Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Risks of Fruitcaking (Luke 1:39-45)

What do we who share the common lot of the LGBTQ+ umbrella have to learn from this encounter? Nothing? Everything?  

In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped insider her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry:
          "You are most blessed of women,
           and your child will be blessed!
How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!"
                                                                                                                              Luke 1:39-45 (HCSB)

Annunciation by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin

Why did Mary seek out Elizabeth? Was the unplanned teen pregnancy too much for the parents and this teenager? Was this their hastily arranged plan for getting Mary out of the village before whispers started?

It is a risky thing to be in conversation with our elders. Their wisdom is polished by experience and hardened by lived truth. The younger might learn something about life they have not understood. The younger might learn some truth about themselves they prefer to turn a blind eye to. Elders rarely have time to play the game of pretense that the younger invest so much energy in. Once the pretense is up, there is but the cold hard steel of reality: “You are an unwed pregnant teen Mary. You have brought shame upon your family, upon your affianced, upon your God.” 

Yes, it is a risky thing to be in conversation with our elders. I can hear the elderly Elizabeth asking, “Why did you come Mary? Did you think that just because we are both pregnant that you are welcome here? My pregnancy is a noble one, born out of a closed womb now open like Sarah, Rachael, and Hannah - the great mothers of our faith.” This is the right of the elders to understand the deep connections of action and reaction to the history of their people. The elders understand they are not the first, nor will they be the last, to face a particular situation and lessons learned can be lessons taught.

Mary is at risk. In her naivety did she not understand the consequences if this encounter had gone wrong? It is one thing to be spurned by those outside our circumstances, it is another thing altogether to be spurned by those with whom we share a common lot. What if Elizabeth was jealous? What if Elizabeth did not want a detractor to her long awaited maternal joy? How easily she could turn Mary out to the street, another wayward teenager with poor impulse control.

Elizabeth was at risk too. As an elder she knew well the consequences of meeting with the young. The young, not yet made cynical, have a way of questioning the foundations elders have built their understandings upon. Mary could easily come and scoff at a woman who yearned toward one late-life pregnancy, while Mary’s own conception seemed readily easy in comparison. Mary could laugh at ancient tradition far removed from pressing contemporary issues. 

Yes, there is risk in this meeting. Far more than the text can acknowledge. The old and the young grappling with their common lot. The scene could fly apart, except that it doesn’t. Doors could be slammed, except they aren’t. Tears of anger could be spilled, except they don’t flow.

Mary is warmly greeted. Recognized for who she is.  Celebrated for what she has done. That is the deep wisdom of the elder Elizabeth. Mary is not repeating the history of her tradition, she is opening up new horizons with new possibilities. That is the true gift of the young. 

What do we - who share the common lot of the LGBTQ+ umbrella - have to learn from this encounter? Nothing? Everything?  

Monday, December 5, 2016

Break Down the Barrier (Galatians 6:2)

"Break down the barrier which stops us from reaching out and taking upon ourselves the need of others."

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 (English Standard Version)

Sometimes I need a story to flesh out teaching nuggets such as this. Here is my attempt to illustrate this summation of Paul's ethics.

Once upon a time a boy and his mother lived deep in the woods. The mother had chosen this place to raise son away from the influence of other folks. Goodwill could not yet be found among the people, who spent their days fighting and taking from one another. 

As happens, the boy grew and one day told his mother that since he was as good as a man he would set off and seek his fortune in life. As sorrowful as his mother was, she knew she could dissuade her son not yet a man from his choice. In her wisdom she made a blanket for him to take. At least at night he would be warm and protected from the cold nights.

After wishing his mother well, the son left the cabin deep in the woods. He sought his way in the world.

On the first day of his journey, since the people did not know goodwill, he was set upon by bandits that demanded his money. That night the boy not yet a man lay dismayed under his mother's blanket, yet warm and protected from the night.

On the second day of his journey he was befriended by swindlers who took his coat, his shoes, and his food. That night he laid hungry huddled under his blanket agains the cold night.

On the third day - barefoot, thinly clad, and hungry - the boy not yet a man continued his journey. He hadn't walked far when he came upon a solitary girl standing beside the road. Stringy hair. Smeared face. Tattered dress. Shivering against the cool of the morning air.

The boy asked if her parents lived nearby. The girls shook her head no.

The boy asked if her parents were in the woods gathering food. The girls shook her head no.

The boy asked if her parents were alive. Again, the girl shook her head no.

The girl saying nothing, just stood in the cold morning with chattering teeth.

Moved by concern, the boy puled off his mother's blanket and wrapped it around the girl. Now it was his turn to shiver in the cool morning air, standing there not really knowing what else to do. 

Warming up the girl finally spoke. "Do you know who I am?"


"I am compassion. I have played along this road for many years. Each day rich travelers, and bright travelers, and important travelers with important places to be cross my path. But none of them ever stopped. How is it that you, a boy not yet a man recognized me and stopped?"

The boy answered, "I do not know about seeing compassion. All I saw was a lonely girl shivering in the cold morning." And that is how goodwill was nurtured into the world of people. 

Goodwill encourages us to do our part, even when we feel we don't have much to offer. Bear one another burdens, Paul tells us. Break down the barrier which stops us from reaching out and taking upon ourselves the need of others. This may be the special role les-bi-gay-trans-queer-inter-asexual people have in society since we know the pain of being overlooked and dismissed. 

Bear one another burdens. Break down the barrier. Nurture goodwill.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Holla At Ya Boy (Isaiah 6:1-8)

 Like Hellen Keller making her way through the world of darkness, yet "seeing," as the curtains falls I shuffle across the stage with the Mute, yet listening. 

    In the year of the death of Uzziah, ruler of Judah, I saw Adonai seated on a high and lofty judgement seat, in a robe whose train filled the temple. Seraphs were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet (or genitals), with two they flew.
     They would cry out to one another, "Holy! Holy! Holy is Adonai Omnipotent! All the earth is filled with God's glory!" The doorposts and thresholds quaked at the sound of their shouting, and the Temple kept filling with smoke.
     Then I said, "Woe is m, I am doomed! I have unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips! And my eye have seen the Ruler, Adonai Omnipotent!"
     Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding an ember which it had taken with tongs from the altar. The seraph touched my mouth with the ember. "See," it said, "now that this has touched your lips, your corruption is removed, and your sin is pardoned."
     Then I heard the voice of the Holy One saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?"
     "Here I am," I said, "send me!"
Isaiah 6:1-8

Guatemalan Rainbow Stole

Recently I was asked to share my story about how I hear the voice of God. At first I was a bit concerned. I have never really heard God speak to me. At least not an audible voice that I can point to and say, "On this day thus said the Holy One to me." How I wish I was an Isaiah, but I am not. Half the time, I'm not even sure if I'm a gay man who happens to be a minister, or if I'm a minister who happens to be gay. I tend to leave that for others to figure out. It is their choice in how they wish to relate to me. 

But all is not lost. For I do have a story for how God talks to me. It is a tale in three acts and like Isaiah, I am happy to share it with you.

Act One stars the voice of authenticity. This voice came with the accruements of my faith - bible, worship, and discipleship. I call this the Orthodox voice, not because of theological purity, but because it is a deep resonating voice arising from some large chamber of credibility and trustworthiness. At times I hid from this voice, like Darth Vader it came to indicate my failures. At times this voice thrilled me, as One with such gravitas would call me by name and be concerned with the trivialities of my life. This voice retreated over the years, yet once in a while, when a moment of grace breaks open, there is an echo of the booming bass. At these times I rest in the fullness of my faith tradition.

Act One anticipates the role of faith in shaping a young life. As the curtain closes, a youthful me stands like Charlton Heston's Moses before a thunderous voice.

Act Two opens upon a restless soul as I seek to navigate my faith journey as a gay person within the Christian tradition. In this restlessness comes the voiceless voice. Like an old friend standing behind us and we sense their presence, so the Mute gets my attention, silently relying on me to take notice. There is a curious "hmm," or "umm" which lingers and is not easily shaken off. These little nudges plant themselves like seeds and send their sprouts into my awareness. Because I am not always conscious of the Mute, the Mute can be easily dismissed. I use friends, colleagues, and mentors to confirm I've heard correctly. When I do listen, oh, the great and wonderful paths that open up. Ironic that it is the Mute who proves most directive in my life. 

Act Two wrestles with the tension of silence and listening. Like Hellen Keller making her way through the world of darkness, yet "seeing," as the curtains falls I shuffle across the stage with the Mute, yet listening. 

At one point, that was it. A two act play easily divided between childhood and adulthood.

But the voice of God came anew. This time it is feminine and appears in a white lab coat. She speaks from the wonders of cosmology, evolution, and the natural sciences. She tripped out over the writings of Karl Rahner and John Haught, much to my surprise. This prim, bun on the back of head, task oriented scientist quickly let me know that evolution is the language of God. God's syntax is there in the whole sweep of deep time, of chance and risk, of struggle and dead ends, of diversity and thickening of consciousness. When I set with the scientist she probes the nature of Divine Being, as one probes the personality of artists based on their art. She shakes my thinking. 

Act Three indicates my search for knowledge of God outside of faith traditions. The end of the third act finds me like an awe-struck student sitting at the wise professor's feet, in wonder of her wisdom and intuition. The scientists not only speaks of God, she speaks from God for she is Sophia, the wisdom of God. 

This concludes my three act play of Orthodox, Mute, and Sophia. Now it's your time. Come up on stage. What acts do you add to the voice of God?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Great Green Gobs of Ugg (Psalm 34:4-8)

Taste and see how good God is - even as a naked bear served by a transgender Christ. 

I sought Our God, who answered me
   and freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to Our God are radiant,
   and their faces are never covered with shame.
The poor called out; Our God heard
   and saved them from all their troubles.
The angel of Our God encamps around those
   who revere God, and rescues them.
Taste and see how good God is!
   Happiness comes to those who take refuge in Our god.

Many a les-bi-gay-trans-queer-plus person has been turned off by the church and for good reasons - rejection and hate. While we realize that God is not synonymous with the church or synagogue or mosque or elm grove it is often hard to separate the place of sacredness from the sacred object of veneration. When this happens, when we confuse the less for the greater we often have to find our way back to discover the Holy as for the first time. 
The best I can describe the tenacity and courage for this journey is to relay an experience from a number of years ago. 
I was hungry. Not one of those end of the day, peckish, longing for a snack to tide me over yearnings. My belly was crying out as it’s own Oliver Twist, “More please!” But there hadn’t been any firsts to offer a second of. My naivetĂ© of distance, conspiring with my penchant to slip by breakfast, forced me to play the role of the unmoved authorities to Oliver's and the boys pleading.
Now seated in the dinning car of the overnight train to Nairobi, I was ready to give attention to my personal Oliver and grant it the much needed "more." The serving staff brought out the first course. I recoiled in fear and dismay - asparagus soup. Like a kid finding underwear under the tree at Christmas, I felt the universe had betrayed me.
Asparagus, that pretentious weed, floating in a questionable pond of cream. Is there, in all this wide world, a more cruel use of dairy than as soup stock? What poorly resourced cook was so desperate as to heat up milk, throw in the devil’s creeper and proclaim it “good?" As if God could ever bless this unholy mixture. 
But I was hungry. My hollow stomach looked at the bowl as an sign of hope and comfort and wellbeing. My mind though, lit up like a blazing neon sign, “WARNING! WARNING! Great green gobs of ugg are in that bowl.”
But I was hungry. The single need of my gut was to get filled, green gobs of ugg, notwithstanding. 
I stirred the soup, watching the tiny green boats ride out the swells. Not fully committing myself to relieve the maddening hunger, I tentatively picked up half a spoon of the swill. I hesitated, for my tastebuds, those tiny bumps wise in knowledge of culinary good and evil, tried to crawl out of my mouth. Oh, how I loathed asparagus soup. 
But I was hungry and the badgering, harassing, provoking need to eat took over. I sipped from the spoon. Not a lot, just enough to quickly swallow before gagging. 
What was this taste? What beauty of flavor in happy marriage of cream and herbaceous plant. What joy of delicate spices which washed over and baptized my tastebuds bringing them abundant life. It was pleasure and peace of mind and contentment all rolled together.
Taste and see how good God is - even as a naked bear served by a transgender Christ. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Drag Queen Ranting (Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4)

God can be such a queen!
  The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received in a vision.
"How long, Our God, am I to cry for help while you do not listen?
     How long will I cry  'Oppression!' in your ear and you do not save?
Why do you make me look upon injustice?
     Why do yo countenance tyranny?
Outrage and violence - this is all I see!
     All is contention, and discord flourishes.
The law loses its hold, and justice never shows itself.
     The corrupt triumph over these who are righteous, and justice is perverted once again."
     Our God replied, 
"Write down this vision,
     inscribe it legibly on tablets so that a herald can read it,
since this vision will stand as a witness to the appointed time of judgement;
     it gives a faithful testimony, about a time that will come.
It it is slow in coming, wait for it -
     for come it will, without fail."

Look - those who hearts are corrupt will faint with exhaustion,
     while those who steadfastly uphold justice (alternatively, "faith") will live.
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

I yelled at God today. 

I was tired and feeling a bit put out. Nothing new that I haven't already ranted about. A Facebook post. You know, one of those going on about the queers being the cause of the decline in U.S. prestige. I don't know why it got under my skin, but it did.

So I yelled. 

It was a brilliant rant about all the real reasons the world is going to hell in a hand basket: oppression, injustice, tyranny, violence, discord, perversion of the right. I pulled the list straight from Habakkuk. It seems not much has changed since the early 600s B.C.E. I threw that in too, just to mess with God's head.

I'm a classically trained minister. I know all the arguments. So I let God have it. Someone had to. In you face God! 

Mic drop.

Then God talked back. Now, I'm not saying I heard an audible voice. God has never talked to me in such a way. No, it was more of a nagging feeling, more of a fleeting thought that didn't quite fly off. Even in this mode of communication God can be blunt, for God really is not one for subtleties and innuendos.

"Look at the drag queen, he/she lives in the fluidity of gender identity among many who abhor any notion beyond binary gender categories. Beat on, leered at, and laughed at as stereotypes of human audacity, the drag queen lives on, faithful to who she/he is and does what is right. And in doing what is right, finds life."

God can be such a queen!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I hate life (Genesis 3:8-11)

I hate this walk. I hate life. And here She comes.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, "Where are you?"

And he said, "I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid."

Genesis 8-11 (HCSB)

Today I walked with God through the forest. I wore my rainbow shoes. Queer pride on display. Queer pride taking me forward.

I didn't get far and soon realized my mistake: my old nemesis - mud. It is found in society as that deep sucking, sinking-past-your-ankle, stealing-your-shoes mud of fear and anxiety. How often did it send me home barefooted to my angry mother?

"Where are your shoes, boy?!"

Sure enough - gluck, gluck, gluck - my queer pride was snatched away. Fearfully, I raised my naked feet.

"Shit!" I shouted. Forgetting I was on a walk with God my Mother. 

Great - lost shoes, lost pride, and now my loose tongue will get my mouth washed out.

I hate this walk. 

I hate life at this moment.

And here She comes. 

Failing this thing called "faith," I start stammering out the ten commandments. Can't remember but three of them. So I start to quote the Beatitudes? Crap, who is among the blessed? Certainly not me. 

She's here. Stinky rainbow shoes muddying her hands. In Her eyes - laughter.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Taming God (Exodus 3:13-14)

In the context of the issue of devotional captivity, God declares freedom to express the Divine Self as God chooses, leaving us with a sense of non-conforming. Which, once you think about it, is a transgressive act against any thought of capturing the Divine Essence. 
     Then Moses asked God, "If I go to the Israelites and say to them: The God of your fathers (and mothers) has sent me to you, and they ask me, 'What is His name?' what should I tell them?"
     God replied to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you." 
Exodus 3:13-14

Can God be snared by our devotions? 

Can God be trapped by our ideology, wrapped up as it is in spiritual garb?

Can God be worshipped only when we have tamed the wild lion and ensured divine acquiescence to our agenda?

Can God be bought with our praise and turned into an idol of devotion without fear of any demands in return?

If God must be snared, trapped, tamed, and bought what does this say about us?

Zenil's painting Ofrenda ("offering in English) confuses me. I am drawn to the intimacy of the composition with our ability to touch and love on Jesus. However is this a willing Jesus? Is he adored because he is a captive? Is he adored because he too has been marginalized and chained up? What exactly is the nature of this relationship? 

Zenil is a gay Mexican artist known for tweaking the religious iconography of Mexican culture to speak to the disenfranchisement of queer men in a macho society. Zenil writes, "I have always felt marginalized in my life and have experienced a great sense of solitude. In my art I've tried to effect a communication between members of society and myself."

I take great comfort in the idea that Christ has been marginalized as sexual and gender minorities have been marginalized. Still I wonder, do I only worship God because the divine too is marginalized? Is my intimate devotion based upon the notion that She (or He) is one of us? If this is true has God not become ensnared in my devotion - the eternally marginalized and hated? Is God destined by my devotion to the Ostracized Divine to spend eternity in ropes and chains?

The same can be said of those whose worship of God is tethered to heteronormative ideologies and leanings. These folks would see Zenil's work as blasphemy and declare any talk of an "Ostracized Divine" as heresy. 

In the context of the issue of devotional captivity, God declares freedom to express the Divine Self as God chooses, leaving us with a sense of non-conforming. Which, once you think about it, is a transgressive act against any thought of capturing the Divine Essence. 

This transgressive act of Holy Freedom resists "institutionalized systems of morality and social respectability," according to the pseudonymous writer Profane Joy, "opening pathways that had been blocked, and doing so in order to establish new territories of critical devotion for non-normative desires and bodies."

I am humbled in the realization that God is not trapped within the yearnings and needs of my queer devotion. For my devotion can also shutdown and block new territories for those who need non-normative pathways to the Divine.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Unlovable Divine (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23)

In this primal divine scream God becomes the unforgiveable, God becomes the unlovable, God becomes the unacceptable.      

     "Completely illusory!" says Qoheleth
     "Completely illusory! Everything is just an illusion!"

     I, Qoheleth, was a ruler of Israel in Jerusalem. I saw it was my duty - aided by Wisdom - to determine all that is accomplished under the sun. What a heavy task God has laid upon us! So now I've see all the works that have been down under the sun, and let me tell you: Everything is an illusion, like chasing the wind.

     I have come to abhor all my labor under the sun, the fruits of which I now must pass on to my successor. Will this person be wise or foolish? Regardless, my successor will be in charge of all mighty things I created under the sun. This too is illusory. For I, a person who has worked wisely, skillfully, and successfully, must leave it to someone who has not so much as lifted a finger - more illusion, another miscarriage of justice. Why do I gain from all my sweat and struggle under the sun? What about the daily struggles, the strain of official duties, the anxiety in the dead of night? This too is illusory.
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23

Welcome to the world of Ecclesiastes whose author, Qoheleth, gets the award for the most depressing biblical book. Nonetheless though, her insights into the human predicament are keen and stands out in scriptures for her bravery to fix our gaze on the absurdities of life. I keep saying her, for the word Qoheleth, often translated as "the Preacher," is a feminine noun. I take that to mean we are hearing a female voice.

The insights of Qoheleth can be summed up in two words: LIFE SUCKS.

For Qoheleth there is a tediousness to daily living. In face of the onslaught of recalcitrant and intractable powers Qoheleth feels she is existing on the edge of absurdity. Life is a predator dealing out indiscriminate and undeserved sorrow. All life sucks. And according to Qoheleth the reason it sucks is because we carry around in our heads pictures of what life should be like - nostalgic and romantic illusions that, in the end, have nothing to do with reality. 

Partnerships and families that don’t stack up to the illusion in our heads. Work situations that don’t match the picture in our heads. Friendships that don’t measure up to the yard stick in our heads. Health needs that bang against the life-maps in our heads. School settings that don’t live out the scenarios in our heads. Qoheleth says it is vanity to think that life should ever measure up, for life, once stripped of its illusions, sucks! 

This is often difficult for me as a progressive christian to understand. Where I would say the foundational reality of life is that we are children of God, Qoheleth argues that the foundational reality of life is that we are children of sorrow. From her point of view life is an experience to be endured. She tells us she made it her life goal to find out how things got accomplished but it was like chasing the wind. She tells us that she worked hard to leave a legacy for her family, yet the family has no appreciation for the wisdom and skill involved. Her hope that there would be gain from her sweat and struggle was misplaced, an illusion in her head.

Certainly sexual and gender transgressive people can understand Qoheleth's desperation. Porter's photograph from 1971 could be almost any city today some 45 years later. For all our protesting and all our "gains," society only tolerates us at best; hunts us down at worst. 

From a queer perspective we find God doesn’t offer us a way out, but rather God offers us companionship in the midst of life’s absurdities. Wrote the Methodist theologian, Paul Jones,  “As we scream over the way things are for us, so God screams over the way things are for God.” In this primal divine scream God becomes the unforgiveable, God becomes the unlovable, God becomes the unacceptable. 

Whatever it is that is the seldom-acknowledged “un” of our life, which our illusions help hide from us, that “un” God becomes. In becoming our “un” God also becomes a true participant in our sorrow. From a christian perspective we acknowledge that Christ stretches out upon the cross of the world’s absurdity with us and in this act of solidarity our lives are named as holy, sacred, worthy - even as we scream at the banality of it all.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Hate is Hate is Hate is Hate is Hate (Proverbs 10:12)

"This exercise to claim that I am more hated than you, is itself a product of disgust, revulsion, and blame." 

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.
                                                          Proverbs 10:12

It has been three weeks since the shootings in Orlando. For all our promises that, "We are Orlando," most of us have moved on. After all it was Pride Month and the victims would have wanted us to celebrate Juneteenth with even more vigor in their memory. The pundits have the bombing of the Istanbul airport and the hostages in Bangladesh to kick around. The unfortunate truth is that the Pulse Nightclub was just one more act of hate in a sea of hate. We were outraged for the moment and the moment passed.

In my last post I referenced a friend who invited me into conversation about sin. In the end he did reply - once. I guess his Orlando Vigil did the trick of relieving him of any association with the thought that his anti-gay preaching might have something to do with the rise of hate against queer people. Clearly, he wasn't going to enter a conversation that might remove the thin rusted tin of that facade. 

We're still seeking to figure out the motivation of the shooter. Was he homophobic? Did he seek to go out a notorious ISIS agent after his life had amounted to one failure after another? Was it revenge for being rejected in his own search for gay partners? It may take years to untangle the shooters' motive. Of course by then no one will really care. Which is a shame, I think there is much to learn here if we but have the courage to keep our gaze on the rage and carnage.

Hate, at least in US culture, is relational. We just don't hate in general (the French apparently have an expression which allow for unfocused hate). But in the US our hate is directed at someone or something. To hate assumes a relationship. A relationship in which we act aggressively toward another with destructive thoughts. The object of our hate brings disgust into our lives and we act on our revulsion and seek to remove from our lives the person we blame for the disgust. Of course in order to remove a person we must first see them as something less than human or at least less than worthy of our good will. This is the particular dynamic hate allows.

Which brings me to my point: hate is hate is hate is hate is hate! In situations such as the Orlando shootings there is a tendency toward ranking who is hated the most. Several posts of my Face Book feed took up the cry that the worst massacre in US history was not the Pulse Nightclub but rather Wounded Knee. Another thread compared the relative privilege of white queer people to the continuing vulnerability of African Americans. 

This exercise to claim that I am more hated than you, is itself a product of the system of disgust, revulsion, and blame. All such thinking does is to invite us to perpetuate the cycle of thoughts and emotions that hate feeds off of. Better is that we come to understand networks of thinking patterns and attitudes which allow for hate to flourish and capture all in their nets of "us versus them."

The proverb has it right, hate does stir up conflict to such a tumult of chaos and ugliness that we can even hate ourselves. Love, however, covers wrongs. That is love does not react to others with disgust but with empathy and compassion. Love refuses to dehumanize in order that I may justify my actions. Love allows me to understand that the better path in life is to welcome instead of exclude.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Queering Sin (Romans 3:23)

"Under no circumstance should the innocent sight of two men kissing in public be the trigger of so much hate and ill will."

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
                                                                  Romans 3:23

Sin is not a subject I spend much time writing about on this blog. Largely because it is a much misunderstood biblical concept. On the one extreme are those who see the fires of hell when this issues is spoken about. On the other extreme are those who cry out "sin like you mean it!" Those that see the act of breaking one taboo or another as a protest against the marginalization and disenfranchisement the taboo speaks too.

One of the problems of the concept of sin is who gets to define what sin is. Typically it is those in power and they define sin in such as way as to buttress their hold on power. Take for instance the "sin" of homosexuality. Clearly queerness is defined as a sin to buttress the power base of the heteronormative. Under no circumstance should the innocent sight of two men kissing in public be the trigger of so much hate and ill will. Yet it was, because a whole swath of conservative religious voices has declared it to be "sin!"

Interestingly what I found to be sinful was the number of these conservative voices calling for vigils and prayers for the victims of the shooting. As I rather nastily said to a Southern Baptist minister acquaintance, "If you can't honor us in life, keep your bullshit out of our funerals." Still he could not see the disconnect of preaching against homosexuality on Sunday and praying for our dead brothers and sisters on Monday. 

Personally, I do have a rather strong understanding of the manifestation of sin. Let me start with the insight of postmodern thinkers: we humans cannot transcend ourselves. We are enmeshed in our very creatureliness and cannot be something other. The bible enlarges this insight to denote that deep within the self is the will to dominate in order that I may survive. This dynamic is so great that just to be born is to participate in the will to dominate. We "do" in order to justify our existence. 

In the case of the Pulse Nightclub the "doing" was to seek to eradicate the sinner. Which demonstrates the final biblical insight into sin, that even when we think we are seeking God, we actually act out of self-preservation and seek to be God.

It is not my intention to be cliched and say the shooter was a sinner and if he had just been right with God, Orlando would never have happened. It is my intention to say that due to the sin of intolerance to the LGBTQIA community an attitude was birthed by which the shooter could justify his actions in the name of religion. The same sinful attitude allowed conservative religious folk, who speak against and joke at queer people, to see themselves as unstained by this incident. Although the blood of our queer martyrs flows across their hands as sure as if they pulled the trigger themselves. 

As I mentioned to my Southern Baptist minister friend, because we are all sinners, because we are all driven to live in self-delusion, because we humans cannot transcend ourselves, then we must entertain the notion that even our interpretations of the bible are laced with sin. That our interpretations tend to be more about our will to dominate rather than a true and earnest desire to connect to God.

My acquaintance has not replied, although he was the one who invited the conversation.  I'm not surprise for hypocrisy often stumbles when the facade of self-delusion is pulled away. 

As a religious person I am not stumped by sin. Good religions are those that indicate a way from the trap of self-delusion and the will to dominate. However, as a religious person I'm also very much aware that we all need to adopt a posture of confession, knowing that even at our best the drive to dominate will manifest itself: that what I think I'm doing for good, only turns out to be a delusional excuse for self-preservation and self-promotion.

May Eternity have mercy on our souls.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

In the Wake of Orlando (Matthew 23:27-28)

I am sorry, but one cannot pray for Orlando if one speaks against homosexuality, seeks to pray the gay away, refers someone to aversion therapy, opposes marriage equality, or otherwise uses one's office as a minster or civic leader to disparage the "gay lifestyle."

(Jesus said) Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness 
Matthew 23:27-28

It's been ten months since my last post. Taking a break as I've felt I've not had much to say. But the acts of a hate terrorist in the Pulse Nightclub has caused my voice to awaken. I have so many feelings watching the news and then the reactions to the event. If you happen to be a Face Book friend with me, you have seen my posts throughout this day. What I write here restates and explores what was posted there.

Strangely, I find myself not angry at the perpetrator of the horror. I thought I would be. I thought once a name was given and an inevitable picture of the shooter appeared I would burn with a deep brooding anger. The kind that smolders until touched by oxygen and then explodes. But that did not happen. Instead when I met the hater I could only feel pity for him. 

His name is Omar Mateen. My pity goes out because he is a product of heterosexist attitudes that continue to understand queer lives as "less then" and "less worthy." In reality he goes by many names, Susan, Mark, Shara, Donald. He inhabits many expressions of faith including Islam, Christian, and Jewish. He is average and nothing sets him apart, which is why he represents all the failure of hetero-patriarchy. I do pity those caught up in the entanglements and chains of the heteroarchy complex of homophobia and heterosexism. Great is the hate they must bear in order to validate their world. 

If anything I am frustrated with the heteronormativity which allows those who set the stage for this tragedy through attitudes and words to claim innocents of their part in the terror. There is a great temptation among such people to say, "The shooter doesn't represent us!" The sobering truth is that the shooter does represent everyone who has ever made a snide remark, sneered, told a joke, posted anti-queer memes, or remained silent as others did these things. 

My brother, who is ensnared in heteronormativity, stated, "No. He was an Islamist terrorist. No more no less." With this statement my brother does not have to hold himself accountable for the barbs, the shaming, the cold shoulder that exists between us. He is innocent for an "Islamist" killed and maimed. The heteroarchy complex is unstained and remains the untouched and unreflected upon abode of prejudice and hate. 

Also caught up in the entanglements of heteronormativity are clergy and politicians who have been strident in their anti-queer rhetoric and activities. The most recent being their tantrum over bathroom use. If anything has raised anger in me today it has been the hypocrisy of these folks to raise up "prayers for Orlando."

I am sorry, but one cannot pray for Orlando if one speaks against homosexuality, seeks to pray the gay away, refers people to aversion therapy, opposes marriage equality, or otherwise uses one's office as a minster or civic leader to disparage the "gay lifestyle." The attitudes behind these actions set the stage for the tragedy in Orlando, as surely as striking a match sets a fire. The only prayer these folks can lift up is "God forgive us, for we know not what we do." Otherwise these clergy and politicians run the risk of becoming what Jesus describes as whitewashed tombs - pretty on the outside, harboring death and decay on the inside.

For those who went to enjoy a night out and a time to connect with like minded people,
For those who went in trepidation of exploring internal markers long denied,
For families suffering the news of lost loved ones and the lost chance to love their children fully,
God grant your merciful presence of love, comfort, and peace. Amen.