thin line

Where/when do we cross the line from tolerance (civility, “love”) to passively allowing oppression and injustice?

Is there a difference between a christian’s motive to save my soul and my motive to stop the harm I believe their theology is causing?

I think so.  But I must tread carefully…  (continuing from my post here.)

Starting from an inner peace perspective:  I get it that I can let other people walk around with my serenity in their back pocket without their even knowing it.  I get it that I am the one who lets them do so.

Would I rather be right, or would I rather be happy?  I totally pick the second one.  Well, actually, a more honest answer would be:  intellectually, I totally want to pick the second one.

It doesn’t play out in my behavior all that often, though!

Here is the rub:  I want those who think they are right in their discrimination of me (and others) to stand down and choose happiness instead of needing to be right.  Does that mean I’m wanting to be right?

Or am I, simply, in the right?  :p

I spent the better part of two decades practicing letting go of being right.  (Note that I say practicing, not succeeding!)  But these last few years I have observed and experienced the kind of betrayal — from christian communities — that raised the bar for me from an individual inner peace perspective to one of social (in)justice.  And I no longer even want to practice letting go of being right!  I find no peace in that.  I cannot be silent.

A recent post on John Shore’s blog (here) addresses a progressive christian professor’s dilemma when faced each year with the contract he must sign to be reappointed.  His signature “reaffirms a denominational statement declaring same sex relationships morally illegitimate.”

The ensuing conversation in the comments tries — but fails — to find consensus about where the thin line is that I seek.  Many poignant stories are shared in those comments about how such a signature betrays and wounds.  Many point out that those betrayed include the professor himself.

Others caution and call for less strident action, believing it’s more effective for the professor to stay and engage in the community, and perhaps by his presence affect change.  (Pah!)

A quote from Oriah Mountain Dreamer adds an interesting nuance to where the line might shimmer, almost visible, in the air:  “Lack of attachment to having things work out the way we want them to is not the same thing as the indifference that comes from not fully committing to a human life… Life without essence awareness lacks meaning & connection.  Life without an individuated sense of self (eg-awareness) lacks fire & direction.”  (from The Call)

So there is a way for me to be passionately firm about what I believe is right without my being “attached” to the outcome?  I try to present that non-attachment in my words… but I tell you the truth that in my heart I am attached.

Other quotes I’ve read these last few days/weeks that made me feel like cheering:

“This isn’t about mutual tolerance because there’s nothing mutual about it. If we agree to disagree on this issue, you walk away a full member of this society and I don’t.”  (Wayne Self)

“The notion that intolerance of gays is something that needs to be respected and treated as a legitimate form of diversity within the population is RIDICULOUS.”  (A friend, Liz Dyer)

In response to a friend’s plea to love one another “even if we disagree ideologically or politically, or religiously,” Liz says: “…there are some religious, political and/or ideological beliefs that are discriminatory and harmful to others and this “let’s play nice” message is inadequate to help us know how to respond in the name of justice.”

And this, from a post by Kimberly Knight (actually, this was Kimberly responding to someone’s comment on her post): “I have to reread Letter from Birmingham Jail about every other month to remember it is ok to be firm and resolute in seeking the truth of justice for all…people.”

No firm final answers for me in any of that, of course.  That would be too easy, and besides it would echo the black-and-white thinking that I detest in fundamental religion.

Maybe the line dances.

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turning the other cheek

I have been pondering what secrets the teaching “turn the other cheek” might hold, might have meant, might mean.

I have come to believe it may mean different things in different situations, to different people — carrying different energy or wounds or wishes — at a particular place on the journey.  (Yes, it’s true.  I may be a relativist.  Saving that realization for another post.)

A friend once told me that in the Roman society of the first century AD, men of equal standing would slap each others’ faces with an open hand (if such a slap were warranted), but that a slave would only be hit across the face with the back of one’s hand.  An open hand: intimate.  A backhand: impersonal.

So.  If a slave were slapped with a backhand, and if he were then to turn his head and present his other cheek, he would be opening himself to the Roman’s open hand.  He would thus be, in effect, refusing to be a second-class citizen and instead would be standing in front of the Roman as an equal.

How very interesting…

Perhaps there are times that we — and by we, I mean you, me, us, the other, our learning, love, each or all — are best served by literally turning the other cheek, open, hands down and relaxed, head up, receiving the violence and being willing to receive it again.

Ouch as I write that.  That one is so hard.  It raises specters of oppression and cowering victims, even casting a shadow of masochism.  There are wounds in me, in this world, that throb in agony against the idea of receiving such violence, and receiving it calmly again.  (And of course, I am not really talking about physical violence; I am talking of psychological violence, if that limited term would suffice for now.)

But perhaps there is a way to not create or feed that imbalance of power (oppressor / victim) but to instead deflate the power of the violence altogether, disintegrating the seesaw, poof! into the air.  Somehow.

Sounds kind of matrix, doesn’t it?

But consider: if I stand as your equal, do I not also recognize your stature?

Isn’t it true that if we could really see each other, really see each other, we would stand down?

Is it true?

I had a vision once, when I still believed in the idea of the christian heaven, that after we died there would be such clear sight for us to see each other, and we would look full in the eyes of those we now clearly knew we had misjudged, and we would weep.  I thought maybe that was what that scripture passage was telling us — you know, the one about God wiping all tears (meaning there would be tears) and then there would be no more death…

And so, I am seeking a way to stand as an equal to those whom I least want to credit with any stature.  I do not know how to find my way there.

Much of what I have read and seen in the last few days of Chick-fil-A insanity has grieved me, angered me, shocked me.  But it has also given me this insight.

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peddling, er winning, salvation

Please work out your own salvation without needing MY fear and trembling!

It just occurred to me that one of things I find troubling about the christian religion — or at least some streams of it — is that so many have been so busy working out their own salvation based on other people’s fear and trembling!

(This is maybe true of other religions as well, athough I think hyper-evangelizing is unique to christianity.)

I do know that there’s a scripture passage (or passages) that can be interpreted to mean that we are charged with telling others about christianity and that furthermore we are responsible for the salvation of “our brother’s” soul.  Certainly the arms of christianity that are so hyper-focused on evangelizing have taken that message (er, interpretation) to heart.  At best, their efforts are — as I see it — a compassionate attempt to lift others up.  At worst, they are a self-absorbed attempt to win one’s way into heaven.

It’s kind of ironic that this insight occurs to me now, at a time when I am trying to figure out if I’m too focused on anti-gay christians and the harm that they cause.  There are those who would rather I “not try to change people,” and instead just focus on my own vibrant life.

Is there a difference between a christian’s motive to save my soul and my motive to stop the harm their theology is causing?

I think so.  But I needs must be careful.

To be continued…

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lovely blogs ~ part 2.2

After a brief delay — for a nourishing visit with family and some amazing time on the water —  I’m back with the rest of my lovely blog assignment!  (See here for the introduction of the One Lovely Blog award, and here for part 2.1)

Today I’m sharing about blogs by folks I know. Consider 2.1 to be like the celebrity blogs, and 2.2 to be those even closer to my heart.  Here goes:

 

FairyBearConfessions.  My friend M writes anonymously, not because she’s afraid of what others might think of her beliefs, but because she is currently — and perhaps somewhat reluctantly these days — employed by the Dept of Education, and she desires the freedom to share without censoring for her job.  M’s blog resonates with the theme of Lost and Found.  She finds inspiration in new paths found through blocked ones; she says she has lost her youth (or so she thinks, young one!) but has found her voice.  And what a voice she has!  Creative, poetic, gutsy, articulate… if she were stranger rather than friend, hers would still be a blog worth subscribing to.

M is soon getting married, and is I think both distracted from writing and inspired to write by this prenuptial chapter in her life.  She and her fiance are both good friends, among the very few who openly stood by my partner and I — and continue to do so — when we were ousted from our church.  I consider the christian community lucky to still be held by them as homebase.  I am glad to call them friend.  (PS – her fiance gets honorable mention for his very new blog, found at notsoblindfaith.  Worth watching!)

 

Tinkering.  A lovely newish blog, with great potential.  I say that not just because I know the author and something of what’s in her mind, but because of the glimmers of gold she has let show so far in her writing.

This blog has lain fallow for some months because life lifted the author up in the air, upending some things and breathing life into others.  I’m delighted that she is turning again to it, feeding it with some attention and words.

Yes, the author is my partner.  <=}
And yes, that’s a photo of her as a little girl.  Hee! 

Revolution NYC.  While I no longer identify as a christian, some of my best friends still do!  :p

Valiant straight ally Jay Bakker, Reverand Vince Anderson and others get together every Sunday afternoon in a bar in Brooklyn and hold an irregular service.  For about a year, when we still lived in NYC, my partner and I attended somewhat regularly.  That gathering of folks of all stripes, Jay and Vince especially, embraced and held and healed us.  And we are delighted to every once in a while see one of them down south this-a-ways.  Podcasts and links can be found at their blog/website.

 

Blogismos
(or “deconstructing faith as I knew it“).

You know, for someone who no longer identifies as christian, I still follow a number of deceptively christian blogs!  Jacob’s is one such.

Jacob was a new friend who welcomed us to North Carolina.  We met one Sunday at that bar in Brooklyn when he came up north to share a bit of his story and spirit, and after we moved down south we joined up a few times with a group/book discussion he’d started in a local coffee shop.  He and his wife have found their way back to a “real” church, which I have my own opinions about and which I will keep to myself since it’s really none of my business!

Jacob is a fellow questioner, which is probably why I find him, and his blog!, to be so refreshing.  He desires dialogue, and is not afraid to engage in such with someone who disagrees mightily with him, even if they claim to have the full weight of the inerrant biblical Word of God behind them.  Jacob is not afraid of being accused of heresy but seeks truth and light where he finds it.

(Come to think of it, any blog with christian roots I still follow has that in common — it pushes that heresy envelope.  I like that.)

 

The Pleated Polka Dot.  This is Melissa, Jacob’s wife.  I have yet to meet her, or their children (they now have three).  But I enjoy her blog very much.  She writes about motherhood, love, crafts, faith and growing children, all with eyes open to the immense joy and possibility that fill seemingly everyday moments.

Between Jacob’s and Melissa’s blogs, it’s possible to be a virtual part of their family village, something I treasure.

 

Well, this has been fun, sharing about lovely blogs that I follow.  Thanks again to Clare Flourish and her very lovely blog for the One Lovely Blog award and the thoughtful, nourishing assignment that came with it!

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lovely blogs ~ part 2.1

I’m back with (part of) part two of my Lovely Blog Award homework!  (See here for part one.)

The reason this is only part 2.1 is that as I wrote about the first few of my favorite blogs, I realized it would take me longer to write about them all than I’d expected, and I’ll need to do it in more than one sitting.

And so, for my first sitting’s fruit, I offer — in no particular order — a handful of blogs that I find lovely for a variety of reasons:

 

John Shore, “Trying God’s Patience Since 1958.”  John is a sharp, witty, absolutely fearless writer — he has a way of cutting right through all the fluff and saying it like it is.  His fierce advocacy for those currently being most misaligned by “the church” and the very active commenting community that has gathered around his blog have been greatly helpful to me.  I’m not drawn to John’s gentle but unwavering love for the God he has encountered (not because he is not gentle or unwavering or lovely in that love for his God, but because his is a Christian-centered faith and that is not where I want to be).  But I so appreciate his way with words, his humor and his heart.  Because of his fearlessness, I am lighter for reading his posts, even when they deal with injustice that makes my blood boil.

 

The Green Bough, Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s blog.  “If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.”  Oriah’s “The Invitation” has long spoken to me, challenging me to remain awake in this life, and to be willing to see where I am hiding behind fear.  I am grateful to have heard her speak, many moons ago now, and I would dearly love to attend a retreat led by her, but as I understand it, her health doesn’t offer room or energy for such any longer.

I only recently, to my great delight, discovered that she has a blog.  She posts every Wednesday, offering truly lovely windows into a world of promise and pain, fragility and strength.  For me, her posts serve sometimes as meditations, or writing prompts, or heart-inspirations… and sometimes all that and more.

 

Wingsprings.  I’m sad to not be able to include one of my very favorites, a blog that seems to have gone dark, the link to which has these past few weeks only offers the error message “MobileMe is CLOSED.”

Before it went dark, it was updated weekly, mostly with pictures about a place on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota called “Wingsprings.”  Dr. Craig Howe and others built Wingsprings, which houses the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies.  I got to hear him speak earlier this year, and I witnessed a Storytelling that unfolded quietly, slowly, naturally, powerfully of tribal histories, sacred places, and tragedy.

Dr. Howe, quoted:  “It’s a long legacy of Native spirituality in the United States of America being oppressed or repressed, and it’s a story that I just don’t think very many people know.  It’s imperative for those of us talking about it to bring that to light — not to dwell on it and not to blame anyone — but just so that we’re aware that this is in the legacy of our Nation.  A Nation that we think of as being as the land of religious freedom.”

 

LPDOC.  Before I wrap up 2.1, I am moved by Dr. Howe’s quote to share one more blog that I regularly watch.  Lovely doesn’t describe it.  Compelling, frustrating, grievous… those all come closer.  It’s a blog maintained by friends of Leonard Peltier, now wrongly (I am convinced) imprisoned by the US government since 1977.  See an older blog post of mine here for the story.  By the way, the book I talk about in the first paragraph of that post, that I remembered from my childhood but hadn’t been able to find since?  About six months later, for my birthday, my very lovely sister sent me that book.  Blew my mind.  Drew tears.

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one lovely blog

I have received the “One Lovely Blog” award, from a new net-friend Clare Flourish!

Clare has a truly lovely blog herself, full of strength and elegance and illustrated beautifully with paintings and photographs.  I’m delighted that she chose mine among the blogs she nominated!

As I understand it, I am to share seven things about myself, and then nominate 15 other blogs to receive the Lovely Blog award.  I may fall short in number on the second count (I don’t have time to follow many), but we’ll see.

First, about me:

  1. My favorite answer is “yes, and no.”
  2. These days I am striving to live beyond labels — I am beginning to suspect there are many labels I remain bound by but don’t (yet?) know it.
  3. I don’t know what I think about God.
  4. I have very strong opinions about religion.
  5. My beloved surprised me when she showed up (finally!) in my life — she was a woman!
  6. I love to organize… and I have the perfect job because it involves organizing someone else.  Frankly, I’m way better at that than I am at organizing myself.
  7. On my dorm room door 20 years ago: James Honeyman Scott’s obituary, and a Nietzsche quote, “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

There you have it.

The better half of the homework for this award, the List of other Lovely Blogs, to follow!

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it’s an epidemic!

My partner got her hair cut last week!

She’d let her hair grow/stay long these last several years because I asked her to.  (That’s love….!)  Over the last year, ever since we moved, we haven’t been able to find THE hairdresser.  (You know, that ONE hairdresser out there for every person, seemingly as hard to find as a SOULMATE.)  Between what she thought of as increasingly sub-optimal cuts — as we tried a different place each time — and the fact that she really does look best in short hair, she’d become a bit sad and frustrated about how she looked.

So I let go of needing her to have longer hair.

And finally last week, the planets aligned — or whatever they do — and she found THE hairdresser and got THE cut.  Short, elegant, pixie… it’s totally her and she’s been literally bounding with adorable energy ever since.

And then…

My kid got her hair cut a few days ago!

She’s had long hair most of her life.  It’s very thick, and prone to knots and tangles.  When she was little, I kept it in a braid to save us many tears from ouches as I tried to brush through it in the early morning rush to get out the door.  I keep telling her that someday she’ll love having thick healthy hair… but the other day she decided it was time to let it go.

And she came home with BANGS and a stylish SHORT cut!  It has totally changed how she carries herself.  She’s all grown up.  It’s amazing.

And then…

My sister suggested that perhaps it was an epidemic!

Perhaps she wondered if I were next?

And, well, yes, I did get my hair cut.  Yesterday.  And yes, I was a bit bolder than usual, going perhaps quite a bit shorter than usual.  But it’s still past my shoulders.  I’d miss the swish too much, I think.  Short hair looks great (and maybe it even would on me), but it doesn’t move.  I’d be sad.

Maybe I’ll get too old for long hair someday.  Or maybe not.  I hope not.  The grey, so far, is silver and not dull.  I am grateful today for such small things.

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the nest

Trusting that my kid doesn’t read my blog (she thinks it’s weird that I have one), I write:

I sit here amidst unusual clutter in my office (I’m re-organizing some files, and I hit a wall this afternoon in the midst of several darkest-just-before-dawn piles… so they aren’t likely to get put away in this day’s life), and I’m tired. I feel the need for a nap like I haven’t slept for days.  Perhaps it’s because just about an hour ago the kid bought the plane ticket that will in several weeks lift her above the planet and across an ocean where she will seek another homeland for a third of a year.

This has been — is — the summer of out-of-nest-pushing, and growing up… as much for me as for the kid.

So far, so good.

But for some reason, once the last button was pushed and the plane ticket official… well, I could have laid right down and gone fast to sleep.

Letting go takes a lot of work!

Or, maybe, it’s the holding on I’ve done till now that has taken so much energy.

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the perfect recipe…?

Food for thought:

  • Take the incredible idea of a King who loves me so much that He’d be willing to die for me…
  • In a culture that is structured around hierarchy and authority…
  • Add a sense of unworthiness and isolation (which seems almost inherent in western humanity)…

It’s a perfect recipe, no?

I feel unworthy, unlovable.  The work (therapy) to heal that, to grow up, can be far harder than surrendering to a belief system that:

1. validates me (paradoxically) by validating my sense of unworthiness (“depravity and sinful nature of mankind…”)

2. offers a savior; a way out; a way to be worthy, and right; a way to be better than my old self, and, by the way, better than others; a way to be accepted into the inner circle

I chose to rewrite all that in the “I” voice, aiming for integrity.  I don’t want anyone evangelizing me, and I’m not trying to reverse evangelize anyone out of their faith.  But as I puzzle over my own brief foray into evangelical Christianity, some pieces of the story — both my own small story and the larger Story — offer possible patterns.

The above recipe is one such possible pattern.

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meta ego

Everyone has an ego.

People do.  I do, you do.

Perhaps organizations do too.  Corporations, and unions.

Maybe even religious denominations!

I’m no psychologist, but I know about the practice of recognizing and letting go of one’s ego-impulse that insists that one be in the right.  My need to be right is often rooted in my ego’s instinct and drive to survive, not in the furthering of my character, or my relationships, or my quality of life…

I suspect that the wisdom in “turn the other cheek” means, among other things, shifting out from under the grip of one’s own ego, and moving towards authentic connection with another.  (Namaste…)

I’ve been familiar with that whole line of thinking for some time — not that I practice it all that well, mind you, or all that often!  But what has newly occurred to me is to wonder if a group of people as an entity also has an ego — a “meta-ego,” so to speak.  A collective ego.

Ponder that thought for a moment… and then apply it to the entity of a religion, or a religious denomination.

The idea of a religion or a denomination having an ego with a survival instinct is pretty scary.  It could also go a very long way towards explaining a number of theology positions that various Christian churches have held over the millenia.  Positions such as: women are subservient; slavery is accepted; homosexuality is abhorrent; etc.; etc.

Actually, the idea of a religion having an ego doesn’t explain those particular theology positions.  Rather, a religion’s ego could explain that religion’s reluctance to let go of a position when it becomes increasingly clear that the position is flawed.  In fact, various Christian denominations have fought tooth and nail to hold on to some of these stances over the centuries, drawing blood — both figuratively and literally — from their opponents in an attempt to keep things from changing.

(Sidenote: Faced with this history, it puzzles me greatly how anyone can insist that the words in the Christian Bible — I should say Bibles, plural, as there are so many translations — are inerrant truth.)

A pastor once said to me that same-gender love was going to split his denomination wide open.  He clearly thought that such a potential split was a very bad thing, and he was making what he thought was a valid point against my partner and I staying in his community.  But what was he interested in protecting, in saving?  It seems to me that it was his church and its umbrella denomination (and his livelihood) that was at risk.  No more and no less than that.

Should a religion be interested in its own survival?  If it is, doesn’t that religion then, as an entity, have a conflict of interest between its own ego’s motives and the authentic truth/love/goodness/whatever that it is supposed to teach?

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