Sunday, April 27, 2008
But I do keep up with some news via the internet. And thus I was aware that across the country, many people were taking a vow of silence on Friday to remember a California eighth-grader by the name of Lawrence King. Larry, as he was called, had already self-identified as gay. In February, he asked another boy to be his Valentine. The other boy, a kid named Brandon, didn’t take this invitation well at all. Instead of simply telling Larry “No, thanks,” he made it permanent by shooting him in the head and killing him.
Consider this senseless act of violence, and then juxtapose that information against the debate in the Florida House over the anti-bullying bill, named “The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act.” Johnston was a 15 year-old Cape Coral boy who killed himself after enduring nearly two years of harassment both in school and in cyberspace. His mother, a teacher, has been trying to get the bill passed for three years…and several LGBT-friendly organizations have been working this “school safety” legislation for much longer than that. The bill would instruct school districts to develop strategies for dealing with bullies and their parents. It spells out different types of bullying…including stalking and destruction of property. It also says it applies to bullying based on “sexual, racial or religious grounds”.
Just those three? An attempt to amend the bill to include “gender-based” bullying reportedly caused a 45-minute debate. The Democrats wanted the change, arguing that it was important to instruct people specifically on bullying because of “gender preference”. But the Republicans successfully argued against that inclusion because the bill was “about the bully, not the victims of bullying.”
The bill passed overwhelmingly. It’s now in the Florida Senate message calendar. And everyone in the Capitol can take comfort in knowing that it doesn’t “offend”.
But it does offend me. Because Lawrence King is not the first kid to get killed…or kill him/herself for being gay. And there is still so much tolerance for gay jokes and gay stereotypes and referring to things UNcool as "that's so gay". People will praise a movie like “Brokeback Mountain” for being groundbreaking and daring to depict two western men in love, and not stop to think, “Hey: it’s another mainstream film about a gay relationship that leaves lives in shambles, with one guy dead and another a drunken bum alone in a trailer.” The tears I shed for that film were not about the storyline, but about the constant presentation to an American audience that “those people are just dysfunctional”.
And the churches are not helping much. To be sure, there are those who are making efforts to include all of God’s children and make everyone sitting in the pews on Sunday feel welcomed to be there and share in hearing the Word of God. But then I read something like Rev. Matt Kennedy’s sermon, and I realize, in my universe of the Episcopal Church, we have miles to go before we can sit back and rest on our more evolved laurels with the requisite cocktail in hand.
“Search for the Lord and his strength;
continually seek his face”
--Psalm 105: 4
Those of us who are seeking God know that it will take patience, courage and strength to change minds and attitudes. May the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, continue to move in this world and guide us toward more compassion for each other…for the Larrys and the Brandons…the legislators and the Matt Kennedys. Amen.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
PRELUDIUM: We rise to play a greater part
And just a PS: if you have time, take a moment to click on the link within Fr. Mark's posting to read the sermon by Rev. Matt Kennedy in the diocese of Central New York. Just in case you don't believe that the thieves of Christ's message aren't alive and well within the Episcopal Church! Bigotry knows no geographic boundaries.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
So, for my Jewish partner, I am including the English translation of the Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer of mourning for her father, Arthur:
Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
One of my good friends once did a radio commentary in which she discusses how each one of us has “the way” things are to be done. There is “the way” one folds the laundry or puts dollar bills back into a wallet or pumps gas or any myriad of things that merit a system of doing. And, naturally, whatever is your “way” is “the way”. Incidentally, questioning “the way” should be done at your own risk.
So, this past Fifth Sunday of Easter, the gospel reading was the one that I’ve been looking at for years as the one for my own funeral: John 14:1-14. Besides talking about “In my Father’s house there are many rooms…” Thomas poses the question to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (Uh-oh…here comes “the way” again!)
And Jesus answers, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Great: so now Jesus has “the way”, too!
Often times, this sort of talk in the gospels has been used to club “non-believers” over the head and justify people in their abuse of Christianity to be ugly. Certainly, there were fundamentalists on television and radio…and campus…in
But I have always had a very different take on what Jesus was saying here, a take that (admittedly) has absolutely no endorsement or stamp of approval from any theologian or seminary. It’s just my lay Episcolesbian perspective:
Jesus: My way of being (please see all cites throughout my various works and words that demonstrate my love and compassion) is the way" And this way is the one that is truth and is life (as opposed to deceit and death). And if we all adopt a path of love, truth, life we will come to know God.
Further into this particular gospel passage, another apostle, Phillip, is scratching his head and asking Jesus to show them “the Father, and we will be satisfied.” And I can almost see Jesus’ shoulders drooping and his head shaking as he, again, tries to explain to this group of “very nice…if a bit dense…guys” what he means.
Jesus: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.”
As I read that, what I understand is that Jesus is trying to tell this pack of puppies that have been following him around from place to place and witnessing “the way” to now put two-and-two together. I don’t know if Jesus himself has figured it out that, “Hey—I’m God!” But I think he’s trying to get the gang to understand that “the way” he has been and treated people and related to them is “the way”. And Jesus’ “way” is in keeping with other religious traditions, even if the icons of those other paths have their own variation on “the way”.
All of this goes back to my contention that we humans are some kind of silly people when we try to force everyone into believing that “the way” we worship God is “the way”. God is far too agile and smart to be trapped into any one path. Remember: in his house there are many rooms. And each of those rooms has a place for anyone who has followed “the way” to the party. And in one room, they might be greeted by the sounds of choirs and organs….while in another it’s clarinets and ram horns…or sitars and gongs. If you follow “the way” of peace, love and light, you will come into a place of eternal life. And the best part about it is that you can do it now, today, before this stage of your life is over.
Sing Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
And you shoo tha blues away
When cares pursue ya
Gets you through tha darkest day!
Sunday, April 20, 2008
So, now that you all know the steps I went through to come out as “queer”, time to talk about the other-half of my identity as a Christian.
My membership in the body of Christ became public on
Being Christian is not as risky in society as being gay. Many people in the
Queer and Christian? Impossible!
No, it is not. And I should know since I am among the members of the flock who wear both labels. My necklace sports not only the inverted triangle of pride, but a crucifix and a mustard seed. My car not only has a rainbow sticker, but also the shield of the Episcopal Church. My heart not only feels love and attraction to women, but it is made softer and fuller when I remember that God is my strength and my redeemer. And as the wolves wag their tongues with invectives and try to encircle me, I know my shepherd will come to my aid, especially if I call out his name. And he doesn’t care that I’m queer. He knew that all along.
My blog has entries already that discuss the clashes I’ve had with fundamentalist Christians who would want to sever my relationship with God. And I have struggled to come to the place that I’m at today where I finally understand that there is no one who can break me from God but me. I am recalling the reading out of John’s gospel from the Fourth Sunday of Easter in which Jesus talks about being the shepherd and the gate, and that his sheep know his voice and will follow him and not a stranger. I realize now that on many occasions I have heeded the sound of the stranger’s voice, the one that would tell me I’m condemned to hell because I’m a lesbian.
Trouble is the strangers’ voices have been amplified for too long. And not only have members of the LGBT-community been swayed by their message, many straight families have as well. And church leaders have also allowed the thieves of Christianity to get the upper-hand by remaining silent instead of picking up their own megaphones and proclaiming that the Good News is that Christ died and was resurrected for everyone: that includes people who go to bed with members of the opposite sex, same sex, or nobody at all.
Sex. Yes, I think that’s where the big break down has occurred. At Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson’s consecration in
So all of this deals with my perception of the heterosexual community’s reaction to me. But I have to say I have run into many straight people who seem fine with having me join them in worshipping Christ. I’m not so sure about my brothers and sisters in the gay community.
I have encountered several different reactions to my faith. There are those who take the “to each their own” stance. But there are many who, if I say I’m Christian, either go silent, or look away. Or they tell me why they aren’t as if they expect me to start arguing with them. I keep thinking that issue here has to do with whatever trauma has been inflicted on gay individuals by churches or synagogues. There are just too many stories that I’ve heard from people about family members “praying for them” that they might “cure” them of this homosexual affliction. I have heard from lesbians who attended the Episcopal Church in the earlier part of this decade only to be met with a sermon so homophobic and misogynistic that they left in tears, never to return again. Such stories are painful to hear. And I do understand how rotten it can make one feel. To those who have felt that rejection, all I can say is to remember who is rejecting you: people, not God. Even the one with the collar standing in the pulpit is still just another human being in the same soup with the rest of us. And they are more likely to make mistakes than the shepherd who knows you by your name and your true self.
In the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church, there is a statement that I believe speaks volumes: “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid.” From the very closeted to the most out and proud among us, God knows you more completely than any person or religious institution will ever know you. And He never walks away and his love for you and desire to be in relationship with you is deep and real. And he will continue to call for you, even as you wander away. Listen for him.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
Maybe it’s because it’s spring. Maybe it’s my recent experiences with college students and others in
My process happened over many, many years. In fact, in putting some pieces together for myself, I realize that my first inclination that I was a lesbian came when I was eight years-old and I wrote a love poem to a pretty blonde-haired blue-eyed girl in my class. It wasn’t very sophisticated, one of those “Roses are red, Violets are blue” things (gimme a break: I was eight!). When I gave it to my true love, she read it, tore it up, threw it in my face and ran away crying. I told my mother what happened, and she assured me that the girl probably “didn’t understand.” Or maybe she did understand, and was horrified. What I understood was that what I had done was obviously upsetting and wrong and I should have just kept it to myself.
I also knew to avoid blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls!
By the time I got to puberty, I realized again that something was amiss. I didn’t have strong attraction to boys or men, but I liked looking at women. I developed a crush on one of my teachers, a crush so intense that I would intentionally walk past her classroom on the second floor to look at her…even if my next class was in the basement of the building. I watched one of the girls in my class slow-dancing with a jock at one of our painful Junior High School dances, and I kept wishing that it was me holding her that close.
Uh-oh! Wanting to slow-dance with another chick could only mean one thing!
I went to the library. And, in a town the size of
Reading helped. Along with Our Bodies, Our Selves (thanks to my brother, Tom…who thought he was being ‘cute’ when he pointed that one out to me!), I found that there were other people in the world like me. Sadly, they were all in black and white, not in flesh and blood in front of me. Those who were actual real people around me were not so helpful. There were jokes about gay men and AIDS. There were nasty cracks about “lesbos”. And then there was my reality of prep school.
I was not “out” at my school, but my demeanor, my athleticism, and my style of dress all indicated the truth of who I was as a sexual being. And thus I endured having things thrown at me as I walked on campus, classmates trying to trip and push me as I left classes, and a group of boys who followed me around grumbling, “Dyke!” in a low, menacing tone. I was scared. I wanted to fit in, and I did try to find boys attractive. But inside I knew that what my enemies perceived about me was true: I was a dyke. What didn’t help was when I tried to come out to two different adults, I was either admonished and told that it was too early for me to conclude that I was a lesbian, or I was told that my “problem” was that I made boys “feel neutered” and if I would “put on a dress and make-up, the boys would find me attractive.”
Interestingly, I found the paper I wrote as a sophomore for my Religion class in which we were to make a personal statement on four ethical issues. One of my four was a defense of homosexuality in which I concluded, at 16 years old, that “a homosexual deserves the same chance at life that any heterosexual has,” and that I would feel that way in five years, “ten years, twenty years and plenty more after that.” Hahahahahaha!!! Had I but known what was to come!
It took five years later for me to finally accept my own lesbianism. And the day that I did, I felt a freedom and a peace in my spirit that I had been longing to feel for years. I had dated two men up to that point (not counting the one guy I sort-of dated in prep school), and had found those relationships lacking. It wasn’t that the men were bad guys; but I wasn’t really interested in them. And it all came clear when I walked into that auditorium at
The next time I went to church, I felt a little ill at ease. Mostly, I worried that I had turned purple with pink triangles, and everybody was going to know that I was a queer in their midst. However, nothing about me really had changed…at least not outwardly….so nobody suspected anything. I did find myself more sensitive to things that I hadn’t probably paid attention to before. Like with the rest of society, there were the jokes about gays that went unchallenged. And there was the lawyer who bragged about keeping an AIDS Hospice House out of a neighborhood. And so, rather than share with anyone that I had finally come out and come home, I just kept it to myself, and connected to “my people” once a week by listening to the radio show, “This Way Out”. I didn’t want to start a relationship with anyone because I feared attachment. I knew I was going to leave
I was fortunate when I moved to
That’s my story. And I’m sticking to it!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
This past summer, I worked on the production of “The Weimar House”, a mock horror film in which the horror is gay marriage. I had written the piece initially for radio, and then re-worked it with the cast and crew to be a screenplay. Thus far, the video has garnered some awards, has received warm responses from audiences, and is likely to make it into some LGBT Film Festivals.
I am still pleased with the film, and its message of love overcoming hate. But I am aware of a few changes I would make to some of the scenes to mitigate for the unintended implication that *all* Christians want to kill gay people. Of course, I know that is not true. If someone is a follower of the Word of God, then they should be the ones on the front lines of every pride march chanting, “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Homophobia’s got to go!”
Sadly, that doesn’t seem to happen. And I’m not really sure why. But I think it’s a two-way street…and the median that has been built up between the east and west-bound lanes of communication between Christians and “queers” has too many trees, shrubs…or guardrails that make the division seem insurmountable.
Many lesbians and gays have encountered intolerance and exclusion from their places of worship…or they fear that they’ll get booted to the curb from their parishes for being gay because no one has told them otherwise. Meanwhile sympathetic Christians may feel they aren’t really welcomed into the fold of a pride parade because their Christianity has been met with suspicion or outright hostility. Or maybe they think it’s safer to just stay quiet and re-assure their queer friends privately that they’re supportive.
And as the two sides keep traveling on opposite sides of the median, the thieves of Christianity proclaim their intolerance and hatred of gay people out loud with neon-flashing billboards, and further build up the obstacles in the median….and (worse) put forth a false doctrine that “God hates fags”. Nothing could be further from the Truth! And as the voices of the mean-spirited fill the airwaves with their deceit, the queer folk develop more road rage at the mere mention of Jesus.
So, how do you go about clearing the median of all the obstacles so that those passing on either side of the street can fully see each other? And how can we all start to travel amicably on the same road, heading for the same party of abundant life? To my mind, it has to happen individually. Each person has to be willing to hack away at the shrubbery that’s in the way of them seeing the other person. And once we’re seeing each other fully, we need to take time to listen and hear one another. Listen and hear. Progressive Christians must allow for the release of the anger and the grief of the LGBT-community and the LGBT-community must allow for the Christians to fully express the love that Christ is offering to anybody who wants it… a love that comes without checking your ID or credentials. I believe that through such a process of true reconciliation we will all be achieving that portion of the Lord ’s Prayer in which we ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Then we will be traveling together!
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
If you have been following the news in the world of the Anglican Communion, you might have heard about the escalating violence towards LGBT-Anglican leaders in Nigeria. The Archbishop of Canterbury has decided to weigh in:
In response to reports of violence and threats towards Christians involved in the debate on human sexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury has given the following statement:
“The threats recently made against the leaders of Changing Attitudes are disgraceful. The Anglican Communion has repeatedly, through the Lambeth Conference and the statements from its Primates’ Meetings, unequivocally condemned violence and the threat of violence against gay and lesbian people. I hope that this latest round of unchristian bullying will likewise be universally condemned.”
I am happy the ABC has issued this statement. The threats against these leaders are real, and, frankly, the Church has done little to stop it. In fact, the Anglican Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola is an outspoken homophobe!
And while I'm glad to see the ABC acknowledge that this sort of "bullying" is "unchristian", I wonder if he will take time to meditate on his own actions and how they play into this sort of violence in which bigots are emboldened to beat other human beings simply because they are gay. The ABC could not find it within himself to extend an invitation to the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson to attend the once-a-decade Bishop-athon (aka the Lambeth Conference). Surely the Archbishop is a learned man, and I'm sure quite capable of mindfulness and soul-searching prayer. Perhaps now would be a good time for him to consider that by specifically excluding the one and only openly-gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, he unwittingly and unknowingly became a tacit conspirator in the violence. I'm not saying that he condoned these attacks. But too often people in authority fail to see how their words and their actions become the justification for "unchristian bullying".
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Back in the late 1980s, I used to think it was fun to go eavesdrop on the Maranatha group on the University of Missouri campus. They usually had some sort of highly-inflammatory presentation at least once a month, and, on occasion, I’d go listen and then become livid when they would do things such as pervert the text from First Corinthians 6: 9-10 to include “homosexuals” among the group of undesirables the apostle Paul said would not inherit the kingdom of God. Although I was not “out” at the time, and was, in fact, still struggling to be straight, I did not believe lesbians and gays were going to be tossed into the fire unless they repented the core of their beings.
Glad I had already reached that conclusion for myself! Not that it made coming to terms with my own sexual orientation any easier. But I imagine that I would have been a bigger mess if I had really believed the lies that the Maranathas and others liked to spread about me and “my people”. From their standpoint, I am a product of Satan. I am someone to be feared. Women should latch on to their husbands and shelter the children from my sight. In some ways, I think that the LGBT community represent for the religious right-wingers the lepers of the 21st century. Or maybe they’re like the olden-day Jews and we’re their version of the Samaritans.
Perhaps that’s why I was so struck with the gospel story about Jesus’ talk with the Samaritan woman at the well. Here’s Jesus, a Jewish man, initiating a conversation with a woman who is one of “those people”. She is taken aback at first that this guy is even bothering to engage her. And as these two stayed in relationship with each other, the woman becomes more amazed at how completely this man knew her, understood her, and wanted to her to experience the kind of water he could provide. So amazed that she goes back and tells the rest of “her people” about him, and they all head up the hill to meet Jesus themselves. And once he gets to talking with them, the Samaritans want him to hang out for a couple of days which he does. And thus a cultural barrier is broken down.
So, if I am to think of myself in the role of that Samaritan woman…a woman who others in the culture see as one of “those people”…what a refreshing and loving feeling to know that God’s intent is not to tell me to “get lost and get a drink elsewhere, you dyke” but rather to take time to be with me. He wants me to stay in the conversation. And He wants to meet me so completely that He is offering a chance to quench my thirst forever. And no amount of me saying, “Yes, but I’m not this, or that, or the other” matters to Him. He doesn’t care about the labels, the categories or the excuses. He just wants me to have the drink.
In the story, it is about water. But I believe you can take it beyond that. What I think this woman desired, and what I think any one of us wants, is to feel acceptance and love. And it is my belief that the God who keeps me engaged in conversation and plants a song in my brain every day is continually telling me that this dialogue we’re in is about His acceptance of me and His deep and abiding love that is there for me always, no strings attached. No hidden clauses or exceptions. And He is not concerned with me being one of “those people” because He knows me much more completely than any label I, or the culture, might have for me. In his accounting, he is looking for those who desire to choose life over death, those who are fully awake and not just sleep-walking. If I trust in that truth, and not the words of right-wingers and nutty Maranathas, I will find that the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven are open to me and all others who will accept his offer to take a drink. Because the cup of salvation is there for anyone who wants it.
The bar is open. What are we waiting for?
Monday, April 7, 2008
Don't abandon me yet. I've had to put my attention to my taxes; hence I haven't had the time to write what I want to write. Instead, I've been working with Excel spreadsheets and receipts and checkbooks and ledgers and planners.....UGH!
I'll be back soon with something more interesting.
Peace be with you....and me, too!!!