i choose love

Some things that have been percolating on the back burner of my mind and heart have bubbled over recently. Questions. Ponderings…

How do I separate my understanding of/belief in Jesus from my understanding of/experience with Christians and Christianity? So much darkness is in that experience…

What analogy could I offer to a non-LGBT Christian that would give new insight into what Christians are really doing to (against) LGBT individuals? For those in the Church who are divorced and remarried, their situation is a good example. Scripture quotes Jesus as clearly stating that a divorced, remarried person is committing adultery. So here’s what I might say, based on my own experiences:

Imagine that your friends/pastor/community broke community with you because of your new marriage. What if your entire church/denomination judged you to be living against God’s will and fallen into depravity because of your continued adulterous behavior with your new spouse? What if they refused to allow you to serve your community with prayer, or music, or teaching, or whatever your gifts, because you are supposedly filled with demons, led astray by Satan into sin, and thus could pass on, like a contagion, your corruption of spirit to the other congregants? What if some of your friends literally cried in pain to learn of your partnership/union with your new spouse, and said tearfully that they would pray for you to turn your back on your choice of fleshly pleasure, that otherwise they mourned the loss of your soul to eternal torment in hell? What if your friends/community turned their back on you because they hoped the pain of being outcast would be great enough that you would choose to break off with your new spouse and “return to God”?

What if those of your friends who weren’t so sure what those scripture passages really meant, and weren’t so certain that God hated your decision, your love and your relationship, chose to remain anyway in the church community that closed its doors to you? (Could you choose grace through that feeling of betrayal?) What if scripture were quoted over and over, not just by your former friends and church acquaintances, but by countless others in blogs, sermons and books, from pulpits and corner soapboxes (yes, really!) and huge stadium stages—scripture quotes that by some interpretations “prove” that you are and should be reviled and cast out of salvation, solely because you make love with your spouse.

Of course, for those Christians who married as virgins and who have remained married to that same person, that analogy won’t work except to show them their hypocrisy in not treating their divorced/remarried Christian friends the same as they would treat someone who chooses a same-gender relationship.

And for those who are unsure and remain silent, choosing not to get embroiled in the controversy, in the firestorm? How can we open their eyes to the damage they are causing with their silence? By not speaking out, they are underwriting those who do the casting out. By remaining silent to avoid the inevitable fallout that could occur from speaking out in support of those same-gender relationships, they are complicit in the judgment and trauma, and even, some might say, in the suicides. (see my friend Gareth’s post for more on that last.)

But I have to stop here and ask myself: what does any of that have to do with what I understand or believe about God? How much—I’m reluctant to even look at this—how much of my conversion to (and time spent in) Christianity was about the people involved, vs. about God him/her/itself? It’s hard to admit in part because those who remain there in that world will likely jump on that accusatorially. “Aha! You never really knew God anyways!” (Can’t you just see the potential for multi-altar calls in that kind of thinking where we judge others’ journeys? Ugh!)

Well. Maybe I didn’t ever know God. Maybe no one does. The certainty in the preaching and believing is so seductive, and such certainty is usually a big ol’ red flag indication that egos and power-plays are at work.

Sometimes I wonder why I have been so curious about and so bothered my whole life by Christianity, to and through being rejected by it. Perhaps this is simply because it is in my roots, from baptism as an infant to catechism and confirmation and beyond (and back the other way in my ancestry as well).

But my real question is: who, or what, is God? If God is Christian, then,

1. How does it make loving sense that Jesus is the only way?
2. Why is same-gender orientation and love considered depraved and against God’s will?
3. What is the source (and rightness) of Christians’ tendency to judgment and (unholy) righteousness towards others who hold different beliefs?

Fear would answer all three questions sufficiently. So would the Bible. Or perhaps I should say that the way the Bible has been used by many would answer those questions sufficiently.

Which gets back to fear:

• Fear of not getting it right and losing salvation.
• Fear of God’s judgment.
• Fear of God’s wrath.
• Fear of hell.
• Fear of being wrong.
• Fear of death.
• Fear of being unloved and unworthy.
• Fear of losing.

That kind of fear is not where I want to live, love, breathe, journey.

I choose love.

I don’t yet know how Christianity fits in my journey. I don’t pretend to know what it was that Jesus hoped to teach us, but I believe it was about love. I aim to remain open.

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quiet leadership

I’ve heard and read so much criticism of Obama’s leadership. He is accused of being weak, indecisive, naïve, misguided.

Frankly, I admire the man for his collaborative style and behind the scenes, quiet leadership. I’d rather we save the “who’s got the bigger balls” approach for the action movies I confess to enjoy.

There’s something to be said for a leader who has the humility to allow space for others to share the collective burden of work, limelight and influence. I have seen Obama do this time and again with Congress (and specifically with the GOP) during negotiations. I’ve seen him do it on behalf of the United States with our foreign policy (witness Libya).

There is a concept in anarchy that’s puzzled over and often misunderstood. Anarchy means without ruler. It is assumed by most that this means without leader, ergo chaos. But a cooperative, non-hierarchical collective does not have to be chaotic. I’ve watched collective groups struggle against leadership, one person trying to squelch their own natural leadership skills in an area, and another person showing offense at someone’s taking charge. The issue is the power dynamic created by the existence of a leader. Who imagines a leader’s role being dissolved? We tend to think that with a leadership role comes power, power that’s irrevertable. And that’s the problem. Imagine instead an organic, natural process whereby a leader emerges in a situation, and then stands down, with power dissolved, when the situation is over.

Now, I’m not saying that Obama is an anarchist. I’m not even sure he’s a socialist, accusations to the contrary. What does seem clear to me is that he has a leadership style that neither politico nor citizenry recognize and value. In the United States, we are used to — and respond to — the “who’s got the bigger balls” style.

I suspect that the value and influence of this president to the character of this country, of all the presidents I’ve witnessed, will be recognized by future historians to be far greater than do most present-day folk.

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you say you want a revolution…

What if the revolution really is happening?

I’ve read the doom and gloom predictions that the U.S. is due to fall, if for no other reason than the fact that no empire has lasted more than about 200 years.

I ask “and so?” It might well be an accurate prediction. I’m not so sure it’s a dire one.

I hear cries of those who worry that U.S. exceptionalism is being undermined by Obama’s generation (which is my own) and those who follow. I ask “why exactly do we need to be number one?”

My partner has a fierce aversion to competition. I grew up in a meritocratic home, school system, work environment. It wasn’t until I started studying the history of education in this country that I ever considered the downside of a meritocracy. I appreciate my partner’s insight into the dark side of competition. It’s one thing for an individual to strive to be, or perform, or live in ways that stretch him/her to “their best.” (What does one’s “best” mean, you ask? That’s for another day and another blog post.) It’s a different dynamic when a person competes against another person. Someone loses. And it’s another thing entirely when a group of people compete against another group of people. Scapegoats emerge. At a national level, the posturing and protectionism, the ethnocentrism, all teeter dangerously on the edge of the sandbox. Are the moves of our armies and generals and government officials and economic/market forces really all that different from the games being played out on the grade school playground?

Questioning the value of the U.S. being number one is not something to float safely in mixed company (so to speak). For many, and perhaps especially so since Sept 2001, patriotism is synonymous with good character. Even hinting at criticism of U.S. exceptionalism is akin to heresy, and it raises blood pressure and voices in response.

But I wonder what’s so wrong with being #2. Actually, I wonder what the world could possibly be like without bordered national identity and a hierarchy of comparative ranks at all.

Is it possible that the revolution is really happening? Could the hierarchy collapse?

/shrug

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one illness away…

Anirudh Krishna

I was privileged to hear a lecture today given by a man who studies poverty. Some interesting a-ha moments for me:

He explained that trends in poverty are usually measured as a net percentage, as in, the number of people in a particular area at or below poverty level has fallen (or risen) x%. But that measurement isn’t the whole story. There’s usually quite a bit of movement of people into and out of poverty behind the single number. If, say, there are 3% fewer people in a particular community living at or below poverty, the story likely goes deeper, something like this: 15% of the community fell into poverty and 18% of the community rose out of poverty.

His point: there needs to be two very different policy interventions, one that works with those who are in poverty and one that helps prevent the fall into poverty.

Next: the factors that most commonly lead to an individual’s or family’s fall into poverty include illness, debt, death and expensive weddings. Expensive weddings. ! Wow…

One more: two factors that did not appear significant in any of his research (which spans several decades and includes data from more than 35,000 families on 3 continents) really surprised me, since they are, I think, commonly thought of as culprits. They are LAZINESS and ALCOHOLISM. Those two factors did not appear as significant factors that lead to a fall into poverty.

The speaker: Anirudh Krishna. His most recent book: “One Illness Away…” promises to be a fascinating read. An added plus: he struck me as a most gracious and humble human being.

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let me tell you a story

A few years ago I picked up a book called In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. I’ve always been drawn to the story and stories of the indigenous American people. One of my favorite books growing up was about a Native American kid who grew up with his grandfather but somehow ended up in a government-run boarding school where he was forcibly “cured” of his traditional ways — only English was allowed; he had to cut his hair short; rituals were punished. He ended up on the rodeo circuit at one point, and things got so bad that he finally went back to try to live on the land, following the lessons he barely remembered being taught by his long-dead grandfather about hunting, praying, cleansing… It was a beautiful story of shame and redemption. I’ve tried to find this book since, and can’t. Someday, I hope.

In the meantime, I devour books that tell about those who lived on this land long before we arrived. Crazy Horse brought that story all the way up to today. It’s one thing to read about the genocide my ancestors carried out against the native people they found to be savages. It’s quite another to read a story that carries it all the way to today. The book tells the story of escalating violence on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970’s, culminating in a shoot-out and the deaths of two FBI agents, and of a single Lakota man who has been imprisoned, quite probably wrongly, for more than 30 years.

Leonard Peltier — Lakota, activist, and member of the American Indian Movement (or AIM) — was involved in the events on Pine Ridge, working to protect the residents against the brutality of the local authorities, self-titled GOONS (Guardians of the Oglala Nation). Those local authorities, by many accounts, were misusing their power and brutalizing their constituents. The FBI got involved. It’s still unclear to me as to why. To protect the constituents? more likely because the activists involved were perceived as insurgents under the FBI’s Cointelpro — counter-intelligence-program — initiative. Some think it’s because of the uranium deposits found under Pine Ridge.

Fomenting chaos can be a great distraction so that leases can be bought up by mining companies without folks noticing.

Just sayin’.

Whatever the reason for the FBI’s attention, things boiled to a head in the summer of 1975 and, tragically, two FBI agents were shot and killed.

There followed a string of what seems to me shameful actions on the part of the FBI and the courts in the understandable but dangerous zeal to make someone accountable for those deaths. Those actions included questionable decisions from the bench about permissible evidence, and affidavits obtained under duress/threats.

Another activist involved at the time in the events at Pine Ridge, Anna Mae Aquash, is the one who uncovered the story of uranium deposits and land leases being purchased by the mining companies. Anna Mae was murdered shortly after that summer. Like the dozens and dozens of other murders on the reservation, hers remains unsolved. But pictures of her dead body were used by FBI interrogators to threaten one of Peltier’s past girlfriends who then signed the affidavit that was used to extradite him from Canada. That same affidavit directly contradicted witness testimony used to convict Peltier, but the court refused to allow the jury to see it.

Countless doubts have been raised about Peltier’s guilt. Numerous advocates have stood behind him. The evidence used to convict him is riddled with inconsistencies and holes. He has always held to the claim that he did not kill the FBI agents. One possibility for the continued refusal to consider parole or pardon is that Peltier is seen as too dangerous — for his activism and influence among The Nations, not because they think he pulled the trigger — if he were to go free.

Uranium mining continues to decimate the water table (quantity and quality) in that area.

The whole story is told in excrutiating detail by Peter Matthiesen in The Spirit of Crazy Horse (who also wrote the novel At Play in the Fields of the Lord). Above is a readers digest version. Any errors in fact are mine.

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insomnia

I woke up at 4am yesterday and couldn’t get back to sleep. I thought of this poem, which I’d written in the wee hours of some other sleepless night long ago.

insomnia
soar?
sit
sog.   sadness.   silly.
sickness
suffering
silence

soft….
centered….
section sofa.

so.   sow.    sew.
reap.   weep.   sleep.
ah, sleep.  that which eludes me.
? ludes ?  not an option

sucotash.  sassafrass.
marvelous marmalade in the grass.
moonshine.  sunshine.  burns if
you get too much.  every time.
every time.

EEK!  spider!  smashed it.
the end.

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once burned… finis

Coming back to my story about rejection from Christian friends (see here for part 1 and here for part 2), I will share that I did decide to reply to my friend. I have no illusions that I will be changing her mind, but I believe in the power of grace — and that it operates in God’s time, or perhaps outside of time altogether — and I tried to turn the other cheek with as much grace as I could muster. Who knows what it could work on — or through — her, someday?

I don’t have much else to say about this story as it’s an old one that wearies me. I find myself rolling my eyes and saying “here I go again, talking about the ‘gay issue’,” and if I’m thinking that, others must be at least similarly tired of hearing about it. But I think of my friend Jay Bakker, who as a straight ally is relentless and unflinching and doesn’t seem to get tired of carrying the message of grace and love specifically in support of the disenfranchised LGBTQ community. If he can carry on day after day, I can complete this one small story. And I think of my partner, Sandy, who has gotten exactly the same response as I just did, from friend after friend after former friend. In some small way, by sharing this one story, I am honoring the strength and grace she showed — and continues to show — to others, though her very heart was breaking.

That’s the thing. This “biblical” response is like a script. The same words, the same phrasing, the same quotes. The same inconsistencies. (Love the sinner, but tell them their pain is a result of their disobeying God. This is love?) But knowing that about their message doesn’t make it any easier to hear, especially from someone I once called friend. Perhaps my sharing about one run-through of the script will prompt someone out there who doesn’t know to question it to start to wonder. Or perhaps it will prompt someone else who doesn’t think it’s an issue that affects them to feel moved to add their support.

Ok, that’s enough from me. Here’s my reply to my friend:

I honor the anchor you have found in your life. I’m glad you feel joy and peace and stability in your faith. I hope you continue to strive to be teachable.

I have too much respect for the meaning and depth in scripture to try to use it as ammunition in a battle of who has the more right truth. I’m weary of that battle. I have too much awe for God to limit God by scripture, much less a human’s interpretation of it (including my own).

I believe in absolute truth. I just don’t think any of us humans has the capacity to get it right.

Forgive this repetition from my first letter: I do not believe humans have a right to judge each other, and I do not believe God/Jesus calls us to do so.

I believe we are called to love God and to love each other.

I choose love.

I will pray for you, old friend.

If you stuck with me this far, thank you. And now I look forward to writing about something else!

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execution

Given the news about Troy Davis’ execution by the state of Georgia last night, I am putting my story about Christian rejection aside for today. I seem to have access to few words myself about Davis’ execution, other than to say that I know more clearly than I do other days that I am a pacifist. I will let a collection of quotes shared on facebook raise their voices here, to name much of what seems heavy in my own heart. The heaviness is both because of the murder of a possibly innocent man, and because of the desperate hypocrisy in which I think the death penalty as “ultimate justice” is rooted.

I’m probably breaking all kinds of rules about citation and privacy… oh well.

Jesus was a victim of capital punishment. Mike Morrell

Jesus was once asked for his support of the death penalty. His reply: “Let one who is without sin cast the first stone.” Hugh Hollowell

Georgia’s on my mind… Janine Weingarten

I’m wondering if Jesus ever just woke up so goddamned disgruntled that he got up and kicked at the disciples laying near him and said, “Come on, there are more people to tell. There’s more than desert and sheep and lust and greed and hate. There’s some kind of life beyond all this…and I’m going to find it.” Mary Andreolli

Georgia stood on principle, despite sufficient evidence that, at the very least, critical errors occurred during Troy Davis’ trial and conviction. The state stood on principle at the expense of a life. A life. And we wonder why our credibility has suffered worldwide. Amie Ravitz (a lawyer)

…and so we kill people, who (allegedly) kill people, to show people that killing is wrong. This is the height of insanity! Yvette Flunder

Only in the USA can you get away with being pro-war AND pro-death penalty and yet call yourself pro-life. Hugh Hollowell

Sad. Angry. Ashamed. We have killed innocent people before in the name of justice, and we will continue to do so until we demand and insist that we stop. Rest in peace, Troy Anthony Davis, child of God. David Lamotte

Having sat with families while their loved ones were executed and visited with them afterward, I’m convinced that if more people sat with those families, we would have no death penalty. Scott Bass

Because you can’t kill death with death, sow life and kill death with life. Julia Esquivel

Troy Davis’ last words, as reported by Associated Press: For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.

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once burned… part 2

Yesterday I shared about an exchange I had with an old friend who found me on facebook. You can see my letter to her here. I promised to share her reply today, and here it is. She interspersed parts of my letter to her, and I left that intact to make it all a bit easier to follow.

I guess I also needed time to respond, with Love.

(from my letter) “I pondered for some time how much to share with you before writing back. I know first-hand the joy of being a new Christian — the worship, the fire, the brightness in my fellow Christian’s eyes and hearts, the leap in my own, the wonder at submitting to a King who loves me so much He was willing to give up His own life, the deep and awesome sense of belonging….”

Mindy, I know first hand…..and so did you, I am sorry for the experience you had. You chose what made you happy in spite of knowing the Lord’s word. The rejection and excruciating pain is exactly what is promised when you live against the word of God.

It’s not about the church, the Sr. Pastor, the people, me or anyone. It’s the word of God and Jesus who you will need to answer to.

(from my letter) “…and it shines a light into the dark corners of Christiandom, where murky motives and pretense and ego thrive. In the end, I decided to share it, to not protect you.”

Mindy many things in this world hide behind murky motives and pretense etc. That’s the devil! Not everyone in church live Christian lives you know that, it’s like an AA meeting, you bar hop to find the perfect bar to drink at, and if you don’t like the first few bars you don’t quit drinking.

BUT there are people that go into a meeting and hate it and never come back to AA because they say AA are a bunch of nuts.

My point simply: where murky motives and pretense and ego thrive? Depends on where you’re looking and who you are looking to please.

I choose to please the Lord.

I am happy, at peace, the Devil is as cunning as Alcohol is to me ALWAYS there lurking.

So no worries your story did not tarnish me it just validated what I have been learning and where to keep my focus.

The last 3 years, living in the word of God, being a Believer has taught me so much…HIS Blessings are EVERYWHERE!!!! It’s not about a church or a pastor or a group of people, etc. It’s about the Word of God.

He will NEVER reject you or cause you excruciating pain.

(from my letter) “Do you know, fully, the theology of those who’s sermons you listen to?”

Yes.

We shared our sobriety and those times were impactful, to say the least, we have been through a lot. Our different views may keep us from corresponding, I understand that, though I also choose not to protect you from the Love the LORD shown me and share that the Lord died for US so I live for Him.

I have drafted a reply. I’m still working through what I want to say to her and whether I want to say it.

I am immensely grateful to know many good people who do not frame their faith and belief as this particular woman (and oh, heartbreak, SO many others…) does.

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once burned, twice shy… and hopefully never bitter

I sure didn’t expect to come to the topic of rejection from Christian friends so soon on my new blog. But the topic came to me. An old friend found me on facebook last week. I was delighted to hear her voice from so many years ago and I accepted her friend request. On her wall appeared scripture quotes, passages that offered (as I read them anyways) particularly little grace. Sprinkled through her comments was praise for John MacArthur, a preacher who says things like: “And then that very most heinous expression of sin, the sin of homosexuality, points up the utter fallenness of man.” (see the original here on MacArthur’s website).

Caution. (Danger, Will Robinson!)

I dropped her a note containing both delight and clear boundaries.

I’m hoping your Christian faith includes room for same-gender couples. If not, just let me know. There will be no hard feelings, it’s just that I have no room in my life for pretense or unecessary pain and rejection.

If your faith is not too fundamental, I’d love to hear where life has taken you. I have very warm fond memories of time spent with you, you are a special person with a generous heart.

She responded to the delight, sharing appreciation that I would even ask and expressing a desire to chat more. She didn’t acknowledge the boundary though, so I still didn’t know where she stood on the topic of (ahem) my salvation. I decided to open up and share with her more deeply:

That church where Sandy and I met couldn’t hold the tension between their theology and our relationship, and we were asked to go. It had been Sandy’s family for 10 years and they had literally saved her life. I loved it, deeply, for the two years I was there, and learned so much. It was excruciating to be rejected. Some of Sandy’s long-time friends shut her out with cruelty and viciousness. Called it love. “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” We were compared to adulterers, addicts, murderers and Muslims. Told we were being shut out in hopes that the pain of Satan’s touch would drive us back to purity. I have compassion for those who were trying so hard to follow what they thought God through scripture was commanding them to do: judge us, correct us, to save us, according to their belief about what it means to be saved. Not all were so certain, tho. We still have a relationship with a few people there, including several of the pastors. The senior pastor has shared with us that he would handle things differently today than he did 2 years ago. I love him very much, but am wounded beyond measure by what happened.

The experience has also enriched me beyond measure. Wounds open us up to much treasure.

I’m not sure how much you know about the fundamental Christian stance on same-gender love. Sandy’s and my story is one of many, not a few of which have ended in suicide. Jesus is used to justify a lot of cruel judgment. I do not believe humans have a right to judge each other, and I do not believe God/Jesus calls us to do so.

I pondered for some time how much to share with you before writing back. I know first-hand the joy of being a new Christian — the worship, the fire, the brightness in my fellow Christian’s eyes and hearts, the leap in my own, the wonder at submitting to a King who loves me so much He was willing to give up His own life, the deep and awesome sense of belonging…. and I wouldn’t want to take that from another no matter my opinon of how much of it may be authentic. But I do know it is not in my power to take it away, to even tarnish it for another. (I am not that powerful.) The story I tell is real, and it shines a light into the dark corners of Christiandom, where murky motives and pretense and ego thrive. In the end, I decided to share it, to not protect you.

Do you know, fully, the theology of those who’s sermons you listen to?

If you are still wanting to continue chatting (or having deep conversations, lol!), I look forward to hearing back from you.

Last night I received her reply. I’ll post that tomorrow.

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