Saturday, October 31, 2009
Archbishop Desmond Tutu says this African philosophy gets stated simply as:
"A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has proper self-assurance that comes from knowing he or she belongs to a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated and diminished, when others are tortured and oppressed"
This idea is remarkably familiar to me. The idea of being "open and available" and "affirming and not threatened" was the philosophy and the ethic taught at Florida School of Massage. It affirms, and confirms, our relationships as people on this planet together. And, for the Church, it is the beginning of seeing Christ in the other, and the "building up" of the body of Christ... as opposed to what has occurred with the repeated attempts to surgically-remove those who we think are the tonsils or appendix.
The more I thought about this, the more I thought, "How different the world would be if we really did put this into practice." If this really were the ethic by which we live and move and have our being then there would be no reason for voters in Maine to go to the polls next Tuesday to decide if gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry. Florida children pent up in the foster care system would be able to be placed in loving homes with gay and lesbian couples, so these kids could stand a chance at having a stable family. Our military would retain some of its brightest intelligence corps if we could see each other as a continuum of humanity where the "asking and telling" of one's sexual orientation is of no consequence.
We are a long way from being in this Ubuntu place.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
As famed British actor Sir Ian McKellan held an audience spellbound at Florida State University's Conradi Theater, our city commission was unanimously adopting a policy to extend its benefits package to cover domestic partners in straight and gay relationships. And as they were doing that, the President of the United States... for the first time EVER... signed a pro-LGBT rights bill into law: the Matthew Shepherd/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Matthew Shepherd was the young gay man in Wyoming, brutally beaten and tied to a fence to die in October, 1998. James Byrd, Jr. was an African-American man in Texas killed by three white supremicists who beat him, stripped him of his clothes and dragged him for three miles chained to the back of a pick up truck. That crime occurred in June of 1998.
Of course, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act was part of a military war bill... which is a bit odd... however this is legislation that so many groups have been seeking for years, so the signing of the bill, like the domestic partner benefits package in Tallahassee, has been greeted with enthusiasm and praise from the LGBT community.
So while the world seemed in chaos during those months in 1998 when such brutality was all over the news, yesterday was a day when, for once, all the stars seem to be in alignment for those who have been the "left behind" for so long.
Thanks be to God!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Sadly, it is the kind of positive move that says, "It's not OK for you to kill or maim me because I'm a lesbian." It never should be OK... and yet such hate-motivated crime does occur in this country.
Integrity USA is calling on Episcopalians and all people of faith to pause at 4:45PM EDT in recognition of this historic event. Our prayers are encouraged to give thanks, remember the victims of such violence, and to pray for our continued progress forward toward a world in which your sexual orientation does not hold you out as separate in God's kingdom on earth. I believe that we are all one in heaven; it's just down here where we're having a little bit of difficulty with that idea.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Read the good news of the Good News coming to fruition HERE.
The story of Rev. Susan Slaughter's journey and discernment will feel familiar to some of you out there. Welcome the emerging spring in Fort Worth after your 33 year-long winter.
"Death is conquered, we are free;
Christ has won the victory."
--"He Has Risen", Hymn 180, 1982 Hymnal
Monday, October 26, 2009
We are not the center of even our own personal universes. If we're doing this Christianity correctly, we must recognize that God is at the center, and when we give into this idea as the organizing principle of our lives, there is a radical reordering of what we think is important. And it's never too late to do this.
That may all "sound" easy, but to actually put it into practice takes effort. And perhaps this is why we were warned that this whole "taking up your cross" business is NOT for those unwilling to face difficulty. And the first difficulty is facing our own ego, and taking a good long hard look in the mirror before we start working on everybody and everything else. Anyone who has gone through a personal transformative experience knows what I'm talking about. And if you don't, take it from me: when you begin to remove the mask that you wear for the world and allow your true face to be the one you put forward... you'll know what I'm talking about. It's frightening at first, and then extremely liberating.
And it is the beginning of clearing the space to put God back in the middle.
And now I lay me down to sleep... to pick up with other thoughts tomorrow!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Some straight people don't get it. Over on Facebook, a lesbian singing the praises of the legislation had supposed "friends" denouncing it as a "Sad day." One of them got into a protracted argument which reached the absurd conclusion that somehow having this federal hate crimes law has made the LGBT community "more equal" than his heterosexual, white, male, conservative-self. Besides the obvious that "more equal" can't exist, there is the annoying idea that once again, straight white guys seem to think that when a minority group gains a level of protection from the brutality of the majority, straight people have lost something. They want to argue that ALL people should be protected from murder, as if that isn't happening right now?! What they don't want to recognize is that we have always set up "special" categories of people who we consider their murders to be heinous: police officers, for example. Quickest way to guarantee that you will get the death penalty in Florida is if you kill a cop. But it has not always been the case that killing a gay person will lead to just punishment. In fact, a number of times, defendants in a murder trial will use the "gay panic" defense, ("Your Honor, I'm not gay and that gay guy was checking me out, so I was gonna rough 'em up and I got a little carried away because he was so scary gay!") This defense actually does work in some places!
I think the interesting juxtaposition of this legislation passing finally is that it has happened during a week in which, in some corners at least, the Internet has been abuzz about the proposed legislation in Uganda allowing anyone caught committing "aggravated homosexuality"... which includes gay sex with the disabled... to be put to death. I can think of some disabled queers who WON'T be going to Uganda any time soon! Religious leaders in that country are backing increasing the penalties for being gay, or being a straight person who supports LGBT rights. Makes one ever-conscience of how lucky we really are in the west. And that our western leaders should NOT remain silent on these matters of human rights around the globe.
And while they are speaking out on human rights, and while we are bowing our heads in thanks to our politicians for finally adopting the hate crimes law, we must not forget that we are still far from being fully equal citizens in the United States. How about now allowing LGBT people to serve their country without having to lie about their sexual orientation? How about allowing me and others to marry our partners? How about making it illegal to say that because I'm a lesbian, I can't be hired in a job? There are still more crumbs that need to fall under the table to make a whole loaf.
Federal hate crimes law? Check! Next......
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,
for there is no help in them.
When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.
This is indeed true. And a very important truth that I return to when I contemplate the state of the Church and the world. Besides the Pope's plan to reinvigorate the Borg-like qualities of Rome ("You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile!"), there is the additional news out of Uganda about a new "final solution". The government, with backing from religious leaders, is proposing a law to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death.
Yes. Punishable by death.
And, as Elizabeth+ Kaeton on her blog "Telling Secrets" notes... there has been deafening silence from the leadership of the Episcopal Church and most notably the Archbishop of Canterbury, the guy who has been the first to serve up the LGBT faithful in hopes of holding together his crumbling Anglican Communion. This is the same ABC who will put out mealy-mouthed pronouncements that violence against the LGBT faithful is "bad"; HOWEVER they really are an icky bunch of people who are causing an awful lot of heartache, aren't they?
So, while some may be wondering and waiting for the leaders in Anglican world to say something about this troubling development in Uganda... I have long since lost any hope for human leaders to "get it". Even in our own country, in this state of Florida, governmental leaders think nothing of throwing LGBT people under the bus. And the Church stands silent, and this silence reads as tacit approval. At stewardship time, the Church is more than happy to take my "queer" money whether I'm celibate or not. But bless and honor my relationship? Never!
And so, where is there hope? Go back to the rest of Psalm 146:
Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!
whose hope is in the Lord their God;
Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those who are oppressed
and food to those who hunger.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous;
the Lord cares for the stranger;
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.
The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
Never mistake the machinations of the men and women who claim to be "authority" with the true authority. Never forget that those who were marked as Christ's own forever with our baptism are bound to him through the Eucharist. This is the free grace of God, who is always looking out for those who are "bowed down"... and "sets the prisoners free." This grace, this love, comes through Jesus Christ who is the author of our salvation, not some purple-shirted God-wanna-be.
Your God, O LGBT community, is the Lord who reigns for ever. Sing Hallelujah! And remember that he will always be with you until the end of the age!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
In a story in the New York Times, the Pope is creating a home within the Roman Catholic Church for those Anglicans, and presumably Episcopalians, who just can't take it that women are in the priesthood and are becoming bishops... and those freaky gay people are now being allowed into the black shirt with white collar club as well. Eek!!
Don't worry, the Pope is assuring them, you'll get to keep all those things that make you feel all comfy-cozy like some of your prayers and your hymns. But you won't be forced to take communion from one those people. The Pope also is trying to pass this off as simply an effort to make things coherent and easier for Anglicans wishing to convert to Roman Catholicism. But, given that these "conversions" could be whole parishes or dioceses and not just individuals, sorry Benny: I don't buy it.
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the one who seems to want to be the first Pope of England, apparently hadn't learned of the RC's plans until three weeks ago. And while the ABC doesn't seem particularly concerned or worried about the implications of all this, his emissary to the Vatican it seems was caught off-guard by this papal plan.
Decades of work to heal the wounds of history between Anglicans and Roman Catholics all seem to be falling by the wayside. One wonders if, in the Great Beyond, "Bloody"Mary is blowing a raspberry at Elizabeth I?
The Episcopal Church has been engaged in a public relations campaign asking people to videotape, in their own words, "Why am I an Episcopalian?" This video takes the concept a step further by highlighting the quiet contributions many of us are making in an effort to bring some sanity into an otherwise madcap, insane world!
Incidentally, I understand that the priest behind this video, Rev. Frank Logue, was a finalist for Bishop of Georgia. And while he didn't get the job, he is getting the job done using the 'new media' of the internet. Congratulations to him for that!
Monday, October 19, 2009
Something about that phrase, "adulterous and sinful generation" has really captured my attention recently. Could be because we've been steeped in Mark's gospel on Sundays. Could be because the last class I went to on Wednesday night was Fr. Lee Graham's talk about the Gospel of Mark. Could be that we just wrapped up a section-by-section look at Mark in my Education for Ministry class. Whatever the reason, I have had that phrase in my head. And privately, I've been applying it to our world today. When I read about the murder of a MTF transgendered youth, the phrase is there. When I read about pastors in Nigeria convincing parents to kill their children because they suspect the children are 'witches', the phrase is there. When I am in conversation with others about the annoyance that is the Anglican Covenant, the phrase is there.
"Sinful" generation I understand, and have understood, to have the plain meaning of doing acts that are contrary to God, and God's commandments. To put our own will ahead of God's will, which (broadly thinking here) is the fair and just treatment of all that is in creation. But "adulterous" I have wrestled with. Adultery has a specific meaning in our language. And I've been wondering, "Was there rampant cheating going on in coupledom at the time of Jesus?"
And then it hit me this morning: Adulterous, in this case, isn't about our relations with each other; it, too, is about our relationship with God. And when we commit 'adultery' in our relationship with God, it means that we are worshipping and chasing after things that are NOT God. This could mean falling back into a polytheistic belief system. Or more immediately, the affair happens when we put "things" ahead of, and in place of, God; wealth, power, possessions. When climbing the proverbial corporate ladder, acquiring more 'toys', throwing all our energy into making money becomes the center and focus of our life... where is God in that? God becomes the jilted lover, sitting alone at the table waiting for us to come home.
And so, we have the adultery of the generation at Christ's time: a time of simmering resentment of the Jews toward the Romans, Temple authorities who make widows give up their last coins, and do we really need to talk about the Roman authorities like Herod and Pontius Pilate? Yes, it was an adulterous and sinful generation... and Mark's Jesus was just the Doc Marten-wearing upstart to push back and challenge with parables and speeches that were spoken with authority unlike any the assembled multitude had ever heard before.
My lingering questions: is our time really that different from then? How many of us are placing our ego first, and chasing after bright shiny objects in the false hope that a new acquisition will make us happy? To whom are we faithful?
Sunday, October 18, 2009
St. Luke the Evangelist is the only one of the four who was not a Jew. And so it's interesting that "Dr. Luke" who also chronicles the Acts of the Apostles for us, is the gospel that focuses the most attention on outcasts. It is in Luke that we read the story of the Good Samaritan (the Jews distaste for Samaria dates back to the Old Testament times) and the wonderful tale of the Prodigal Son. In Acts, we see the expansion of the apostles' mission to take the good news to more people considered "other" (Gentiles, eunuchs) and the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus. Luke is the evangelist that emphasizes Jesus, man of love, as opposed to my rebel Jesus in Mark's gospel, for example. We see his youthful days in the Temple, and we get a fuller picture of his mother, Mary, the teen-aged girl who responded to an angel's news of her pregnancy with song:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
--The Song of Mary (Magnificat), BCP pg.119
Happy St. Luke Day!
Friday, October 16, 2009
This weekend in Washington, DC, "The Weimar House", the mock horror film that I wrote and produced will be showing at the LGBT film festival on Saturday at 3pm. To say that I'm thrilled is a major understatement: I'm ecstatic, and just very sorry that I can't be there. It will also be showing in Pittsburgh, PA in about a week at their film festival. This video short pokes fun at the insanity behind the same-sex marriage debate, particularly the assertion that somehow allowing couples of the same gender to wed will "stain" straight marriages, and somehow disrupt gravity or something. Some audiences have seen the humor behind the commentary; others have not. And that's art for you.
And it leads me to thinking about one of the readings from this week's Daily Office. The very famous passage from 1 Corinthians:
"Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not envious, boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease. As for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put away childish ways. For now, we see through a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part, then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now, faith, hope, love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." --1 Corinthians 13: 4-13.
Anyone who has ever been to a wedding, no doubt, has heard this passage read. And I suppose the purpose is to sing the praises of love and the adult act of getting married and isn't love a many splendored thing. It is. And so is God.
See, when I read this passage from Paul, I began to substitute "God" wherever it says "Love". Try it out: "God" is patient, "God" is kind. "God" is not envious, boastful or arrogant or rude. These, in my experience, all seem true. And so I think that's what is at play here. I don't think this is about the butterflies in the stomach, the sweaty palms, the tingly all over sensation of being romantically all googly-eyed in love with your beloved. It's about recognizing there is love, and this love is so deep, so vast, so wide that it is available to one and all... whether you have a partner or not! No fancy white gowns and snazzy tuxes necessary. This love sweeps the one who is the most lonely off their feet in a tender embrace of "You matter to me!"
And that is extended to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. We are part of that embrace. We are included in that group that currently only sees in part, but will know this love fully, even as it has fully known us. I can only imagine how it would be to attend an LGBT wedding with this reading!
The wedding in The Weimar House is fictional. The women playing the lesbian couple were actresses. But the basic premise of the storyline is true to life. It is one where love conquers hate. And where there is love, faith and hope also abide. I have faith and hope that one day, such weddings will not be fictional in the state of Florida.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I know there are some who believe such demonstrations as this are futile. Rep. Frank, a veteran gay Congressman, makes the point that nobody cares about us rallying and stomping our feet on the Mall in Washington, DC. He says it would be better to have had this march at a time when Congress will be in town instead of over the Columbus Day holiday weekend, so folks could lobby their Representatives and Senators. I get it, but I also get why we're demonstrating.
We're fed up! And we're tired of waiting for action.
President Obama, in a speech this evening to the Human Rights Campaign, touched on the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, the backwards policy of silence in the military, which has not curbed the expulsion of gay service members. And while the President says we shouldn't be expelling "patriotic Americans serving this country", his administration has not made the move to strike the policy. Obama remains opposed to same-sex marriage, but says he wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. And then his justice department defends the ban on same-sex marriage by issuing a highly-inflammatory legal brief which characterizes my relationship as being akin to incest. He talks of his appointment of gay and lesbian people to various posts in his administration, and the federal hate crimes bill as proof that he cares. And those are good. But given that marriage is the ballot issue-du-jour in so many places, it is a mixed message to have a President say he opposes same-sex marriage, but wants to repeal DOMA.
Such wishy-washy political speech is as helpful as the ongoing shenanigans within the Anglican Communion about the proposed "Anglican Covenant". The Archbishop of Canterbury, who recognizes the problems of homophobia in parts of the Communion, nonetheless is pushing a plan that is designed to punish those members of the Communion who are embracing the LGBT faithful. He continues to refer to my orientation as a "lifestyle" like I can slip on being a lesbian like it's a pair of Levi's. It's offensive, insulting, and ultimately makes any charitable language from the man sound like the empty smacking of lips. Fr. Mark Harris has posted a brilliant speech made by Bishop Peter Selby about resisting the Anglican Covenant. You can link to it HERE. It's long, but worth the read!
When it comes to justice and equality for members of the human family, there is no middle ground. Not for people of color, not for women, and not for LGBT people.
It is time for this nation to establish justice in the gate for its LGBT citizens. And that takes the will of the people to pull their political and church leaders along.
Friday, October 9, 2009
He paused for a moment and then said, "Well.... who's to say Jesus Christ wasn't gay?!"
There were a few gasps in the assembled congregation, but then came the laughter. Because this was my dad's way of saying, "You are still my child. And I love you."
And now, we continue...
So, I met with her, and shared about the hymns in my head, the experience of hearing, "Show up!" and all kinds of other stuff. Towards the end of our discussion she asked me, “What do you need from me?” And I said, I didn’t need anything. Then I thought some more and said, “You know that part of Prayers of the People, Form II, where it says, 'I ask your prayers for those who seek God or a deeper knowledge of him. Pray that they may find and be found by him.' I think that’s what is happening. I can’t stop thinking about God.”
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
My dad had had a stroke earlier this decade, and then developed a Parkinson's-related illness that left his right side paralyzed and the muscles atrophied. After yet-another time of my mom not being able to move him from the bed to his wheelchair, the doctors advised it would be safer and better for my mom to have my dad enter an assisted living facility. Such care isn't cheap; so my parents moved temporarily here to Florida. And that's where we pick up the story:
When my dad died, I had to return to the Church for his funeral. Actually, two. We did one in NH, and then at the insistence of folks down here, we held a second funeral at St. John’s. I met with the associate rector, Mtr. Lee Shafer, to make the plans. We weren't sure if his funeral should be in the main sanctuary or in the chapel. So, she showed me both. And given that the chapel had a Corpus Christi looming over the altar, and most of my friends coming to this funeral were hostile to Christianity, we decided the more staid sanctuary would be best. As I stood with her near the pulpit, I told her about witnessing the execution, and my feeling that I could never be forgiven.
But, as we pick up the story, we'll find that this separation from a faith community would come at a cost:
Oct. 1996: I was assigned to witness an execution of an inmate at Florida State Prison. I didn’t think this was going to affect me, but it totally changed me. And the change didn't happen in the moment; it began on the drive home after the event… and the many, many years to come. I was depressed, and I felt that I had done something very wrong in being there. I told a friend one night when we were driving to New Orleans that I felt I could never be forgiven for having sat there and watched this sanitized act of barbarism. "How can I wipe this slate clean?" was the underlying question behind my journalistic passion for the subject. I became almost obsessed with reporting on the electric chair, the death penalty, the flaws in the judicial system, the legislature’s desire to speed things up which only helped to slow things down…etc. etc. All of this, coupled with increasingly stressful and unsupportive conditions in my work environment led me to finally leave journalism.
And all throughout this time, I had no faith community. True, I had exiled myself in the wrong-headed belief that being a lesbian and being a Christian were incompatible. But in that time, Evil had moved into the pulpit at St. John's in the form of a South Carolinian priest who took it upon himself to rail against gays and lesbians in the local media. And so the church that had at one time been "just right!" was now all-wrong and off-limits to the likes of me.
So, I found God elsewhere... Massage School.
This was a major transformation! I feared what was going to happen when I left Florida Public Radio. I literally woke up in the middle of the night, sweating, and thinking, “If I’m not Susan Gage of FPR, then who the hell am I?” My identity had become totally wrapped up in my work. With that stripped away, I was virtually naked. I was vulnerable. And, scared and insecure as I was, a part of me embraced this opportunity to go live on a goat farm, and listen to spacey new age music as I learned a new set of professional skills.
I spent a good portion of massage school just reclaiming who I am. And I discovered that the answer to the who I am could be found in my body, and in a willingness to allow myself to receive touch… and have another person lay their hands on me. Florida School of Massage has a labyrinth on the campus cut into the grass, and I would regularly go to it and do walking meditation, and allow this place to be where I could receive God. In this spot in nature, I was feeling a presence that I had once sensed standing at the edge of Profile Lake in New Hampshire's White Mountains of a force greater than myself. There were two statues at the opening of the labyrinth. I would allow my eyes to soften their gaze as I looked to these statues for inquiry about what each walks intention should be. And then I would step in, and journey slowly along this circular path to the center and back out.
In these moments in the labyrinth, I came to understand that I had been asleep for a very long time. The sleep state was necessary as a journalist because the overwhelming damage I was witnessing would have sent a fully awake person into shock and I would never have been able to live up to the expectations of "objectivity" that Americans place on journalists. But now, in this next phase, I was waking up and stretching out... and returning, in my own way, to God.
To God, but not to the Church.
Where do I go from here? That's the next installment....
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
"Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
Don't ask me why this helped to write this out, but it did. I s'pose in writing it, I was praying it, and thus getting grounded. So there it is. But it's a good one, isn't it?
At any rate, we are now entering a period of time where things in my life were dark. Perhaps some of this will feel familiar to your own life experiences; that's part of the sharing of the autobiography. At this point in the story, I am entering yet another world: I am leaving behind my friends in the Exeter Public School system to attend Governor Dummer Academy. The picture is of the entrance to the school. The Ingham Footbridge took students over the street to some the boy's dormitories. I was a Day Student (Thanks be to God!) so I didn't live on campus.
I definitely felt like a square peg that was being jammed into a round hole. And, since this was a New England prep school, there were plenty of teachers and administrators who made a point of reminding me that, unlike the other students, I had come from a public school background; hence I would never be as good as the other kids. Having skipped a grade came back to haunt me because I hadn’t gotten a good grounding in fractions. And my eighth grade math teacher had been a rotation of three different people; hence we learned nothing that year. So, I got to this prep school totally unprepared for Algebra… and it showed.
And, by this point, I was also realizing that this whole “boys” and “girls” thing wasn’t working for me… because I wasn’t attracted to “boys”. I liked boys. I wanted to have boys as friends. But when it came to something like going to the prom… I was more interested in dancing with Annie more than Andy.
The school was very small. And even though I wasn’t out or acting on my feelings, other kids picked up on the fact that I was “different” and they made my life hell. They threw things at me, tried to trip me coming out of classes, etc. There had been some other events in my life (multiple deaths) that had also been upsetting, and all of it was pushing me toward suicide as the only solution.
Then came Epiphany, 1984. I had a choice: I was either going to leave my religion class and walk to the foot bridge on campus over Elm Street and jump. Or I was going to keep the promise that I had made to the school chaplain and, if I felt suicidal, seek her out first. The bell rang, and my body became heavy and rigid, and I couldn’t move. And I asked this chaplain, “Talk me out of suicide.” I don’t really remember what all happened next, except that I was there, in her classroom, for almost the entire next period as she kept talking to me. Later on, I would realize that if I had ever had an encounter with angels, this was probably it. I have a visualization of four Archangels grabbing my ankles, sitting in my lap, doing everything to keep me from leaving that room.
This was a new turn in my relationship with God.
College: I went to the University of Missouri-Columbia, majored in broadcast journalism, and actually PREFERRED radio journalism to TV. I also kept attending church, and found the one Episcopal Church, Calvary Episcopal, was only a couple blocks north of the J-School. This also is when I finally came out to myself as a lesbian, but I didn’t seek out anyone for a relationship. Instead, I just quit trying to force myself to be straight when it really wasn’t working for me… or the guys I dated.
When I moved to Tallahassee to take a reporting job at WFSU, I went on a Goldilocks tour of Episcopal Churches… which was a first for me, as I never had lived in a place with multiple choices for Episcopalians! I was feeling pretty fed up and depressed by it all, and then came to St. John’s. This was 1991. And it was great! It had all this pomp and circumstance, a female associate rector, and every week, we prayed for people living with AIDS.
But I fell in love, and discovered that in the world of lesbians living in Tallahassee, you do NOT attend church! And in my new “chosen” family, as we call it, if you believed in God, you were some horrifying bigoted brainless fool. So, I stopped going to church, except for certain occasions and even then that was sporadic. I was having to adapt… and finding that my identity as a lesbian was incompatible with identity as a Christian.
More to come from the Desert. Stay tuned!
Monday, October 5, 2009
After I skipped a grade, I was really messed up emotionally. It’s one thing to move to a new town and start over; I was in the same school, and everybody knew that I was that kid who skipped Fourth grade. The kids who’d been my friends in Third Grade didn’t want to be around me any more, and looked at me like I was a freak. And this new group of kids in the Fifth grade were at a point in their development where boys and girls didn’t play together, but were starting to see each other as “boys” and “girls”. That’s not where I was at, and I didn’t understand the new socialization at all. I wanted to hang with the boys, but they shunned me. So, I fell in with a clique of girls who were mean, and it didn’t take long before they turned on me… and suddenly I was very, very alone. I was a stranger, even though this was the same school that I had been in already.
My best friends growing up were my neighbors, Gwen and Earl. They were also “in-between” people in my town because their parents were a mixed race marriage. Whites viewed them as black; blacks viewed them as whites. I learned to view them, and their parents, as friends. Knowing their father did much to teach me not to fear blacks. As a small child, blacks scared me because I didn't understand how a person could be that dark. Then, this family moved in next door, and my friends' dad was the coolest person I had ever met, and very friendly. And it was through that relationship that I learned to see the person beyond the exterior features.
I'm not sure why this year's SA has been so particularly difficult. I do think it's fitting that on the second anniversary of my father's death, I'm due to present my SA in my class. It was his death that really pushed my life in a new direction, one which has put me firmly back inside the Church after years and years of running away from it, and cursing the Church here in Tallahassee with their eagle-imagery that made St. John's look like it was the Reichstag or something. And given the level of homophobia and intolerance coming from the pulpit at that time, well....
OK. Enough avoidance. I have to get this thing finished. And perhaps, once I do, I will post it in sections here. We'll see. Stay tuned!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
The blessing ceremony comes on, or around, October 4th to commemorate St. Francis of Assisi, a patron saint of animal lovers. Animals have always played an important role... even in Biblical stories... in the lives of humans. Think of the ark and the instructions to Noah to take representative animals with him. Or the ravens bringing bread to Elijah to sustain him. Or the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem in his steps towards crucifixion.
I see the importance of blessing our pets as the reminder to us that we are all part of the great plan of God called "Creation". And these creatures, who give us companionship and unconditional love, are not only our pets and friends, but the love they give to us is a tangible example of the love that is always there for us. I've heard people say that animals don't have souls, but I don't believe that. I have looked into the eyes of so many dogs and cats in my lifetime, and each one of them has had a special something shining out through those eyes, which Shakespeare described as the window to our souls. Even if they can't speak, animals know how to communicate with us. And I can say that on days when I have felt the world was beating me up, the presence of an animal has done wonders to comfort me and make me realize that I'm still OK, at least in their opinion, even if everyone else is treating me poorly.
And so, to all the animals, and their human companions, may the Lord bless and keep you always and for ever more. Amen.
Friday, October 2, 2009
The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision!
Case in point: This Sunday's gospel reading from Mark 10, which spells out what Jesus has to say about that little thing called "divorce." Oddly, Jesus talks about divorce in all three synoptic gospels. But, by golly: I don't see the self-righteous creeps who crack on queers all the time getting ugly toward people who are divorced. And there's whole lot of divorced and remarried people in this country and they obviously missed a key teaching from Jesus' ministry. C'mon, James Dobson: get on the radio and tell all the divorced Christians who've remarried that they've committed adultery and must repent! Better yet: let's raise money for campaigns to constitutionally bar divorced people from re-marrying, so they aren't tempted into sin.
Hyperbole aside, I know that the passage from Mark 10 on divorce is not going to be easy for vast numbers of people to hear. Jesus doesn't mince words:
He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."--Mark 10: 11-12
But, as with everything in the Bible, there are the words on the page... and then there's more to those words than meets the eye. This is the culture of the First Century... a society where women were property, honor was everything and the Jews to whom Jesus is speaking lived under the thumb and amidst the Roman Empire. According to the Jewish scholar Josephus, Jewish women were not supposed to divorce; however they could under Roman law. And this whole discussion begins with the Pharisees wanting Jesus to explain why Moses told them "a man" could write a certificate of dismissal and divorce his wife. Jesus throws it back at them:
"Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you." Mark 10:5
And he goes on to re-tell a portion of the Adam and Eve story from Genesis about God having made one for the other... and we get the phrase from our Episcopal wedding service, "Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder." Point being that marriage isn't something for a man to do and then when it doesn't suit him, just write out a certificate and say "see ya, baby!" Matthew's gospel gives an out-clause for the woman's "chastity" if that should come into question. Luke doesn't dwell on the subject more than a verse.
Today, we don't think it's wrong for men and women to remarry after a divorce (unless it's our ex, and then that triggers all kinds of stuff.) But I think what folks should focus on more here in the gospel is not so much the divorce point as the point that if you're going to get married, it's no small whim, and it shouldn't be treated as a lightweight commitment. If you're going to say those vows, you better be willing to do what it takes to live up to them. Otherwise, don't bother.
This is a particularly stingy subject for me, and thousands of other people like me, who are not even allowed to seek a marriage license from the state because we're queer. Some of us have been in relationships for years... far surpassing some of the marriages of our straight friends... and yet we are not seen as worthy of making such a supposedly life-long commitment as marriage. So, I guess I can tune out of this Gospel reading, eh?
No, I can't. Because it finishes with that good stuff about laying his hands on children and blessing them. That's another entry. Stay tuned!