Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dr. Death

Yesterday I had the distinct privilege to sit with a group of first-year medical students and listen to their reactions after they'd met "their" cadaver for the first time (they work on the same "specimen" all year). It was a fascinating discussion. Here's what I can tell you about med students:

43% of them are "spiritual but not religious" and 26% "pray or meditate" most days (14% are not religious in any way)
but 51% of them identify most closely with Christianity (17% no religion)
and as far as life after death,
24% believe the soul returns to God/the Universe from which it came
20% believe the soul is judged whether it can enter heaven
11% believe that spiritual development continues after death
8% believe in reincarnation
14% believe we remain present (as an ancestor) in memories of the living
20% believe in no existence after death.

So how does this affect their working on a cadaver?

Many were "terrified" of death, but "in awe" of the body. They aren't willing to donate their own bodies, of course, after what they did to these. Not that it was disrespectful (although rumors abound of body parts being used for sport), but their first activity was ripping the skin off the back of the body - not pretty. Most just turned off their emotions and didn't think of it as a person.

Until they got home that night and got sick.

Everyone agreed that donating organs was noble and a good thing to do. I wonder if it's some way to grasp at immortality.

Several of the students really wanted to know more about their cadaver - the person's name, something about him or her. Their life, family, work. Others wanted nothing to do with that because they didn't want to dissect a "friend." One was named "Alfred" by his group.

Many felt that calling gross anatomy a "rite of passage" or calling the body a "specimen" was dehumanizing and disrespectful.

Some saw the great circle of life represented and marveled at their opportunity to learn to heal from someone who'd died.

Others just faced their own mortality and were afraid.

One said he had flashes of feeling like he was working on his grandfather.

All in all, it was a fascinating day. Much as they may not want to admit it, the students' personal views on death and religion will affect how they practice medicine and how they relate to patients and families.

One teacher/doctor said that in the decade since he'd been to med school, there's been an "evolution towards death" - that is, he was taught to keep people alive at all costs, and now the trend is going towards letting people die peacefully. Many of the major religions of the world support this, despite the Terri Schiavo situations that get so much press (that was more about politics than religion anyway - I mean, if they were Christians, wouldn't they want to release her to God?).

The same teacher left the students with the question: "If a patient says to you, 'Doc, I know I'm dying, but tell me, what's gonna happen to me when I die?', what will you answer?"

Food for thought.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I'm officially old

So this won't be a long post because it's hot back here in the computer room again. I thought we were done with the heat but it's returned with a vengeance. Which stinks because, as is usually the case when I finish a quarter (you students will relate), I've come down terribly sick.

Wednesday was my last Pentateuch class, and it was wonderful, as they all were. I'm writing a series of monologues from the non-voiced women (and a few of the voiced but maybe their words were twisted) in the Genesis stories. I'll probably do Miriam, too, since I've got a running start on her. I'll post them on here if I like them. My intent is to make them for churches, although they will be academic and have footnotes and won't be for the ignorant. My teacher said not to think of writing for churches because I'd dumb them down. And I said Ha! I'm Episcopalian! I don't ever dumb down for my people!

Anyway, Thursday morning I woke up with a sore throat, and I should have paid heed. I went Thursday night to sing for the Taize service here in town, and by the end of four hours of singing I was completely raw. Fisherman's Friend was the only thing allowing me to go on, but even then, I was shredding my vocal chords and I knew it.

So I woke up Friday determined to go on vocal rest (which, from this blog alone, you can probably tell was an impossible dream). I did spend several hours quietly reading in the library, many many books about my women in preparation for their monologues. *ugh - there's a hot breeze blowing on me - that is most unpleasant* Oh, and I also went and cancelled Fuller's silly insurance and determined to get my own coverage, which they were fine with, so that's a relief. I'll be without for a month - but I would have been under Fuller's plan anyway, so c'est la vie.

Anyway after the library we came home and by this point I could barely function. Oh, back up, I have to give a shout out to whoever is Ron Rienstra's friend from Grand Rapids who reads the blog. Ron figured out it was me - he was right when he suggested to you that it might be. Peace!

Okay, so I probably made a fabulous impression on Ron and other people I met (although I secretly relish the pleasure of not being able to walk across or sit on my campus without having to talk to at least 2-3 people - it means, yikes, I actually have friends!!) because I was not coherent. My head felt like a spinning top on fire. So I came home and pulled out the couch bed and laid in front of the a/c unit. Temp was 100.1, which is quite high for me. Bemoaning the loss of a day of work when I only have a few more left before I leave on a trip to Iowa for two weeks (and all my assignments for this quarter have to be in before I go), I slept the rest of the afternoon.

But yesterday, you see, was a long-planned trip to Disneyland with two of our best friends and I was determined not to miss that. So, very doped up, I hit the park. And I mostly did okay, although it was miserably hot and humid and we all were soaked through with that sticky heat. YUCK! And thus we reach the title of this tome, which is my oldness, evidenced by the scary, scary fact that I didn't enjoy Disneyland all that much. Huh? What is up with that? But it's true. I was barely interested in most of it. Now of course that could be due to the sickness, but really, I think I'm actually too old to enjoy rides any more - fast or slow, any kind really. It got better towards the end of the day: I really liked Splash Mountain (the one time all day when I felt a comfortable coolness all over me) and I did have fun on Indiana Jones. But the rest were just...eh. Not so much with the fun.

Which upsets me, because Disneyland has always been my fun heroin, the thing I can take a shot of and feel instantly happy. And now it's not doing it for me any more. *sigh* What will be next? Shopping? (oh, wait, that already sucks because I have the spending guilt)

I will say to those of you who are considering visiting the park for the 50th anniversary year, it's definitely worth it. It's all pimped out and several rides have new things on them and there's a great little exhibit full of old maps and tickets and concept art and a giant model of the park as it looked on opening day. Plus the fireworks show is actually the best I've seen. Both of the boys in our group said it was absolutely their favorite thing of the day and worth the price of admission (at a steep 50 bucks, that's saying something). Of course, there was liberal use of fire and lasers. It was indeed a work of art, and I do not say that lightly.

But now I am a person who is grumpy at Disneyland because it's too hot and much too crowded and there's way too many screaming children (man, that place is great birth control!) and the rides are only passable fun and the food's expensive and not that great and it's all mostly just inconvenient. Plus we also spent much of our time in line discussing fascinating topics such as the housing bubble, our retirement portfolios, our friend's house purchase....need I continue?

OK, heat officially getting to me (sickness is kicking my ass for yesterday's adventures). Must go lie down and try to continue reading (although it's amazing how much that tires one out). I'm reading "Beholding the Glory" edited by Jeremy Begbie *sigh* what a great book.

Later I'll tell you about the fun of choosing classes but it's not all decided yet so I'm stopping now.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cool DC-area Event


Former Senator and UN Ambassador John Danforth and noted Evangelical author Jim Wallis will headline “Values, Vision and the Via Media”, the October 13-15 conference set for the Washington National Cathedral. This national gathering of progressive Christians will “initiate a path to reclaim the moral values debate from the Religious Right,” according to Every Voice Network, which is sponsoring the event.

“Danforth and Wallis are two of the most influential voices speaking today in opposition to the hijacking of “Christian Values” in the service of a radically conservative political agenda,” said the Reverend Susan Russell, one of the conference organizers. “We are thrilled to be able to add their witness to this groundbreaking gathering of Christian activists.”

The conference program will outline practical Christian approaches to topics ranging from economics, consumerism, and the environment to peacemaking and family values. Participants include Christian leaders from across the country representing a wide spectrum of interests and sharing a commitment to the values held by the majority of moderate Americans, Republican and Democrat alike. Danforth will be part of the opening plenary session of the conference to be held in the nave of the National Cathedral on Thursday evening, Oct. 13, while Wallis will address the conference as the keynote speaker at the Friday, Oct. 14, banquet.

Other confirmed speakers include journalist and Brookings Institute fellow E.J. Dionne, a regular commentator on National Public Radio programs; American historians David Hollinger and Michael Kazin; and political writer Amy Sullivan, who will discuss the tradition of progressive Christianity in America, the representation of Christianity in the media, and the organization necessary for long-term social change. Also speaking will be Jane Tully, the founder of Clergy Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (CFLAG), a national network of clergy families with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children and other family members. The mother of a gay son and wife of an Episcopal priest, Jane became active in the New York City chapter of Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays after Matthew Shepard's murder, and served as its co-president in 2001-02. She was a member of the team selected by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold to represent the national Episcopal Church’s perspective at the June 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, .

“The goal of this interdisciplinary values conference is far more than talk,” said Kevin Jones, coordinator of the conference’s economic track. “It’s to work together to find a path to faithful action personally, locally and globally on the issues confronting 21st century American Christians.”

Detailed program and registration information is available online at: http://www.everyvoice.net/values

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Marriage: Sacred vs. Secular

J's been teaching all week on marriage, particularly on whether same-sex marriage should be legal. It's very interesting: in his class of pretty much conservative and religious 18-21 year olds, the kids take it for granted that same-sex marriage is okay. Surely they weren't taught this by their parents or churches. Yet there's something about the postmodern generation that just lets these things go without argument. They're very laissez-faire.

Well anyway I could write more about that but I won't because J gets on my case when I write that which I know not of. Wait - I have his lectures right here on the computer! I can steal them and post them all over the internet! Then I just have to sit home and wait for my divorce papers.

Anyway, what got me thinking on this subject is this super-cool little article from Killing the Buddha. Here are some excerpts:

"Certainly, Vegas isn't the right option for everyone, but in this skeptical world, I'm shocked that more people don't consider it, or at least head down to City Hall. It isn't my business, but I can't help being confused by the misappropriation of religious ritual -- by secular Americans who only want God around when planning a major life-event-ceremony. People with no plans for prayer and no intention of ever paying membership fees to a house of worship. People who select their denominations based on which church looks oldest, which synagogue has shady parking in July.

"A wedding is a lot of things, but historically and legally, it's primarily a binding agreement -- to unify clans or countries, sell off daughters, earn dowries for second sons. A wedding is a business arrangement.

"Or it's a covenant before God. Which one are you shooting for?

"You should figure it out before you order the invitations, because if you're trying to pull off a pretend covenant before God -- if you think he won't notice that you're lying, reading your prayers from a cheat sheet, renting a church you've never set foot it to fake out Grandma -- you've picked the wrong man to fool. No matter how pretty you look in your Vera Wang."

Check out Laurel Snyder's fabulous story "Slut for Faith" at: http://www.killingthebuddha.com/confession/slutforfaith.htm

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Taizé Prayer Service - This Thursday in LA!

Taizé Prayer Service
In Thanksgiving for Brother Roger of Taizé
and for Peace in the World

Thursday August 25, 2005
7:30 p.m.
Episcopal Cathedral Center
840 Echo Park AvenueLos Angeles, CA 90026

Phone: 213.482.2040

(Musicians needed! Please arrive at 6:30 to rehearse)

Health insurance is such a scam!

I can't believe how stupid health insurance is! I've been in such heaven for the last 5 years, covered by USC. I had no idea how terrible it is to try to get covered on your own. The plans offered by my school are a complete scam! You pay all this money for monthly premiums and then if you go to the doctor you pay more and if anything happens to you you pay more again! I mean, where exactly am I getting any benefit from this??

And now I'm hopping mad because I've found this great actually reasonable plan from Blue Shield which is for young healthy people who don't need to go to the doctor much and certainly don't want to mess with babies or anything like that. It's amazing how much cheaper health insurance is if you just don't want kids!! It's the maternity benefits which are bleeding us all dry - and if I were a man I'd be even more pissed!

Anyway, this plan allows me to pay less than $100/month, go to the doctor once a year for my checkup ($35), get my birth control for $8/month, and visit my chiropractor now and then. It's absolutely the perfect plan for my needs.

But Fuller won't let me have it. Why? Because it doesn't cover pregnancy. I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of getting pregnant. Hell, I'm willing to go on a sex fast to prove it. But even if you're male, Fuller requires you to have pregnancy coverage. What is THAT about?? I can understand if you're wanting to have children. But I don't! So why should I have to pay exorbitant rates for insurance that sucks compared to what I can get from Blue Shield?? I mean, the Fuller plans are complete robbery, and I'll be paying through the nose for my once-year checkup and my monthly pills and not even using the myriad other benefits they require me to have but I don't need!!

What a freaking racket. I'm so pissed off. Is it the law for them to require these silly coverages? Because if not, I'm seriously thinking about challenging them on this. They are forcing me to overpay for something I don't need!

Well anyway, I still have my Kaiser benefits for a little while before USC stops my coverage. So I can use that to get past registration, and then regroup. Fuller only asks for your proof of insurance once a year at fall registration, and J thinks I should give them Kaiser then just get the Blue Shield on my own and not mention that it doesn't quite fit their specifications. Of course someone from Fuller will probably read this and tattle on me. I personally don't feel like that's ethical anyway, so I probably won't do it. But it's funny that Mr. PhD in Ethics guy thinks I should. He does have a point - they're forcing me into a yicky position and I'd so much rather buy for my own needs. That's the problem with the group insurance - it's not personalized. Ugh! I want to buy my own plan!!

I suppose this will all be so much easier when I'm in full time ministry, ha ha ha!!

Monday, August 22, 2005


I'm having all this blog guilt because I'm ignoring the Feminarian. I just don't have time...and sometimes I'm lazy. I'm finishing up my classes...trying to read several books and write papers (isn't it weird how they somehow get done, and you look back and think, huh, how did I do that?). I'm trying to find health insurance since I lose that end of the month. I'm figuring out if we have enough money to live on without my income, and I want to start tithing to our new church. But I'll tell you what, those few months between churches when we weren't tithing...wow, what a boost to the ol' income. I can see why it's so difficult when one hasn't always done it. But we'll start up again now that we're officially transferring.

Anyway, things are just busy, and I don't feel like I can devote time to this right now. And my stinking class is way too interesting to blog during lectures! Curse that prof!

Okay sounds like J is home, I'd better get back to the laundry. Cheers. Sorry.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Brother Roger dies in violent attack

Brother Roger, founder of ecumenical community, is killed during evening worship service
[Episcopal News Service]

The 90-year-old founder of the ecumenical Taizé community, Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche—known to the world simply as Frère Roger or Brother Roger—died August 16 during evening prayer in the Church of Reconciliation, struck down by a knife wielded by a mentally disturbed Romanian woman who emerged from the crowd of 2,500 worshippers.

Taizé officials said the woman had arrived two days earlier at the community, located near Macon in Burgundy, France. A local prosecutor said the woman, reportedly 36 years old, bought the knife the day before. "It would appear for now there is little doubt that this was premeditated,” he told reporters, adding that she was not "unbalanced enough to justify psychiatric care." People at the service grabbed the woman and turned her over to police.
Brother Roger’s funeral will take place on Tuesday, August 23. Until then, his body will be placed in the church each afternoon “so that all who wish may go and meditate close by him.”
The Swiss Protestant monk’s sudden and tragic death prompted an outpouring of grief from Anglican leaders around the world.

“With sadness and dismay we learned this morning of the death of Brother Roger of Taizé,” said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles. “It is confusing and almost inexplicable that a man of holiness and peace would be struck down by someone acting in violence. I have watched personally as he has loved and calmed many storms at Taizé, and I know that all of the members of this diocese who have ever been to Taizé or listened to the music or sung the chants will grieve with us at the diocesan office as we experience this senseless act of anger. We will pray for the members of the community of Taizé and will offer any help that is available.
“Sadness is the note of the day, but we know that Brother Roger sits in heaven with God.”
The story of Brother Roger was told in an article about the Taizé community published in the Spring 2005 issue of The Episcopal News.

“Having first visited Taizé more than forty years ago as a student, and having followed its unfolding as a community of witness to God's reconciling power and love, and knowing how much it owes to the vision and prayer of its founder, Brother Roger, I am profoundly distressed by his death and the manner in which it occurred,” said Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. “For such a man of peace to meet a violent end while at prayer with his brothers and young pilgrims recalls the mystery of the Cross in stark and unambiguous terms.

“Some years ago Brother Roger inscribed the Sign of the Cross in the palm of my hand, urging me to remain young in heart,” Griswold continued. “May his youthful spirit and unwavering hope, rooted so deeply in Christ, be his continuing legacy both to his community and to the churches as they seek to embody the unity for which Christ prayed in order that the world may believe.

“Roger, having died in Christ, now lives in Christ. Amen. Alleluia.”

"This is an indescribable shock. Brother Roger was one of the best-loved Christian leaders of our time, and hundreds of thousands will be feeling his loss very personally, and remembering him in prayer and gratitude,” said Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. "But the shock and trauma for the community at Taizé will be heavy - as it will be for all the young people who witnessed this event. All of them are in our prayers."

“The news of the death of Brother Roger has saddened Anglicans around the world, and we are especially shocked by the violent manner of his death, which was in stark contrast to his lifelong ministry of peace and reconciliation,” said the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion. “The Taizé community which he founded, whose witness to ecumenism and reconciliation especially among young people will be his lasting memorial, has influenced Christian worship and spirituality worldwide, and it is to that Community that I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy at this time.”

“What a dreadful end to one of the finest men on the planet, who did more for reconciliation among Christians than anyone else I know,” wrote Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. “May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

"Brother Roger died as he lived, praying at the centre of his community," said World Council of Churches acting general secretary Geneviève Jacques, in a message of condolence sent to the Taizé community.

The Taizé community, founded in 1940 by Brother Roger when he was 25, became a safe haven for political refugees and people of all faiths, among them Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Since the late 1950s, thousands of young adults from many countries have come to Taizé to take part in weekly meetings of prayer and reflection. More than 100 Taizé brothers, committed to material and spiritual sharing, celibacy, and simplicity of life, make visits and lead meetings in Africa, North and South America, Asia, and in Europe, as part of what they call “a pilgrimage of trust on earth.” Eight years ago, Brother Roger designated Brother Alois to succeed him as the person in charge of the community.

From Miriam to Moses

For Pentateuch I had to write a letter either from Moses to Miriam or vice versa. I decided to write Miriam's letter. It's her last letter to Moses, before she dies in the wilderness, which is right before the water incident at Meribah. This is a fun exercise and would be interesting to do with a small group or Sunday school class - for many of the characters in the Bible (e.g. David and Jonathan, Naomi and Ruth, Peter and Paul, Jesus and Mary of Bethany, etc.). Anyway, here's what I wrote:

My dearest little brother,

I thought I’d put my thoughts out on papyrus so that I can say everything clearly. Sometimes when we’re talking I get distracted by your glowing face or I get caught up in my emotions. Here I will be able to get it all out without being hindered. There’s a lot I want to say to you and I’m not sure how much time I’ve got left. This wandering has really gotten to me, and I’m feeling my age.

I have to tell you I am very proud of you. You have surpassed anything we could have imagined. I was always a little surprised that Yahweh took you under wing – when you left Egypt, I really thought we’d seen the last of you forever. But then you showed up one day all full of purpose and with Yahweh certainly on your side.

I was always a little curious why he chose you. I mean, all of our family had been close to Yahweh. I’ve known he was with me since that time when you were a baby and Yahweh told me to talk to the princess and I did it, despite my terrible fear. And what do you know? Yahweh knew what he was doing.

I’m really glad you came back and gave me a name to put with this Presence I’ve always known. And then the miraculous things that he did for us! Maybe I could have brought God’s words to Pharaoh (I did have experience standing up to Egyptian royalty), but you did a great job. It was such an amazing experience, wasn’t it? Terrifying and wonderful. When it was finally all over, how could we do anything but sing and dance?

But now, as I near the end of my days, I am becoming ever more aware just how fearsome Yahweh can be. I am so grateful to him for getting us out of Egypt, and I am so honored to be part of the family that he’s blessing specially. But lately, his might and power seem to be turned more and more against us instead of for us. It’s good to be part of the chosen people but it’s also difficult – he seems to expect so much more of not only our people, but our family in particular!

Still, I only ever see or hear glimpses of what he wants. He made it pretty clear that you’re the one he likes the best. And I’ve dealt with that, although you know it troubled me for some time. When I was stuck outside the camp for those seven days I did a lot of thinking, and I’ve made peace with my place in this grand story. The fact is, you’ve always been in a better position – because of your upbringing, your gender, your humility – to be God’s chosen one. I’ve just been along for the ride, and I’m grateful to have been so close to such a magnificent person.

Please pray for me as I go to our ancestors, and remember me as you lead the people home to the land promised to us. Sing my songs and keep the women dancing. Always trust Yahweh, even when he’s making you angry. It’s become obvious that he knows best. And whatever you do, don’t cross him! Do exactly as he says whenever he gives you instructions. Then it will go well with you and you will enter the land flowing with milk and honey, as I will not be able to do.
Take care of Aaron and yourself and most importantly of God’s precious people.


Death class

The class's Expanded Course Description is finally up, which includes info about the purpose of the class and also the required reading list. Thought you might want to check it out:


When I get the syllabus, I will post the recommended reading list as well.

Well I have decided not to take Eschatology because it's always offered, and instead I have gotten myself into a doctoral seminar entitled "Theology of Beauty." Yay. And Yikes! It should be a great class, but I'm intimidated. Still, my MA-level classes are pretty basic, so I'm looking forward to a challenge. And what a cool topic.

So it will be Beauty, Death, and Ethics for me this fall. Perhaps I will come up with a lovely theological treatise on the beauty of death (and life) and how that affects our ethics. I definitely look forward to combining the thoughts of Beauty and the Death.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Absorbing Violence

You know, our prof just took what that student hurled at him - the false accusations - and I don't know if he responded but I know that he took the opportunity to ensure nobody else had misunderstood. He did what we'd just read about, part of the message from OT sacrifice: the absorption of violence. You know the OT is pretty violent, and even the sacrificial system is such. The way animals were to be killed was pretty gory, and then not only were they killed but their blood was thrown all around the room. But according to some commentators, the sacrifices channeled the violence of the community so that they weren't violent (or as violent) to one another. Like Christ on the cross, the sacrificial animals were innocent and were not being punished. But they did take on the stain of the sin of the person offering sacrifice (or in Jesus' case, humanity's stain). And they channeled the violence of human beings toward God, which came to a climax in our violent killing of God.

I don't know if this is making any sense - I am summarizing some big concepts in just a few lines. What I'm trying to say is that part of being a follower of God, I believe, is absorbing violence. We find the ability and even desire to do so from Christ's example, and we cannot do it without God's help. But we can take the pain and resentment and anger and violence of the world somehow into ourselves. It can stop with us.

I don't really have a good way to conclude this except to say that I saw it in action today and I was humbled.


I'm sorry. I don't want to go off about controversial things. I mean, of course I do, but too many people now read this blog - people I love and respect, my professors and family members, my peers. So I guess I'll just remind everyone again that the Feminarian is an overblown characterization of me and not really me. She's the person that allows me to say all the things I think in my deep dark moments. I guess she is me, in a way, but I'm not her.

Okay, that said, I got an email that's made me so spitting mad. Last night we talked in our Pentateuch class about why the arguments in Leviticus and Gen 18-19 don't work on the anti-homosexual agenda. In other words, those who wish to argue biblically against homosexuals need to do so from a broader perspective because those proof texts can easily be refuted. Christians just look stupid when they use bad arguments. So the prof was trying to help people see that, however they may wish to feel about homosexual people, they couldn't use these passages of Scripture without making idiots of themselves.

Fair enough, right? If anything, even helpful?

Yet someone emailed him that he was teaching a "pro-homosexual" agenda, and that Fuller must have changed its stance on the issue (believe me, they have not, and don't I know it). So my prof had to email the class to tell us exactly what he told us last night, which is what I described above, which was perfectly clear to anyone who was actually listening and not turning off their brain at the mere mention of "Homos".

The prof was just trying to help us understand what arguments NOT to use against homosexuality because they don't work. It can only help Christians to understand when they're using a dumb argument. Apart from my personal feelings on this, the point of the lecture was clear to me.

And if I may rant just a moment, this makes me absolutely sick. I can't imagine people getting away with such bigoted behavior at any of the other schools with which I or J are affiliated. GLBT people are possibly the last group that it's perfectly acceptable for Christians to slam, and I hate it. People think it's perfectly fine to go whining about "pro-homosexual" teaching, as if somehow we're talking about something demonic or anti-Christian or at least, an agenda and not a group of human beings. I can't fathom how a person who knows a GLBT human (Christian especially) can possibly not see that it's not the most hurtful, nasty way to behave. So WHAT if the professor even says we should all "go gay"! That doesn't have to lead us to bitching about it. Why can't we just try to talk it out, maybe change minds or at least have intelligent debate.

But when he asked for questions or comments, there was not a peep from the class. No, people saved their vitriol for the anonymous forum of email. Cowards. If the student would have said something right then, the prof could have explained and it would all be okay. But now this person's left thinking the prof believes something that I know he does not believe. Ugh! I hate this kind of behavior!

And the really ironic thing is that the message was intended to help the anti-homosexual arguments become more focused and intelligent. And even if I don't agree with them, I don't like my brothers and sisters looking stupid by quoting non-applicable Biblical passages. So I could deal with it.

You know what's funny? We're talking about that same class period about how substitutionary atonement just may not be biblical. That's a serious theological paradigm shift. Yet THIS is the issue people want to talk about. This and evolution, which also was a favorite topic.

The professors at Fuller are so bright and reasoned and biblical. I just wish the students could grow up.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Kitten Season

Aren't they the sweetest?

Please do what you can to help spread the word about curbing overpopulation in the shelters. This time of year is known as "Kitten Season" because so many unwanted/feral babies are born. As mommy to two rescued (and spayed) cats, I feel strongly about this issue.

Hey, I've never shown you baby pictures! Now that blogger will host them, here are my children (top is Tyche, bottom is Pollock aka Kitty):

imix created

The imix has been published. I don't know how to access it, but I assume if you asked for it, you know. It's called "The Writings: A Musical Journey". It's under J's account, which is filmphilosopher@juno.com.


Grief, Loss, Death and Dying

This is the title of a class offered this fall at Fuller. I find myself inexorably drawn to it. The professor is Francis Bridger, and what an amazing story he has. From Fuller's website:

In March 2003 Francis Bridger lost his wife Renee very suddenly to cancer. During twenty-three days, she went from diagnosis to death. This tragic and untimely ending had a devastating effect on Francis for his years of ministry and teaching had only partly prepared him. This book chronicles the twenty-three days leading up to Renee's death and the fourteen months that followed as Bridger grieves and struggles to come to terms with his loss. This book offers no easy solutions to the problem of pain, rather a frank acknowledgement of how difficult are the questions that arise at times of need and suffering. At the same time, it offers hope to those in grief through its combination of honesty, humanity and faith.

This is like taking a class on grief with CS Lewis after Shadowlands. What a humbling opportunity. I'm going to take it alongside Christian Ethics and Eschatology. Thought that would make for a fascinating term. (plus, Bridger wrote a book on how Harry Potter presents a positive spirituality for Christians, so there's always that to discuss!)

I'm planning to visit the Trappist monastery when I'm in Iowa next month, the one where they make those beautiful caskets. I am really looking forward to meeting these monks, who are committed to dealing with death in such an open and spiritual way.

You know, I've seen maybe more death than my share. I don't know. I just know it's always been a part of my life - I've never really been uncomfortable around it. It's very sad, but it's not scary. I remember J turning white as a sheet when he saw my grandfather's body - he was shaking. It was his first. I can't remember my first.

I grew up going to funerals since my dad's a pastor. They were for the old ladies in the church who'd pass, and I'd cry. In the Midwest we do "visitations" which means everyone lines up to walk by the open casket. So I saw plenty of dead bodies. Never touched one until recently, though. And I was standing there looking at my grandfather (other side) with my cousin's young daughter and she said he wasn't there any more.

My first major death experience was with my cousin, who died suddenly and violently, in a shocking accident that tore all of our hearts to shreds. I was 12 and he was 13. That was the kind of formative experience that ... well, I can still pull up exactly how it felt, all these years later. And none of us has really recovered.

Then a family in our church had a gas stove which was left on or something and the house basically exploded, leaving both parents and 2 of 6 kids dead. That funeral had four caskets at the front of the church. It was another kind of intense.

Then in high school my grandmother died but I was too busy with my own life to go to the funeral. Funny how by that time death wasn't such a big deal to me.

In college, freshman year, one of my classmates died in a car accident. I remember at that point calling my parents and asking them why nobody old ever dies. Most of my death experiences to that point were with young people, and usually in sudden accidental ways. I didn't get it.

After moving to LA I spent a few months with my grandpa before he passed away, and that was J's first funeral. Then all hell broke loose. My uncle was in a near-fatal car accident and during his recovery he overdosed on pain pills, during Holy Week. The following year's Holy Week brought my cousin's overdose on Vicatin and beer (you gotta be careful with that stuff!!). He was one month younger than me, to the day. We were beginning to dread Easter. Then J's cousin was killed in another accident, leaving a son and another grieving family behind.

My mom spent the better part of the last 2 (3?) years caring for her parents, the ones who'd lost their son (my uncle) and adopted grandson (my cousin). They lost touch with reality and lost ability to care for themselves. It was a difficult descent into incompetence. Mom went through hell. They finally passed last spring, about a month apart. It was a relief, but closure still looms because the family has been fighting over the will for over a year.

What a mysterious thing death is, and how strange that for some of us, it pours. Death is painful and sad, but not really frightening (eternity is frightening, but that's another subject). We put a lot of stock in the promises of reunion - it helps us to deal. I put stock in them. I want to see these people again.

So I simply must take this class. It is something I need to process, and I want to know how to help other people with it. My life has prepared me to sympathize with many sorts of loss situations, although I can't ever understand what another person is going through, really. But all this pain can be turned to good. I won't say it happened for a reason, because I honestly don't know if that's true and I don't like what it implies. But I will say that it can be redeemed.

Monday, August 08, 2005

More on music

This one is for my friends. As you know, every year J & I have a fun and sometimes rancorous debate about which cds to put in our KCRW 5 pack (for those not in the know, a KCRW 5-pack of cds can be had for a $100 pledge - go www.kcrw.com to subscribe, support a great station, and get 5 awesome cds that you'd buy anyway). The discussion about the 5 pack goes on for many weeks as we collect names and remember ones we forgot and check the dj's picks. Then it come down to that one magical phone call when we get to announce our picks (probably the people at the station aren't as hyped as we are, but whatever). Then we compare notes with all our friends who subscribe to see who got the best pack and/or who will be burning something for us.

So for those of you who follow these things, here's the 2005 summer signup 5 pack by us:

Sounds Eclectico (Various)
Get Behind Me Satan (White Stripes)
Verve Remix 3 (Various)
Guero (Beck)
Six Feet Under 2 (Various)

This is gonna rock...the next 6 weeks are always the worst, waiting for them to arrive!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Music music music

So first I must highly recommend Rufus Wainwright's WANT: One, which came out in 2003 but I've only just been able to procure. Woooow. This is a seriously killer cd. I haven't heard orchestrations like this...well, ever, on a pop cd, and rarely in movie soundtracks or concert halls. It's gorgeous. And makes me keenly aware that there are simply not enough songs out today featuring kickass trumpet solos ("Beautiful Child", Track 11).

Also spinning for me lately is Fiona Apple's newest, which I hear is actually being released soon (for a while the studio refused to release it, and so Fiona was pissed, and let it leak out onto the internet, hence our getting it). Extraordinary Machine - album title and also my favorite track. Incidentally, another great use of instrumentation not normally heard in pop music, including chimes and oboes.

And finally I just finished a rather obsessive project, which is that I wanted to make a cd of songs that reminded me of the books of the Old Testament Writings. Originally I was going to just burn a couple Beck songs for my prof, since he (despite being a music fiend) claims not to have ever heard a Beck song with a melody (ha ha - who doesn't love singing along to "Debra" or "Nicotine and Gravy"? Just because the words don't make any sense doesn't mean there's no melody line). But then I got to thinking about how many of Beck's offerings sound a lot like Ecclesiastes, and that got me thinking how other pop songs by the artists I love remind me of other books of the Writings, and, well, next thing you know, I've compiled a cd for Dr. John that is a veritable musical journey through the Writings. Here's the playlist:

Beautiful World
(Colin Hay, Going Somewhere, 2000)
Sunshine On Leith
(The Proclaimers, Sunshine On Leith, 1988)
Trouble On The Line
(Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose, 2004)
O Pallanhaare
(Lata Mangeshkar & Udit Narayan, Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India, 2001)

(jem, Finally Woken, 2004)

Song of Songs
You Dance
(eastmountainsouth, Eastmountainsouth, 2003)
Come On Closer
(jem, Finally Woken, 2004)

Life Is Bad
(Shelby Lynne, I Am Shelby Lynne, 2000)
God Makes No Mistakes
(Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose, 2004)
Hard Times
(eastmountainsouth, Eastmountainsouth, 2003)

It Won't Go Away
(Kasey Chambers, Barricades & Brickwalls, 2002)

(Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around, 2002)
O Maria
(Beck, Mutations, 1998)
Sweetness Follows
(R.E.M., Automatic For The People, 1992)
Just A Ride
(jem, Finally Woken, 2004)

The Golden Path
(The Chemical Brothers featuring the Flaming Lips, Singles 93-03, 2003)
(Prince, The Hits/The B-Sides (Disc 1)

And if I'd only owned the cd, I would also have had to add "The Greatest Song in the World" by Tenacious D in my apocalyptic section. *sigh* Oh, well. now you can tell me what I missed - maybe there will have to be a Writings Volume 2.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Good news

I am constantly amazed at how God is using this blog. People are finding schools here...and caskets. Stories long hidden are brought to light so shared memories can help healing to begin. I am blessed by the community who reads this - and challenged! You guys hold me to a high standard. Thank goodness God is more forgiving than blog commenters! (that's a joke, commentators)

I went to meet about my internship today with the director of the office. The first thing she said to me was that if my supervisor had a problem with the community statement she could cross the offending part out and write why...and I handed her that exact thing already done. She was delighted - and sorry to hear of my concern over whether I could do the internship. In fact, she said that somehow word had reached the dean of my school and even the president of the seminary, and they both had been emailing with her to ensure their full support of the denominiational positions of students' churches and that she should tell students they are encouraged to have supervisors write something bringing the standards into line with their particular denomination's doctrine. Well!

She said she didn't know how that happened but I have guesses! I know I have angels at Fuller who read this blog and determined to do something on my behalf (for I am but the first of no doubt many yet to come). And it turns out that the president and dean are totally on board, and in fact somehow the language may change. I know this has been brewing for some time, but it is so wonderful to have played a little part in helping to open the school to the new developments in Christendom.

So thank you, those of you who may have said something. I've been told to make sure my Episcopal friends know they can indeed serve in their own parishes. Fuller trusts our bishop. And as others face this as their churches deliberate, I imagine Fuller will keep walking that razor-thin line of sensitivity vs. standards. You do have to admire their ability to keep both sides happy (or upset, as the case may more often be!).

I feel terribly that I have written in so long so I'm going to blabber on a while. I lost 3 lbs this week - then gained one back eating pizza. Too bad. I also bought my first old lady bras. I'm just too big for pretty ones anymore. But at least I went up a cup size! Ah, small victories. I've been thinking a lot about my weight because I took a blood sugar test and it was 105 after fasting which I'm told is a little elevated. And I'm just thinking GREAT - that's just what I need, diabetes! No way, bugger. The poundage is coming off and the fruits & veggies are going in (hey, it was a tomato/mushroom pizza!). I am WAY too terrified of needles to get diabetes. Of course a lot of people can't help getting it and it has nothing to do with weight. But in my case, I've gained a lot in a short time, I was less active b/c of school last year, and both my grandparents had it, so I am on high alert.

What else can I tell you? Haven't had much time for reading lately except Harry Potter which I'm about 500 pages into. Getting to the end! But it takes us a long time to read b/c we read them aloud. I read them to J and I used to do voices but I've forgotten a lot of them since this one took so long to come out. Plus I was largely basing them on the audio recording, which I heard for the first three books, and then after that I had to make them up myself.

Speaking of books that were read aloud, I hear Narnia looks great from a friend who saw bunches of it at Comicon. That's a relief. The trailer I saw did not look great - I mean, the effects looked kind of cheesy. But they all can't be LOTR, right?

So maybe I've lost a lot of people by now and I can tell you a few of the things I've been saving. One is that J got me the BEST present for our anniversary!!! Men, listen up. It's called the lavendar 6-pack and it involves several sleeves and buzzing objects. That's all I'm gonna say. It's such a totally redemptive thing for me - like I am just so thrilled to share such a thing with my husband and to have it be GOOD and not guilt-inducing. Love it!

Also things are pretty much sucking with the quitting of the job. I know absolutely I made the right choice - I've never been so sure of anything. It was absolutely the right thing to do, and I'm completely relieved, a weight is lifted. And yet. There is the person I'm leaving, who is not taking it well. I think our small office (just 2 of us) makes it feel more like an abandonment or personal rejection than a professional decision. So there's been some bad exchanges and some disagreements over whether I broke a promise (conveniently shared with the heads of departments, which makes me feel terrible). Anyway it's not for much longer but I hate that it's ending badly, especially because it was such a great ride.

Okay, J is emerging from the computer room so I think I might go see him. Haven't done that in quite a few days. Love ya.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Quotes from Class

There's nothing like class to pep me up. No matter how tired and cranky I feel at 5:00, four hours with Dr. John is the best medicine in the world. I get home so jazzed. He just loves Scripture so much and makes us love it too.

Tonight he was in rare form, and here are a few of my favorite bon mots from the evening:

"You are not chosen because you are great. You are chosen because you are wrong. How much more splendid is what God achieves with the one who is not great."

How can God let people get away with so much? "That's God's problem, you see: God makes a commitment to you, and God has to keep the commitment!"

"If the gifts and promises of God are revocable, we're in deep shit."

"Just stand there, God will bless you in splendiferous ways, and the rest of the world will come and say wow! I'd like some of God please!"

Internship, cont.

I think we're just going to apply to Fuller and see what they say. We're going to cross out the stuff about same-sex relations being "unbiblical", which I've been told worked for another supervisor in my denomination (who, by the way, isn't gay herself, but simply disagrees with the statement). Then we'll see what happens. Probably won't volunteer the orientation of my supervisor, unless specifically asked. I imagine this won't be the first or last time someone's crossed out that section, so here's hoping it will fly.

The sad thing is that I wish there would be an acknowledgement that this issue isn't settled in Christendom. But then I have to remind myself that in fact, it is, in the majority of the churches (or at least in their individual's minds) that send people to Fuller. Same goes for topics such as evolution vs. creation that seem so completely ridiculous to me, but they are a big deal to some people (as evidenced by a lively argument - and the sound of many minds blowing - in my Penteteuch class last Wednesday night).

I chose Fuller because I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the world's views on things, and I wanted to learn more about the average joe christian's worldview. It's sorely lacking in my opinion, but that's all the more reason to redouble our efforts. The main thing is to get people - including seminarians! - reading the Bible. It's amazing how uppity Evangelicals can be about this book, as if they are the only ones who understand it. I keep getting that annoying question about why you'd believe any of it if parts of it are fictional and despite my best efforts to point out the fictionality of Jesus' parables people somehow compartmentalize those into a special category. So we can learn from parables even though they didn't happen, but if Genesis or Esther or Job didn't, then our entire faith is bunk. I'm generalizing and summarizing, of course, but it boils down to people holding on to things that don't necessarily make sense.

Anyway, I have to work on my homework now, and don't have time for a full-on rant. I just wish people would read the Bible for what it is and not try to make it into things it's not. And I hate questions like, "Why do you read it if you don't think it really happened?" Because it's still true, even if it's not factual! And mostly because it's the Bible, so that makes it important to read. Duh! It's the most important way God's revealed Godself to us, and there's something to learn (about God, about us, about us and God) from everything, historically true or not.

Oh, boy. Really gotta stop now.