* think children should memorize. That's apparently part of the "teaching" of this line of dolls: handy-dandy Bible quotes taken out of context and put onto recorders operated by a pull of a string.
I have a nifty idea: how 'bout if the people purchasing these toys start from the premise of telling the 3+ year-olds who might play with this "action figure" that this particular "Christian heroine" was NOT a Christian?! Can we admire her? Can we enjoy the story? Can we see this woman of the Bible as one of those few women in Scripture who gets to have her story told? Yes, on all three counts. But to try and pass her off as a "Christian" heroine is not only inaccurate, it's a great way to stir up your Jewish friends and neighbors! We thought we had 'em with the Gospel of John and that insistence that Jesus is fully-human and fully-divine, eh? Oh, no! Tell them that one of their matriarchs is a "Christian" heroine. Then duck before they deck your noggin with brass knuckles and knishes!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
As I noted on Facebook today, my father served in the United States Navy during World War II. He trained fighter pilots, and then was assigned to serve aboard the USS Natoma Bay in the Pacific in our war with the Japanese. My father never really spoke much about the war, beyond quick references to Naha where they didn't leave "stone on top of another stone." But I remember during the Iranian student uprising when our embassy in Tehran was seized, I, as a patriotic youngster, crowed that we ought to go to war with Iran. After all, isn't that how you settle a score with an enemy?
My dad put his fork down at the dinner table and fixed me with the "Dad" stare.
"You do NOT want to go to war! War is hell!"
I suppose I should have straightened up, saluted and given him a, "Sir, yes, sir!"
Much later, as part of the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I interviewed my dad for the radio and gathered more information about his thoughts on serving in the Navy and being part of the World War II generation. Dad said that, initially, being in the Navy was just about having a good time. When Pearl Harbor happened, it changed the landscape and the meaning of his service. He acknowledged there was a difference between how someone in the Navy, particularly pilots, experienced the war versus' someone involved in on-the-ground combat. Mostly, he said, the pilots never got to see the human results of their bombing.
I wouldn't say my dad was a pacifist. But he certainly seemed to be a realist. He said that everyone likes to believe that when they go to war, they're doing it for good, for the "right" reasons. But I think my dad, after having served and seen the cost of wars both before, during, and after his time in uniform, came to a place of thinking there has to be a better way to settle conflict between nations.
And so on this Veteran's Day, I have taken quiet moments of remembrance for the service of my father, and other men and women, who put aside other pursuits in service to our country. I remember the countless number of lesbian and gay service members who remain silent, and enlisted, or have been discharged for simply being who they are. And I can't help but take pause at the tragedy that happened at Fort Hood in Texas last week, and all the people affected by that act of violence.
I pray for all of them and all of us that we will understand that war is hell, and find better ways to settle our differences than to sacrifice the lives of servicemen and women.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.--Isaiah 2:4
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Caught in the cross-fire of all this are the real people like Gug. THINKING ANGLICANS has quick links to Gug's posts. But I particularly wanted to share this one because it shows the damage done by a church that purports to uphold the ethics of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And while Gug's story is about being a Ugandan Anglican, it gives insight into why LGBT people in this country are so hostile to Christianity. The level of spiritual violence experienced by Gug mirrors what some in the United States have experienced in their own lives and places of worship. And it behooves ALL bishops, priests, and other ministers whom we pray for each week to answer those prayers by working toward ending the hypocrisy of preaching "Love God and thy neighbor"... and then supporting rules and laws in the church and state that create inequality for LGBT people.
To Archbishop Orombi, I say it is high time for you to repent of your wickedness. Gug's story tells me one thing about you: there is a millstone around your neck that only grows heavier the more you and others of your ilk continue to persecute queer Christians, and drive them away from a God who wants nothing more than for them to come home and eat at the banquet of eternal life.
Prayers ascending for Gug and his fellow brothers and sisters in Uganda.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
The Diocese of Rochester (NY) has passed a resolution condemning the anti-homosexuality act currently before the Uganda legislature. The bill, which I commented on here and here, would imprison gay people, and in some cases, lead to their executions. The Anglican Church in Uganda put out a statement in which it refers to homosexuality as a "sexual disorientation." The Diocese of Rochester is sending its resolution to political and church leaders in Uganda, informing them of their disappointment in light of the Anglican Communion's stance on violence toward people. Glad somebody is saying something!
Finally, the Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, in light of this past summer's General Convention, is lifting the ban on clergy acting as state agents in signing marriage certificates for lesbian and gay couples. Remember, it's been legal for queers to get married in Massachusetts for awhile. Now the Church is catching up to the state in allowing the LGBT faithful to get the full treatment, as it were, for their marriages in the Church. I think that's grand... and I stick by my earlier argument: the religious officials should stick to blessing marriages and leave the state functions to the state. Otherwise, poor misguided straight people will continue to believe that when the priest pronounces you "husband and wife", you are now recognized as spouses and will be admitted to a hospital room if, God forbid, your sweetie is in accident... or dies and you are eligible for his or her social security benefits. Those are rights granted by the law, not by God. Because I firmly believe if we were to really leave these matters to God... this idiotic debate over marriage equality would have been over, and gay people would be getting married.
So hurrah for the Church in the Northern (Kingdom) part of the United States. Please help spread the love South!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
It seems oddly fitting that the Gospel reading from Mark, with the above commentary on the corruption of the Temple leaders, is the reading that is assigned for the Sunday following the vote on the Health Care Reform bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lawmakers passed the bill after a day-long debate on a 220-215 vote (one Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao of LA voted with the Democrats). My Congressman, Democrat Allen Boyd, was reportedly among the 39 Democrats who voted against his party's proposal. I attended one of Boyd's town hall meetings, as reported in this post from August, and his statements at that time told me, he wasn't going to vote for a bill that had a public option... or really held private insurance companies accountable to their consumers. So, when he announced today that he wasn't voting for the bill... no big surprise.
But it is supremely disappointing. Because Boyd, like all members of Congress, have excellent health benefits through a federally-subsidized health care plan, the type of insurance somebody like me would love to have; 75-percent paid by the government and that includes prescription drugs. The premiums for the federal health care run from as little as $55-$355 a month. When your salary for the month is $12, 500, these numbers are a drop in the bucket.
But a self-employed person like me, who has seen my business drop off in this shaky economy, I don't have enough money at the end of the month to afford the kind of premiums quoted to me (often between $150-$400... depending on the deductible). And trust me: that lower end figure only helps if I have a catastrophic accident... and the insurance kicks in after I've met the $15, 000 deductible. Anybody want to hold a rock concert to raise that money for me?
I wrote an email letter to Boyd voicing my disappointment in him. And I offered a way for him to make amends for his callous disregard for those of us without health insurance: he could refuse to accept the Federal Employee Health Benefits Package, and go out and purchase private insurance for himself and his family. This would seem to be the only fair thing for those who are able to put large sums into the treasury to do. They should have to negotiate and purchase insurance in the same way I have to do it. And then, that Congressperson had better pray that they or their family never have a serious illness that makes the private insurer say, "Oh: you have cancer? Sorry, but according to the terms of your contract, we don't actually cover potentially fatal diseases which, in all likelihood, was a pre-existing condition."
"Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplace..." could be translated today into "Beware of Democrats who call themselves Blue Dogs, and claim to be fiscally conservative when their decisions lead to more and more stress on hospital emergency rooms, since that is the place most poor people end up and usually when it's too late." Blue Dogs clearly do not care about the poor, the meek or the lowly. Allen Boyd has disappointed me, again.
Friday, November 6, 2009
It seems that just over half the people in the northwestern state believe that, as long as LGBT people aren't asking for "marriage", then they're OK with granting us all the rights and privileges thereof. I'm glad they see it that way. I'm glad that they believe people such as myself, when we enter into a relationship and begin building a life together, should be afforded such benefits as a married straight couple.
Just don't call it "marriage". Because then--what--we'd have something "more"?
I find the whole "marriage" business a very strange and peculiar hot potato. I really do not understand the reluctance of the straight community to share this word with the gay community. Oh, yes: people have tried to explain it to me. I have heard that its because of "the church" or "religion" or "chrisitians" (that last one should be said as if hissing). But in Maine, as is the case in most of New England, that vote can NOT be hung purely around the necks of bigoted "christians" because, unlike in the South, the church doesn't hold as much sway over the hearts and minds of people. And, to be fair, there were religious leaders... including the Episcopal Bishop of Maine and many American Baptist ministers... who were encouraging people to vote No on Question One.
But back to this hang up about "marriage". I find that the possessiveness of straight people about this word is only matched by their unwillingness to accept that if "traditional marriage" is SO important, then we should go back to the "traditional laws" about divorce. Namely, make it extremely hard to break out of a bad marriage. Suggest to a straight person that we should eliminate divorce and require these "traditionally married" couples to live "happily ever after dammit", and you'll watch the beads of sweat form on their brow and lots of excuses for why we need to have divorce. How many priests and preachers, when confronted with the words about divorce as uttered by Christ, prefer to steer their sermons toward the Old or New Testament reading instead? I guess "divorce" is an equally hot potato as "marriage". Perhaps because divorce is a sign that not all "traditional marriages" work out?
Furthermore, if the Church (or synagogue or temple or mosque) is the reason that straight people can't stand the idea of LGBT people getting "traditionally married", then I wonder why when straight people get divorced they don't have to return to their place of worship and renounce the vows they've taken before God and their friends and family? If the priest (or other religious official) can sign the state papers to marry a couple, why should we not require them to sign the state papers to divorce said couple? And, if that religious official is unavailable, make another one do it instead.
What? NO!? Separation of church and state, you scream? Exactly my point.
I do not know what churches or other religious institutions gain by performing the act of signing the state papers making a couple legally married. But I believe this cross-over into a state function has done a terrible disservice to the straight members of the population. Because straight people seem to believe that marriage, the civil right, is tied into marriage, the sacramental rite. And, bless their hearts, the religious leaders in this country have done nothing to clarify this issue. And, in some corners, have used this confusion to their wicked ends of making LGBT people second-class citizens.
My answer: those who have the power to join together, through God, a couple whom no one should put asunder should stop their participation in the state-side of marriage. No more slinking off to sign the certificate with the love birds and a couple of witnesses. Make it clear that all you really have the power to do is bless the union. But for the purposes of the couple being REALLY married, in the eyes of the law, they must seek out the services of a clerk of court, an attorney, or a notary public (i.e. Me, the one not allowed to get married in Florida).
Some Episcopal churches, and individual priests and religious leaders, have gotten out of the marriage "business". They might bless a couple's union, but they direct the couple to go to the state for the actual signing of a marriage certificate. I believe this is the way, perhaps the most helpful way, for the church to lead on a very painful topic within the LGBT community.
My congratulations to the voters in the state of Washington for conferring on your LGBT brothers and sisters "everything but marriage." Perhaps, one day, you'll be able to take the next step... with God and the Church's help.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Watching the election results roll in via the Internet last night, I suddenly felt myself reliving a nightmare. At first, the No on One campaign was succeeding. Portland, Auburn, Kennebunkport... all of them saying in one voice, "No One" tells Mainers to reject their gay neighbors.
But then the rural areas began reporting in, and the margin narrowed... and then it flipped. And by the time I was going to bed, the margin had widened to 53-47 percent against the gay community... again.
Maine: How could you do this to me?
I know we fell back an hour Saturday night, but this feels as if we have fallen back a full year. When I read the story of the tears of my Maine brothers and sisters at seeing hope snatched away by popular vote, I knew those tears. I lived this last year in Florida, where we had no hope of marriage to begin with, and then the voters decided to make it even more so. And the nagging question of "Why?" is on the lips of same-sex couples wanting to protect their relationships in the same way as their straight siblings.
The Associated Press notes that the leaders of the anti-LGBT marriage camp were trumpeting this vote as a victory for traditional marriage. And again I wonder how one couple's marriage threatens or diminishes another's. What are they trying to protect except to keep other people from being able to enjoy the same legal protections?
Maine: How could you do this to me?
Also on the ballot in Maine was a question to allow for the creation of a Medicinal Marijuana Act. That passed with 59-percent of the vote. So Mainers are willing to protect pot smokers, but not queer couples. Was there no outcry to protect traditional medicine, so drug companies can make more profit on the pain of a cancer patient? Apparently not.
A bright spot in all of this is Kalamazoo, Michigan, where the people overwhelmingly approved an ordinance that protects LGBT people from being fired from their jobs or denied housing or accommodations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That IS different than 2008. I'm still unable to find results from Washington State's vote on the domestic partnership law, but that vote apparently was also close.
But Maine. Maine! Have you not seen how nothing horrible has happened to your neighbors in New Hampshire as a result of "gay marriage"? Does your proximity to Canada not demonstrate that a country doesn't go belly-up if the civil authorities allow LGBT couples the access to marriage rights?
I suppose the silver-lining is that the vote was 53-47... unlike Florida's 61-39 a year ago. But there is no rejoicing for me in a world that allows majority votes on rights conferred onto a minority group.
Shame on Maine.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Normally, this is the day to remember all those who have died, and hold in our prayers those who mourn the passing of loved ones. In thinking on those "thin spots", this is likely the thinnest of times. But on this All Soul's Day, I find my mind moving in a slightly different direction, particularly in thinking on the above passage from the Gospel of John:
"Anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life." Such a statement has echoes to me of the words of Jesus found in the synoptic gospels, such as Luke: "Anyone with ears to hear listen!" This is a listening that is not passive, but active listening... more like really hearing the words and understanding the meaning of those words. Hear the message that Jesus is bringing, and believe it, and such hearing will bring you life. A life that has "passed from death into life."
No, I haven't been smoking any savory herbs or drinking Whiskey in the middle of the day. What I am thinking about, and have thought for awhile, is that the words of Jesus which address the idea of "living" versus' being "dead" are as much about the plain meaning as they are about a more metaphorical meaning. There are plenty of people walking around in the world who are still wedded to the idea that they can have happiness and meaning in life through things that are going to go away. Chiefly, they crave money and lots of it. And while there's a kernal of truth in the notion that life is a lot easier with money, is it any better? Fuller? Richer? Happier?
"... the hour is coming, and is here now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." Again, I see in this statement the active listening and absorbtion of what Jesus is teaching is a pathway to life. And this becomes even more clear to me in the next lines about God having life, and having given life to Jesus, and through this "life" that Jesus is now liberally sharing with his teachings, we may also have life. It's like the passage in Luke where people are worrying about following Jesus before they've buried their dead. And Jesus says, "Let the dead bury the dead." I read that as, "Let those who are still focusing their energies on wealth, power, and pride be the ones who bury the dead." Or, another way of seeing it, "Let those communities that have fallen away and aren't following the commandment to love God and love the neighbor as God so loves you do that work."
What this is leading to for me is my recent concern for the Church and the world. Too many people appear to be trying to do this life alone, and suffering mentally, physically, and emotionally, from that. And they won't trust in the Love that is out there waiting for them because it's not something they can wrap their arms (or their minds) around. Compounding this issue is the Church leadership who, through their refusal to actually walk in the daring, daunting steps of their ancestors and Jesus and challenge the boneheaded moves of political leaders or take stands that may cost them something, are unwittingly throwing up a barrier in front of those who might seek God. People who are "outside" the Church view it as a bunch of hypocrites because the leaders refuse to say, "Boo" about injustice. Has the Church leadership forgotten what happens to those who cause another to stumble?
The only way I know how to counter this is through my own actions. To remember "the source" and to stay as close to that as I can, so as not to stand in the way of the light that leads to eternal life. And to tap into that "source" regularly for guidance. God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year....
Sunday, November 1, 2009
As Fr. Lee Graham noted in a recent homily, the Church has made All Saints into a day when we remember those who have gone before us as if they are in some far away place. In reality, if we were to pay attention to the rubric of many pagan beliefs, its not that the saints are far away; they are actually quite close because the veil between the worlds is pierced. Or, as Fr. Graham was describing it, the separation between the living and dead is "a thin spot" at this time of year, one where we feel the presence of our ancestors more than at other times.
There is some comfort for me in knowing that there is a time when those who have left this earthly realm draw closer to us in celebration. In my own understanding, as of November 1, 2009, the major difference between those who are considered the "living" vs. the ones who are "dead" is the body. Those still considered "alive" have physical bodies; the dead do not. Unless they are zombies in search of brains. However, even in death, I believe, there is still something else. My deep sense is that once the soul has turned out the lights in the body... its destination is another stage of life. In my belief, it is a life in Christ and God and the Holy Spirit... another step in the journey toward reunion in God. Do I know this for a fact? Heck no! I haven't died and left this body yet! And I don't have a particular desire to find out any time soon. But I do think its plausible. Our view of what is life is limited by our own bodily experience. But just because a body no longer has a soul, I think the soul goes on to a new life even as the body goes back to the earth.
I have something of "living" proof that out death comes life: my funny-looking, skinny cat Ziggy died very suddenly about three years ago. We buried him in the front and marked his grave with a rose plant. Just a couple days ago, a bud emerged and is now beginning to bloom... just in time for All Saints day.
Seeing this, and thinking about the baptisms slated for our services, the idea of the "thin spots" seems very real!
The reading from the Wisdom of Solomon assigned for this Sunday is the same reading we had at my dad's funeral: "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them." Although applied to the dead, I think this is equally as applicable to the living. "Those who put their trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect." God is watching over both worlds: those who are among the living and those who are the dead... both on earth and in heaven. Are we doing those things that we should be doing to keep us abiding in love and understanding truth? Are we doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God?