Intersex Discrimination: Right From the "Top"

The other day I was at a luncheon with the president of a college (not George Fox), speaking about his job and his focus for education in local communities.  He explained, "I believe in God, and that informs everything I'm about...."

That's not the sort of introduction I've come to feel optimistic about.

In discussing student demographics, he mentioned that "56% of the students are women... and," he chucked and said something like, "The other 44% aren't all men.  Some of them don't know what they are... I never quite figured that out!"  heh, heh, "Can someone explain to me how that works?" heh, heh.

Cue audience guffaws.

Really?  That's what we can expect from the president of a college of over 25,000 students?


It was not a safe space for pushback, but I wanted to ask, "Do you know that between 1 in 500 and 1 in 1,500 babies are born in America with ambiguous genitalia?  Do you really think it's appropriate to be joking with a bunch of strangers about your own student population?  About their genetics?  About their bodies?  About their identities?  Most of whom, you don't know personally?  Very classy."

But I didn't.  I stayed silent.  As most folks tend to do, to avoid rocking the boat.

Who Will Cast The First Stone?

The crowd is silent. 

Suddenly from the middle of the crowd a single rock is thrown, nailing the adulteress in the forehead. 

Jesus peers into the crowd to see who threw it, gets a pained expression on his face, and says, “Aw, c’mon, Mommm….” 

My Liberal Ignorance

In one of my classes recently, we got into some "tussles" through online discussion.  One class member wrote, "those espousing a more liberal view have been the first to take offense and push back with belittling personal comments instead of addressing the issue with a salient remark.  Quite disconcerting."  

Yes, that was directed at me (and a few others).  Yes, I pushed back, no - I certainly did not belittle (I did tell someone their physically violent rhetoric was inappropriate for the seminary, so maybe that was out of line...) But you know what?  I think I'm a pretty patient person.  And when kind people disagree with me, I think I have a lot of grace.   Hell, I interact with conservatives all day, every day, and I'm pretty darned gracious.  I am not easily offended - though I tend to take the stance of "offense" on behalf of others.  So maybe I'm just rarely personally offended. 

Anyway, many conservative pundits love to dutifully recite exactly what I used to in high school and undergrad: "you say you tolerate accept everyone, except anyone who doesn't think just like you."  

And frankly, it's bullshit.  It's a bullshit argument.  It's not "salient" to fake objectivity.  It's certainly not salient to assume you think you have any semblance of objectivity.  It's not salient to ignore the voices of marginalized people because you've decided they're wrong.  

Orthodoxy is not the wretched theological posture that people who are personally impacted by theological issues are not emotionally fit to offer their insights.

And it's not okay to be so certain of your own beliefs that you refuse to be open - that you refuse to listen.  We don't understand, now.  We are blind, ignorant children.  We are obsessed with self-preservation and personal comfort.  "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)  I hope then, when I see God face to face, that I don't get what I actually deserve.  I hope, for your sake, the same for you.

Imagine if the Tea Party was Black

This is one of the most cogent, convicting, tragic, articulate, succinct and prophetic statements on contemporary culture I've read in some time.


Imagine if the Tea Party was Black

by Tim Wise
Posted by Sara and Brian Brandsmeier

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who 
flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.

Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care.

Be Careful of Injured Creatures...

Have you ever been around a wounded animal?  It's awfully sad.  And perilous.  It doesn't matter - wild or domesticated - you can pity them, care for them, love them, tend to the wounds and try to help them heal... but while they're broken, they'll turn on you in a moment. The pain overpowers any other reasoning.  It's instinct.  Survival.  They can't understand your words.  They can't comprehend your motives.

It hurts, and they don't want to be touched.

There are a lot of hurting Christians in a similar place.  In a lot of cases, they're hurting because of the pre-packaged answers they've bought into.  But now those answers are all they really know: they're predictable, despite the pain.  And folks forget what it feels like not to hurt.

So when you try to help them, you have to be careful.  Get too close, and you'll get scratched or bit or worse.

I know it hurts, and I wish I could do more to help.


Yup.  A few hundred people got some stupid fake e-mail from fake-me today:

I think this is a nice website,I like it very much.If you have time please
browse it.Maybe you can find some products that are suitable for you.Their
priciple is :100% original and brand new,100% satisfied! Their address is <> and E-mail is
Have a good time!

I hope you didn't click there.  If you know me, you'll know I don't call things "nice" or say "I like it very much."  Good Lord.

The most embarrassing thing is I have saved e-mail addresses of a few famous-ish people like Brian McLaren and Leonard Sweet in my address book, so I'm getting auto responses: "Brian McLaren is traveling, and will return your message later..." Please don't return my message, Brian.  I feel so uncool.

Then there are sarcastic responses, cluttering my inbox to staggering degrees: "This IS a nice website!  I'm glad I had the time to browse it!   The products they had were the most suitable I've ever seen.  The best part about the site was the 100% Priciple!

Keep me in the loop on more websites!"

Thanks Pat.  Cute.

Emerging Synchroblog: "What is the Emerging Church?" week my friend Pam Hogeweide invited me to participate in a "synchroblog" event organized by Julie Clawson, around the question "What is the Emerging Church?"
There has been a lot of chatter around the interwebs lately regarding how the church emerging in this 21st century is a mostly white male phenomenon. On one hand, there is good reason for this discussion. Many of the bestselling authors and rockstar speakers still happen to be middle-class white guys with Evangelical roots, and it is easy to assume that the most visible players define the whole. Nothing against privileged white guys with big platforms, but most of us know that they are not the sum of (or the core of) what is stirring in the church these days...
...So on Monday April 19, I encourage you to post at your blog (or Facebook page) your thoughts about "What is Emerging in the Church." 
In some ways it seems funny to be asking that question at all at this point.  The Emerging Church conversation is hardly a new thing.  As I've said before, I'm often tempted to change the name of this blog, simply because it's so "un-hip" anymore.  But I digress...

Julie asks:

  • What is emerging in the church?
  • What good things are growing that we can celebrate? 
  • Who are the diverse voices that are now leading the church into the 21st century? 
Soul patches and faux-hawks...  That's the future...

Just kidding.
I think one of the most exciting realizations for me, six years into my participation with the Emerging Church, is that my fear of the EC being a slippery slope into liberalism was completely founded.  I have become a liberal.  And that was just about the scariest thing I could have pictured at the precipice, looking down into a chasm of deconstruction in 2004.  The reason that's exciting is that I am discovering, little by little, what vibrant faith looks and feels like on "the other side."  

I haven't turned into a deist, though I'm not scared of deism.  I haven't found atheism compelling, though I've had some great conversations with atheists.  And perhaps most amazing, I still love Jesus, and I still picture the same close, loving, intimate God when I close my eyes and pray - the same God I prayed to as a conservative Pentecostal!

But that's all so much about ME, and I already tend toward narcissism...  

My favorite aspect of the current direction in the EC (which is so plural, so disparate, so heterogeneous and so irreducible  to something so compact as "the Emerging Church") is we are finally seeing platforms developed for marginalized voices.

One of my best friends, Adele Sakler ( is not famous (yet) but neither is she a "fringe voice."  As a member of the LGBT community, she is also a participant in Emerging Church conversations, with a real audience.  The movement of EC helped create a landscape for that impact.

Then there are groups and symposiums like Convergence, that provide resources and training for women leaders.

Outlaw Preachers is another group that seeks to affirm and empower Christian voices from non-traditional and marginalized spheres, without fear of condemnation for unorthodoxy.  Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is a great example of the attitude a chutzpa therein.   

What the EC conversations have helped me to recognize is my own privilege (and inherent power) as a middle class, white, heterosexual male.  And my conviction is: the only thing Christians can do with power is share it and give it away.  I'm still trying to learn how to do that - failing quite miserable, to be sure.  But I think I have a better understanding of my calling in the Kingdom of God because of the EC: that is, not to inflate my own interests or even my own convictions, but to listen, to love, to share, empower, advocate and support!

Today, I believe in liberation.  I believe Jesus Christ wants to set captives free.  I believe that the most important role of the EC is to provide SAFE SPACE for new and emerging voices (particularly, marginalized voices) to be heard.  

This is not unlike Bishop Tutu's "truth telling" endeavors in post-apartheid South Africa:
Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The EC of today, and the future, will not be typified by the Emergent-boyz bunch (no offense to them, honestly) but by a paradigm of gray - a process-focused space for brave Christians to explore alternative ways of being, believing and serving without fear of being silenced, condemned or co-opted.

Why Do I Reject Love? How Could I? How Could You?

I'm reading Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain right now - VERY SLOWLY.  Along with ten other books (equally tedious in my pace, but all deserving of my serious commitment).

Anyway, I am across the following excerpt, and it took my breath away.  It made me think about the way I treated my little sister; about the kind of person I am, and have always been; about what love I have cultivated, and what love I have rejected.  For me, this text is heartbreaking and inspiring - I find myself choked up each time I re-read it:

    One thing I would say about my brother John Paul. My most vivid memories of him, in our childhood, all fill me with poignant compunction at the thought of my own pride and hard-heartedness, and his natural humility and love.
    I suppose it is usual for elder brothers, when they are still children, to feel themselves demeaned by the company of a brother four or five years younger, whom they regard as a baby and whom they tend to patronise and look down upon. So when Russ and I and Bill made huts in the woods out of boards and tar-paper which we collected around the foundations of the many cheap houses which the speculators were now putting up, as fast as they could, all over Douglaston, we severely prohibited John Paul and Russ's little brother Tommy and their friends from coming anywhere near us. And if they did try to come and get into our hut, or even to look at it, we would chase them away with stones.
    When I think now of that part of my childhood, the picture I get of my brother John Paul is this: standing in a field, about a hundred yards away from the clump of sumachs where we have built our hut, is this little perplexed five-year-old kid in short pants and a kind of a leather jacket, standing quite still, with his arms hanging down at his sides, and gazing in our direction, afraid to come any nearer on account of the stones, as insulted as he is saddened, and his eyes full of indignation and sorrow. And yet he does not go away. We shout at him to get out of there, to beat it, and go home, and wing a couple of more rocks in that direction, and he does not go away. We tell him to play in some other place. He does not move.
    And there he stands, not sobbing, not crying, but angry and unhappy and offended and tremendously sad. And yet he is fascinated by what we are doing, nailing shingles all over our new hut. And his tremendous desire to be with us and to do what we are doing will not permit him to go away. The law written in his nature says that he must be with his elder brother, and do what he is doing: and he cannot understand why this law of love is being so wildly and unjustly violated in his case.
    Many times it is like that. And in a sense, this terrible situation is the pattern and prototype of all sin: the deliberate and formal will to reject disinterested love for us for the purely arbitrary reason that we simply do not want it. We will to separate ourselves from that love. We reject it entirely and absolutely, and will not acknowledge it, simply because it does not please us to be loved.
(Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain p. 25-26)

A Picture is Worth a Thousand... um...

...this was not well thought out...

The words on the switch say: "Honor Thy Father and Mother"

The Advocate: Jennifer Knapp Comes Out

Yesterday an article came out in The Advocate, among several other magazines: an interview with long-time Christian artist (who's been on hiatus for the last 7 years) Jennifer Knapp.  Knapp recently came out, and is exploring what it means to write and perform Christian music as a lesbian.

An article on summarizes well:

In interviews with Christianity Today and, Knapp, 33, a Dove Award-winning folk rock singer, acknowledges that the rumors are true: she's in a same-sex relationship.
"I don't want to come off as somebody who's shirking the truth in my life," she tells Christianity Today.
Knapp says in the interview that she's "absolutely" felt pressure to choose between her faith and her gay feelings.
Everyone around me made it absolutely clear that this is not an option for me, to invest in this other person, and for me to choose to do so would be a denial of my faith.
Scripture, she adds, has been her salvation.
The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place -- between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the 'clobber verses' to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they're eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about.
I'm not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn't allow homosexuals within our church. There's a spirit that overrides that for me, and (that is) what I've been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.

In the Advocate interview, Knapp says she knows her coming out is "going to be shocking and feel like a betrayal to some people" who have been fans. Still, "I'm quite comfortable to live with parts of myself that don't make sense to you."

In 2008, another prominent Christian recording artist, Ray Bolz, came out.

I think it's really important that we (the Church) pay attention when these events take place.  Not because the cult of celebrity - Christian celebrity - needs more fuel.  But because these occurrences are opportunities for every conservative evangelical faith community to say, "hey, there's a serious, professing Christian who thinks differently about this issue..."

I don't expect theological attitudes to change overnight, but little by little, hearts can soften.  When that happens, people become open to relationships.  Relationships change everything!

On Holiness (yes, holiness)...

Holiness is the state of being holy or sacred. (Wikipedia)
Don't get scared.  I know that some of you read my blog because you know me, not because you're interested in Christianity.  And I'm completely fine with that.  I'm not interested in making converts here.  There's no other shoe that's about to drop.  But here's some of the stuff in my head: 

I've been thinking about the pursuit of holiness for a few days now.  Things in life keep coming up that make me think I don't have my shit together.  I used to be obsessed with this idea of holiness - certainly to an unhealthy degree.  Gotta be a "good Christian."  

I don't know what that looks like anymore.

But rather than explore what it looks like for me, now I have allowed my focus to rest on causes that put personal culpability elsewhere - then I can share responsibility from an ideological distance.  The things I believe in are changing - for the better, I think.  But I'm not becoming "holier" - not the kind of holiness that makes me a self-differentiating asshole who wants you to know it.  If I felt holy, I wouldn't tell you.  I certainly wouldn't be holy, then.  What I mean is, the fruits of the Spirit aren't manifest in my life more now than they were five or six years ago.  I'm spinning my wheels.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..." 
(Galatians 5:22-23)
Part of this is because I've made the typical liberal/mainline switch from personal to systemic, which gets me off the hook for dealing with a lot of my shit.
Look, I think my beliefs are truer now - headed in the right direction.  And in some ways, that makes me feel just a little bit better about myself (we've talked about liberal elitism before, and I've confessed to it).  And I'm a pretty nice guy 90% of the time.  Especially when I want you to think I'm a pretty nice guy.  But I want to be more like Jesus, and that sounds pretty jesusy - I know.  Shades of Bible-thumping!

No, I'm not going back to the sort of self-preserving, fear-mongering, angry, ethnocentric, sexist, homophobic, hell-scared guy I used to be (or at least used to think I needed to be, to be a good Christian).  

I'm a liberal.  An egalitarian.  I want to be your friend.  I want to share power.  Blah blah, you've read my bio.

But I also... I also want to be holy.  I want my life to tell more the just what I believe about.  I have to be more than progressive politics and sensitive social views.   I want my life to tell who I am, what's in my heart, and maybe a glimpse of what Jesus looks like.  

Richard Rohr: The Cosmic Christ

In today's daily meditation from Friar Rohr:

Jesus is the microcosm; Christ is the macrocosm.  There is a movement from Jesus to the Christ that you and I have to imitate and walk, as well.  A lot of us have so fallen in love with the historical Jesus that we worship him as such and stop there.  We never really followed the same journey which he made, which is the death and resurrection journey.  Jesus died and Christ arose.
Unless we make the same movement that Jesus did—from his one single life to his risen and transformed state, we probably don’t really understand what we mean by the Christ—and how we are part of the deal!  That is why he said "follow me.”  The Jesus that you and I participate in, are graced by, and redeemed by, is the RISEN Jesus whohas become the Christ, which is an inclusive statement about all of us and all of creation.

It's hard to grasp the difference (without de-emphasizing the unity) in character of the Cosmic Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.  One is bound by time and space, the other is transcendent and intimately knowable...

Good food for thought.  Thanks Fr. Rohr.

Brandon Said: "Let's Steer Away From Glenn Beck..." AMEN!

My friend Brandon recently commented:
I too take offense to Glenn Beck's words about social justice. Thanks to you and Marcy for speaking up and letting others know that social justice is integral to the gospel.  I also wonder how we can steer this conversation away from Glenn Beck now. Beck and his Beckites are not going to budge from their stance, so how do we use the conversation he started and now turn it around for good? The sooner we cut Beck out of the social justice conversation (unless he wants to engage in an actual conversation, then I would say he is welcome) the sooner we can help those who are on the fence about it realize that it has nothing to do with Nazis or Communists.
Good call Brandon.  We give Beck way too much power by making him the center of our rage.
Becky Garrison sent me a link to join a meme of Christians who support the biblical call to social justice.  Here's my contribution...

Another friend sent me a link to this video, which is a FABULOUS way of turning negative momentum and even hate against itself, for good - a great answer to the sorts of things we CAN do:

Lost: Imaginary Time!

Sorry, I admit - I'm a LOSTEE! And I was absolutely intrigued at the concept of "Imaginary Time" mentioned by Faraday last night.

Being relatively ignorant to science, I googled it and found that it's a genuine theoretical concept introduced (or at least popularized) by Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time. I read his The Theory of Everything years ago, but don't remember if the idea of imaginary time was discussed at all. It was over my head.

I found this fascinating information on Wikipedia:

Imaginary time is difficult to visualize. If we imagine "regular time" as a horizontal line running between "past" in one direction and "future" in the other, then imaginary time would run perpendicular to this line as the imaginary numbers run perpendicular to the real numbers in the complex plane. However, imaginary time is not imaginary in the sense that it is unreal or made-up — it simply runs in a direction different from the type of time we experience. In essence, imaginary time is a way of looking at the time dimension as if it were a dimension of space: you can move forward and backward along imaginary time, just like you can move right and left in space.

The concept is useful in cosmology because it can help smooth out gravitational singularities in models of the universe (see Hartle-Hawking state). Singularities pose a problem for physicists because these are areas where known physical laws do not apply. The Big Bang, for example, appears as a singularity in "regular time." But when visualized with imaginary time, the singularity is removed and the Big Bang functions like any other point in spacetime.
Is your mind blown yet?

One might think this means that imaginary numbers are just a mathematical game having nothing to do with the real world. From the viewpoint of positivist philosophy, however, one cannot determine what is real. All one can do is find which mathematical models describe the universe we live in. It turns out that a mathematical model involving imaginary time predicts not only effects we have already observed but also effects we have not been able to measure yet nevertheless believe in for other reasons. So what is real and what is imaginary? Is the distinction just in our minds?
- Stephen Hawking
I'm really going to cry when this series is finished.

New Friend Marcy: Solidarity in Faith, Hope & Love (Defying Hate)

I made a new friend online.  Marcy e-mailed me on Wednesday:

In 1964 when I was 15, our priest went to Selma to march for Civil Rights. The following Sunday, high off the experience in Selma, he preached a sermon on civil rights to our all-white parish. My father was a religious man who prayed the rosary daily. But that Sunday he stood up in the middle of the sermon and herded us out the door, muttering "dirty nigger-lover" on the way to the car. Amazed, I looked at my father and wondered, what God does he pray to?
 I've been on a fascinating, wondrous spiritual journey of discovery ever since. 
I, too, am horrified by the vicious hate rhetoric of Glenn Beck and his rabid followers. I've responded to Beck with a song, "I'm a Social Justice Christian" to the tune of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." I put my camera on a tripod, sat down and recorded the song, and posted it on YouTube.
I'd like you to check it out. This song is just a small start, but if Jim Wallace is going to be successful in getting a nationwide movement started, music will be an important part of it. I'll happily write songs for the movement.
But back to the issue that prompted me to write. In the few days that my song's been on YouTube, I've been receiving vile, stomach-turning hate mail from Beck fans. It's very disturbing.
Beck preaches hatred, bigotry, racism and paranoia every day to millions, 3 hours on radio; an hour on prime time tv. But a person who peacefully protests the hate for 2 minutes becomes a target for more hate. And our public dialog is growing uglier and more violent by the day.
Social justice Christians have to unite, stand up and speak out.
In solidarity,

I'm blessed by Marcy's e-mail and her gesture of solidarity.  Like the video I posted yesterday of high school students and their community standing together to oppose hatred, we must stand together to defy the forces of fear.  Marcy grew up in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s.  Many of us today grew up in the false sense of equality and suburban normalcy of the 80s and 90s.  There is no standing still when it comes to liberation - either we move forward, or we lose what our predecessors fought so hard to accomplish.

Oh, thought you might enjoy this other song from Marcy, too!

Good Friday: Necessity of Death?

It's 15 minutes past Good Friday.  It's a sobering, inspiring, devastating, puzzling moment in the Christian Calendar.

I'm working on a contribution for a book about Banned Questions on Jesus from Chalice Press.

One of the questions is: "
Why did Jesus have to suffer so much?" 

Without undermining copyright, my answer entails: 

Did Jesus have to suffer and die?  No, I don’t think God demanded it.  
But was it inevitable, given the innate conflict between darkness and light?  I think so.   
The suffering of goodness, under the tyranny of darkness, is an inevitable dynamic in the process of redemption.

Theological ramifications of this? Huge, I know...

Gunn High School Sings Away Hate Group

My friend Darcee posted this video on her Facebook wall.  It encourages me to remember that there is reason for hope, and that kindhearted people WILL have the guts to stand against fear and hatred when the stakes are so high.

Sometimes I wonder if groups like the Westboro Baptist Church (famous for "God Hates YOU" picket signs, and protesting at the funerals of fallen US soldiers) are actually the concoction of a genius, subversive (slightly crazy) liberal thinktank seeking to unite progressives under a common banner of hope, peace, unity and kindness.  I wish.  The truth is, these angry folks actually exist.  And they're scared to death of the world God has created.

Social Justice: George Fox and the Quakers...

I'm writing a paper on George Fox and the formation of Quakerism.  I found this quotation describing the early Pennsylvania Quaker community, and had to share:

Ideals of social justice can seldom be fully achieved without the exercise of political power.  Hence the pursuit of freedom involves a struggle for power which sacrifices the principle of love.  (Mennonite Quarterly Review, 1936)
This actually poses a problem for my own ideals regarding social justice, which I think is worth fighting for.  But here's my conviction: the only thing Christians can do with power is give it away.  That doesn't mean some of us are necessarily ever entirely powerless.  There's power I have inherent to my identity in this society.  So that means my responsibility is to constantly share and extend my power to others - pour it out, as in kenosis (which I discussed a bit last week) and take up love.  That's my workaround.

The problem the Quakers ran into, as the Christian Church on the whole did in the first millennium (and then more so in the second millennium), is that once they had attained power, they held onto it.  This is hard not to do.  Especially when the fresh memories of oppression and marginalization are forefront in our minds.  Constantinian Christians: we can decry them for being co-opted by the Roman Empire all we want, but they had seen generations of their family, friends and faith communities abused and slaughtered.  Suddenly they were given safety.  Hard to ask anyone to do differently, but it does have consequences over the long term.

So for myself, already holding power, I pray I learn how to share it - claiming love for my own modus operandi, and passing the power (as we "pass the peace," perhaps?) praying the Holy Spirit leads that "passing" onward and downward, that we my all lay down power and take up love.

Disturbed Christians: "Friends Don't Let Friends Teabag for Jesus..."

Loved this from a blog I follow:

The tiny text in this image under "Democracy" reads: "It has its flaws."


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