Wednesday, November 30, 2005

In-N-Out's Secret Menu

More Action Items

So today was the last day of Christian Ethics class, and we all went nuts sharing our personal causes. It was fun - Stassen's turned us into a bunch of activists. Anyway, here are some more good sites to know about:

http://savedarfur.org/ (check out the sample prayers; also, this is just a horrendous situation)
http://www.compassion.com/ ($32/month to sponsor a child)
http://www.heifer.org/ (one of my personal favorites for Christmas shopping!)
http://www.forusa.org/ (thanks to a commenter for sending me here - I enjoyed Walter Wink's article on homosexuality but also it's just a good group overall)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Action Alert

On December 3, 2005, environmental groups from across the world will converge on Montreal, Canada, where representatives from 150 or more nations will be attending a Climate Conference to discuss the deepening crisis of global warming. The environmentalists will make their voices heard as they tell the United States to "Join the World" and sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

Go to www.kyotoandbeyond.org and sign the People's Ratification of the Kyoto Treaty.

Also, check out the ever-growing antagonism in the comments on the "gay debate"! Hee hee!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Hello from Seattle!

Well here I am at the end of my long weekend. It's been a quiet day here in Lake Wobegon....I mean Fremont. I had a surprise when one of my Fuller friends showed up at church here last night. Turns out she's interning at a Presby church nearby and comes to cota to "be with people my own age."

And there were plenty of those. Near as I could tell, everyone who comes is a Christian already, but is disillusioned with their Evangelical/Pentecostal/Mainline background. So it's slightly off from the initial presentation the church makes - that they are reaching out to the lost of their surrounding neighborhood. I mean, that's definitely their goal, they're just not there yet, which is fine. They're in this for the long haul. But yeah, right now, it's mostly kids from the local Christian college and a few others.

The service went okay - although because we knew what the plan was and how it was actually supposed to happen, we knew when things didn't go right. Still, nobody seemed the least bit troubled about that. They're very laid back. I will say that had I not met these folks and spent some time hanging out with them, I might have thought, as one visitor we spoke to said, that they were trying too hard to be cool. It did come off - well, not as cheesy as Mosaic, but affected. Still, because we'd talked to the leaders and knew their hearts were 100% in their work, we knew they were sincerely trying the best they could. At that point, I just have to accept that "alt-worship" is not to my personal taste, but that doesn't make it bad (as hard as that is to admit!).

This is a wonderful group of people and they definitely have the right attitude about solid community and giving space to question. They allow for a wide range of viewpoints but they don't make apologies about reading scripture, corporate praying, or serving Eucharist every week. They do have roots and honor them; they also like to play with the tradition.

And nobody pretends it's perfect. They know they need to reach their neighbors; they know they need to assimilate newcomers better. I got to witness a hissy fit yesterday from a person involved in the service who didn't want to be asked to participate at such late notice. They don't have consistent money coming in. Their heat only works half the time (we know, we've been sleeping here). They are disorganized to a point that would drive me mad.

But people love it. They feel refreshed, peaceful, welcomed, accepted, trusted, honored, used (in a good way), not pressured. The church has grown tremendously for a start-up. They are doing something right.

Plus they've got all these people living here at the church (they call it an abbey), including two who've taken the title of "monk" and are trying to live into that. They house people with nowhere else to go for months - as long as it takes. The liturgical arts pastor mops the floor. The intern gives the sermon (and the people raise hands and give their own opinion on the topic!). There's a pug, Jerry, who's been blessed as "minister of hospitality" (and has also communed - accidentally - when some bread fell on the floor!). They are baptizing people. They have several houses full of church members living in intentional community. They go through the lectionary texts during the week and have a group that meets in a pub to talk about theology over beer and they watch films of significance. They have a woman who has written giant icons for their worship space. They have musicians who write the service music. There's an awful lot of gifting that this church has been blessed with. And they use it well.

Right now I'm waiting for someone to take us to the airport. We're hoping that will happen. So far the hospitality has been wonderful - we're sleeping at the church and have been treated to several meals, not to mention quite friendly cooperation with our intrusive camerawork. Of course I don't want to get stuck here but I also don't really want to take a bus in a foreign town. It'll be fine. But friends in LA, if we're not back in a couple more days, send out a search party.

So I just bought two buttons and now I'll tell you what they say:
"Please Jesus protect me from your followers"
and
"A fat ass is a sign of a life well lived"

Wow...I think that's the end for today. If you're curious about cota visit them online at www.apostleschurch.org.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It's off to Sea-town we go!

We're off to Seattle to shoot a little film about Church of the Apostles. They're the one emerging-style church I know of that's actually doing things right. Abbess Karen Ward is welcoming us with open arms to the Fremont Street Abbey, where we get to live for 5 days while recording the community in action. It's very exciting. I hope we can produce something that will teach people about how to do Christianity right. And I really hope we can get people off the idea that emerging church is some kind of "style" or bandwagon they can jump on. It's just authentic Christianity, really. It's not "ancient-future" - it's what we've always been and what we should always be, as the Church of Christ.

I'm sure I'll have plenty to say about it upon my return. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Token

Sorry I haven't written in a while...I'm so sleepy all the time! It's a stress thing.

So this guy in my ethics class asked if he could interview me about my stance on homosexuality for his final paper. This guy, clearly, wants to shred my viewpoint to pieces. But as usual, I was like, Bring it on. So I said sure, I'd help. Now I think I want to back out.

Ugh. I'm the token liberal. I mean, I've asked for it. This is so nerve-wracking. I have to be so careful about how I approach this. I feel like I'm representing the entire pro-gay Christian universe! So much pressure! Help?!

The main reason I'm nervous is because my reasoning started (but didn't end) because I saw and experienced gay Christianity with my own eyes. I witnessed the work of God's spirit in people who she had no business working with. And I talked to people who prayed for release for years, who tried to live celibate, who denied themselves any joy, who hated themselves, yes, who even submitted to voluntary pain: electroshock therapy. And then one day, for the lucky ones, they clearly heard the voice of God telling them: "You're okay. You are the way I made you and I did not make you wrong. Go in peace." And sin no more...no more self-loathing of a beautiful creation of God's. No more following a call to celibacy that's not your cross to bear. No more obssessing about what you shouldn't be. It's time to become who God made you to be. And that will necessarily include your orientation, and if you find someone, a loving, monogamous covenant relationship.

It's like when women starting obviously getting called as pastors. The church finally realized they couldn't deny the work of the Holy Spirit. It's like when Peter went to the Gentiles in Acts and was amazed because they already had the Spirit. He said wait! They shouldn't have the spirit! And yet he could not deny that they did, and the church changed forever. Most denominations recognized the same working of the Spirit in the lives of many women, in concert with social changes going on last century. And as Stassen tells us, God is always ahead of culture.

But all of this is reasoning based on experience, not the right order (which is supposed to be basic convictions lead to principles lead to rules lead to situations). But then again, our ethics paradigm calls for constant repentance and constant checking back fromwhat we've learned. That, I guess, is where I'm starting. I went in believing one way and the Spirit of God and the Christians I met changed the way I saw the issue, from the rules down through the principles until my basic convictions were shaken (which was NOT pleasant or easy!). In the end, I could not deny what was obvious before my face - God was alive and well in our church's gay group, and that meant everything else needed a second look. Upon second look, we find Scripture isn't quite so clear. And we find Jesus definitely on the side of compassion. Like with the woman issue, it requires reading the narrative and the context of Scripture over proof-texting.

My position is Orthodox Inclusive. I refuse to throw out the Bible passages. I refuse to deny the holiness of Scripture and what we can learn from Tradition. But I also believe God does new things with the Church through the Spirit. (I mean geez, if she didn't, we'd never have had the Reformation!) This may be a new thing. And if we can wrestle with the Bible in a scholarly and responsible way and can see contextually that the issue of orientation is not addressed, and same-gender covenental relationship is not addressed, if we can see that Leviticus laws may have had more to do with reproduction and Romans also (after all, it is more "natural" for women and men to lie together b/c that makes babies). Even Genesis deals with this, and with human being's need for community. It couldn't be Adam and Steve because this wouldn't have allowed the human race to come into existence! I agree that we're not to ignore the biblical wisdom nor put our own desires onto the text. But I have been convinced by responsible biblical scholarship that honestly deals with these texts, both what's difficult and what's been misunderstood about them.

The basic conviction is that God is love so hatred of gays is wrong. God made us in God's image so people with homosexual orientation are made in God's image. God desires community for us, both with one another and with God. This means helping people get away from self-loathing, from the lie that God can't love them, from the difficulties presented by asking them to change something they can't. There are people all over the spectrum - some CAN change, some DID choose, some WERE abused. But, can we possibly, possibly imagine, that some cannot, did not, were not. Just simply are. If God calls that person to a loving relationship, to teaching Sunday School, to the ministry...and the person is absolutely tracking with God and knows this call and their life produces fruit of the Spirit and their ministry makes progress...could this be an exception to the rule that all gays who act on their desires are sinning?

This was the exception I found. And I had to then reevaluate my principles. And actually I found that my basic convictions remained intact. Things I thought were basic weren't actually - they were based on something other than God (church teaching, family attitude, societal pressure). Always, always, it's about going to the core and looking at where is God? And God is with the gays. Period.

"When you feel God has called you to something, and people are questioning it, that's hurtful." (my TA re: her call to ministry as a woman)

Same story, next verse. Imagine being told not only are you not suitable for ministry leadership, you're not even suitable to be a Christian, in fact, you're not created the way people are supposed to be. Imagine if you knew deep in your soul that God loves you, but you are told your whole life God cannot love you the way you are. Who do you listen to?

But it's so easy to look at this and say I'm basing it on my experience or emotions or just what I want instead of the Bible. Dammit!

I'm going to back out. I don't want to be this guy's sacrificial lamb. Or would I do more good than harm? Would I maybe help him see there's someone out there who believes in Scripture and in gay rights, and maybe that would plant a seed for further thinking, maybe crack open his mind a tiny little bit?

I don't know what to do. Honestly I don't really even know if I have time to deal with it. I have my own group to interview and be interviewed with. Do I really want to add the extra work of another? Am I copping out?

Well here is a beautiful passage written by the mother of a gay teenager who committed suicide. He did it largely because of his ultra-conservative family's religiously-motivated pestering. His mother experienced a crisis of faith when, instead of healing him, God let him kill himself. Here is what she later wrote:

“When God views a loving and caring heart he is pleased and all is well with him. He is not concerned with our sexuality, but with the vast numbers of humanity who are not being loved and cared for…I would rather be branded a heretic while helping a child of God out of the gutters of this world, where the church and I have thrown them, than to pass by on the other side muttering under our breath, ‘The wages of sin is death.’ Rather this than to look away from the pain and humiliation of a child lying helpless.

“The heart that hungers and thirsts for God’s love will find it in the Bible. It has been said the eyes are the mirror of one’s soul. When we look into God’s mirror [the Bible] will we see God’s reflection of love gazing back? Or will we see an evil reflection of man’s inhumanity?”

That is the question.

Leroy Aarons, Prayers for Bobby: A Mother's Coming to Terms with the Suicide of her Gay Son (HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), 147-148.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Music Video

Here's a link to a video of Don and Emily Saliers talking about the power of music, sacred and secular, at the National Cathedral.

Well worth your time.

Some bits of my presentation

So I'll give you a taste of my presentation from yesterday, which I thought went extremely well considering I wrote it while running a fever and delivered it while on many drugs!

Gail Ramshaw is interested, above all else, in practicality, not theoretical academics. She doesn’t speak to other liturgical theologians – her concern is for the average churchgoer. She wants to make the worship experience more hospitable and applicable to everyone who participates. To do this, she focuses on the language used in worship (surely her Lutheran background has something to do with this attention to word).

Language is an extremely powerful tool in worship. It can bring warmth to the room. It can comfort, connect, and caress. It can also grate and alienate. One of the most important things for worship leaders to realize is that their words, particularly their words for God, will deeply impact their hearers’ understanding of who God is.

I hope we can all agree that language is not static, and that at the least through the process of translation, we’ve updated the language of liturgy multiple times since Jesus’ day. Ramshaw’s goal is to bring our worship language into our current vernacular – that is, to carefully determine whether the words we use, which may once have been perfect, are still appropriate for the 21st century church.

Ramshaw defines liturgical speech as “Metaphoric Rhetoric.” She uses the term rhetoric because worship language is persuasive, formalized speech. We are trying to persuade the people that God loves them, or God that we are sorry for our sins, or each other that we love one another. We are always working on persuasion in worship. Part of the power of our words lies in this fact: they are meant to make something happen.

Rhetorical speech also chooses words carefully, weighing their meaning, crafting sentences which will most perfectly elucidate the hearer. This means the speech is not too lofty but also not too low. We are familiar with using formalized language in rituals: indeed, a wedding or a Presidential inauguration just wouldn’t seem the same in everyday parlance. And therefore, it is entirely appropriate to come before the throne of God with, if not completely formal language, then at least extremely carefully chosen words and finely tuned phrases. She has a wonderful word about casual talk in worship: “All too often, this talk is devoid of image, shallow in theology, sentimental in emotion, and not nearly as humorous as the presider thinks it is.” (Reviving Sacred Speech, 11). But this is serious business, for every utterance from our lips in the sanctuary is teaching someone something about God.

Ramshaw would say that what people believe about God they largely learn from the way we talk about God in worship. Speech leads us to believing certain ways about ourselves and the world around us, it moves us to action. The law of belief follows the law of words, of prayer, for the majority of Christians. Our lex orandi cannot help but inform our lex credendi. She says, “Although liturgical language is not identical with doctrinal language, the faith expressed in the liturgy is the faith we are called to believe.” (RSS 32) Thus, to have a proper understanding of Christian doctrine, people must not be misled by liturgical speech that uses words which may have evolved past their original theological intent and meaning.

So we see that sacred speech is indeed a volatile weapon to wield. There is one more compelling reason for this: its near-constant use of inaccurate speech, also known as metaphor. Ramshaw was strongly influenced by Paul Ricoeur’s theories on metaphor. Metaphor is “that use of speech in which the context demonstrates that a factually or logically inaccurate word is on the deepest level true.” (Liturgical Language, 7).

Ramshaw holds that it is the only way we can talk about God, period. We talk about God in metaphor because human speech cannot fully verbalize God. So we call God Rock, Lord, Shaddai, Abba, Spirit, Father, and Son.

The paradox of sacred speech is that we cannot possibly convey the divine in our language, yet Christianity is a religion of words: Christ the Logos, Scripture, preaching, praying, systematic theology. But metaphor is a great way to talk about spiritual things, because (as Ramshaw says): “[it] can be more true than fact [because] it contains many layers of meaning simultaneously....A multivalent metaphor opens up an archeological dig, available for exploration at whichever level each believer can undertake.” (LL 8) Metaphors are communal words, available to many people because they work on so many levels.

Well-chosen words are wonderful tools for teaching doctrine through worship. There is “no end to our discovery of Christ in liturgical language” (RSS 146) – What can we learn about Jesus by calling him Rock? Lamb? Word?

When looking at what our speech means, we must examine the metaphors we are using (for we are necessarily using them when speaking of the divine), how we use them (both historically and currently), and especially why those particular ones (where did they come from? What are their meaning(s)), and we must subsequently consider their many real and potential effects on the members of our congregations. (RSS 9)

Ramshaw says, “the rhetorical character of liturgical speech must serve the hospitable unity of the assembly” (RSS 10) – that is, it must speak to everyone present – and this is much more complicated than we might at first imagine. “To be Christian liturgy, the sacred rhetoric is to be communal rhetoric.” (RSS 20-21) “The liturgy is the expression of all the people of God, and all those people need to have their voices heard.” (LL 10) This is the real business of being inclusive: including people not only physically, but linguistically, in the Body of Christ (another metaphor).

“Ricoeur teaches that words…have meaning only within a specific context and within a specific community of discourse.” (LL 10) We cannot escape the fact that words mean different things to different people in different cultures and contexts and especially throughout different times in history.

British citizens hear "king" and Kingdom, or even "Lord", differently than Americans; spiritual "blindness" has wildly different meanings for people who've always and never been sighted (and I would assume a most interesting meaning for one who has been both). Ramshaw reminds us that to use "the image of blindness as a sign of human need excludes [people]" (LL 33), and certainly representing human need, loss, or stupidity with the word "blind" is not really sensitive. What about referring to snakes, lepers, winter, Egypt, darkness, as shorthand for evil?

For better or worse, our culture understands words more literally than ever. Also, colloquialisms change meaning regularly (she has one great line about “just when you get a psalm perfectly rendered in today’s language, the word ‘gay’ changes meaning”).

Another reality is that our pronoun system has changed, and no longer are pronouns “he” and “she” applied to anything other than gendered creatures. Even in the good old days when one could say “mankind,” male terminology actually included women when it chose to. (LL 20) For instance, “all men are created equal” included women, but not “all men can vote.” This is important to remember when we wax rhapsodic about the supposed simplicity of historic speech.

Ramshaw reminds us: “We cannot act surprised or chagrined when in a religion of incarnation the divine vision is diminished by the speech of the receiving culture.” (RSS 77) Christianity is a religion of the incarnate God, and it has to speak to the people where they are.

She is simply asking us all to take a step back and really think about what we are saying. If it is true that the law of prayer is the foundation of the law of belief, or that the two are inextricably woven together, then we absolutely must be conscious and careful regarding our sacred speech – and not only that, but we must make it beautiful, proper, and theologically correct.

It will only harm our credendi to have our orandi using words which are significantly confusing about the nature of God. Calling God only Father does imply that God is gendered and male. Ramshaw asks us to consider the subtle, creeping ways our belief is shaped by our prayer language. If you pray to “Father” long enough, you can’t help but begin imagining God as an old man with a white beard meting out reward or punishment (depending on your own experience of fatherhood). For many of us, especially women, this can cause cognitive dissonance.

“We cannot ignore the resonances of father imagery in mythology, philosophy, patriarchal culture, psychology, and personal experience. We must…[stress] the specifically biblical theological meanings and [weed] out the inappropriate growths that choke the Christian message.” (RSS 47-48) Some connotations of Father are appropriate and helpful, and other things it has meant are harmful. We cannot ignore the latter because we prefer the former; we must take all into account and seriously weigh the results of continued use. There are ways to soften and balance metaphors without losing the good things they represent for us.

Ramshaw sees inclusiving language as a several-decade effort – not to be done rashly. For “our vision of God is at stake.” (RSS 78) She understands the gravity of what she’s proposing, but also warns that: “We must beware lest by sanctifying a metaphor we legitimate social, psychological, and ethical positions we would choose not to perpetuate.” (Tree of Life, 56)

So how does she propose we responsibly update language without distorting theology or capitulating to political correctness? She resolutely insists that Scripture be the primary resource of our metaphoric language and the foundation of all sacred speech. (RSS 22-23: more evidence of a good Lutheran!).

Her words: “I urge: always open it up, open it up. Open up the Bible, to see what the images mean. Open up the tradition, and find there Christian riches long forgotten, religious jewels locked up in dusty chests. Open up other religions and cultures, to compare, to contrast, to borrow, yes, also to criticize and to reject. Open up the memories of the conservative grandparents, for whom the traditional imagery conveyed mercy. Open up the creativity of the newfashioned writers, who can share with others fresh metaphors of mercy. Open it up, open it up. By the power of the Spirit, life, not death, will enter and grow.” (RSS 81)

She is hopeful that we can retain some beloved, if androcentric, metaphors (like King or Lord), by compromise: keeping the meaningful words of our faith but absolutely providing teaching so that meaning is clear. Still, something being liked isn’t enough reason for it to keep being used: “As symphony orchestras know all too well, audiences clap louder for pieces they know, perhaps applauding their own knowledge as much as the musicians' performance. Separating out the well-beloved from the stylistically excellent is not an easy task.” (LL 44)

We, as worship leaders, liturgical theologians, have to be aware of and avoid overuse of androcentric terminology. Our tasks are to free traditional metaphors through more creative exposition of scriptural images, and to incorporate more feminine metaphors to balance the overwhelmingly male use throughout history. Ramshaw says, “the Church needs metaphors accurate enough to convey the historic faith, deep enough to contain human experience, inclusive enough to speak to many different peoples.” (LL 45) “Always the stories of faith must be retranslated into the latest vernacular, always the metaphors explicated anew. Only well versed in the tradition are we able to choose among the connotations that present themselves before us.” (RSS 48)

In all these details, we must always keep this daunting truth before us: “Our assembly contains the words, but even the heavens and earth cannot contain God. The mystery of Christian worship is that in our sacred speech, in our little bread and wine, God chooses to be revealed. But our liturgy does not contain all there is of God.” (RSS 164-5)

We must, in the end, accept that all our speech will never live up to the reality of God – this is the humbling and necessary “no” we speak to our liturgical work. But at the same time, “even liturgical theologians, perhaps especially liturgical theologians, must resist the NO on Sunday morning. To be Christian is to assemble on the day of the resurrection and to practice once again our insertion in to the metaphors of grace.” Even if we didn’t write the words and don’t like them, we still “join together for the theophany, offering and communion.” (RSS 37)

When we worship together, Ramshaw says, “We are all practicing the ritual, hoping to do it better this week than last. Of course religious ritual is practice: religious faith itself is practice.
…It’s like sex. You both get better and better at it. And you like to stay in practice, because it’s different every time.” (TL 117) [This is my favorite quote from her!]

Perhaps you will, as I have, begin to hear more carefully the words used in worship, and start to examine their applicability. If we begin to do this, Ramshaw will have accomplished her goal.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Issues

I didn't have as many issues as usual with today's chapel, largely because my friend ran it and he and I pretty much have the same view on things so he ran a great one. Also I got to read in it which is always fun. Although I am really getting into the throes of a cold now, so my voice was not all that.

I noticed one of our songs was very androcentric: it was all "Lord, lord" and "he" and "his". But it was balanced by a song that just used the generic "God" and another referring to Jesus (which didn't even use "he" I don't think).

It's so weird how I'm noticing this everywhere now. Thanks, Gail Ramshaw. You know, I didn't even consider the word "Lord" to be male until I read her work. It was just God's title to me. But I suppose if you grew up not Christian, it would possibly mean other things to you. Certainly if you were from a country that still has the title for people. Then it would be a male thing. But for average jane in the pews, I wonder if that's really a word we should get up in arms about. It kills a lot of the Bible and great songs. "Father" is a little more obvious and troublesome.

But speaking of Gail I have to get going on my presentation about her, so I can't write much more. I will tell you that we just had a very interesting discussion in Ethics class about the big homosexuality topic. My prof read to us Lew Smedes' essay from Walter Wink's book (something like Christianity and Homosexuality?). Wow. I loved that essay. Check it out. I wish Smedes were still here. If I were a creepy voodoo Christian I might think God or Satan silenced him (depending how I felt about the issue).

Smedes gives such a great defense of GLBT persons and especially of their having covenant relationships. I was amazed Stassen read it in class. After all the notes I wrote in my margins in the book, I was all ready to write an impassioned defense for my final paper. But Smedes did it so much better than I could. Maybe I could write on something else after all. We'll see.

Anyway, of course the class had to give a big fat NO to the whole thing. "What about the children?" "In Africa they don't even know what homosexuality is." "They want to have homosexual counselors on high school campuses!" "If we bless unions we're condoning sin!" "How can you say genetics, orientation, trumps the Bible?"

People don't get it. And it's not fair to them, to start them from a place of saying the Bible says it's wrong, but...first you HAVE to meet a gay Christian. Then you realize, like Peter in Acts, that God is actually producing fruit in someone God has no right to work with. And you think, if this person who I thought was "living in sin" is actually quite obviously closer to God than I am, hmmm, maybe God's doing something new. And then you relook at all the Biblical passages and you see where they may be vague or troublesome. And then you are ready to rethink whether it's a sin.

But you can't start from genetics or even from the Bible. I firmly believe that you have to start, for this issue, with your personal experience of God's Spirit working in a person's life. Because you know what trumps everything? God's action.

Stassen's text even says that God is always ahead of society. We should be looking for God's changes in the world. God could very well be behind all the human rights glbt persons have gained over the last 50 years. And someday, someday, the church will catch up to what God's doing.

There's a very exciting thesis that was done by a woman in Norway about Jesus and eunichs in Mat 19:12. She proposes the word means homosexual in that cultural context. What a can of worms that opens. And conservative scholars agree with her (although not about what it implies). Can you imagine? What if we can prove Jesus did say something about people being born gay??? Wow!

Now I really do have to go. Hope there's enough there to think about.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Deeply distressing

I was really upset about the LA Times' multi-part expose of our Skid Row. But I used to live there and I became rather immune to the situation. You get to a point where you see people doing nothing and you just get cynical about anything ever getting better.

So I'm all the more impressed with the Times for keeping up the muckraking and for managing to shock even cynical me. This week, they're running yet another multi-day investigation, this time on the abuses of the professional conservator system (did you know there was such a thing? I didn't). The pages will require free registration but I promise you want to read this.

I thank God that this hasn't happened to anyone in my family. But it is incredibly scary. Please read it, if you can find the time - it's something we should all be aware of and take steps to ensure it doesn't happen to our loved ones - or ourselves!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sad Face

It's happening again. People are asking me if I'm okay, or what's wrong, or telling me I "look particularly sad." Now this is something that I'm rather used to, I'm sorry to say. I don't have an answer for them. All I can say is yes, they're right, I'm tired. And yeah, I feel sad, but not for any reason. That's the annoying thing. They want a reason - they want a justification. And when I can't give it, they assume I just don't want to tell them. And I get the: "oh, you don't have to tell me," but there's really nothing to tell! I don't have a reason. And I don't feel like I'm wallowing in anything negative. I simply carry this sadness around and people see it - anyone with a bit of sensitivity can usually see it. But there's nothing specifically wrong with me, and there's nothing that can specifically fix it. It's simply there, attached to me, like I have a black aura or something.

What's weird is that I don't feel like it's unmanageable, and I'm still full of love and excitement for the world. I am not in despair at all. However, I am constantly on the verge of tears.

This is how I got myself diagnosed depressed. Unfortunately I can't see that doctor anymore so I'm trying to stretch my medicine. Also I am sick of being on pills. And as much as I voraciously defend them, it does feel like something of a personal failing not to be able to normalize myself without drugs.

But this sadness is not the kind that goes away with the normal activities - bubble bath, meditation, even the meds. It's just this part of my personality. People have always come to me and asked what's wrong when nothing at all is wrong. So what? Do I just feel the pain of the world more strongly than most people? Do I reflect the pain around me? Do I have a sad face?

Well anyway, that's been bothering me. If I know you and you see me don't ask me what's wrong. Really, it's nothing, you don't have to worry. I'm fine. Unless you can explain to me why I feel this way. That I would be keen to learn.

Dog days

Is that what you call these? I don't know. I've just found myself having to repeatedly reassure people lately that when I say I'm fine I really mean it. I must have a bad look about me. I've also, amusingly, found myself saying, "I just have to get through this week" for the last couple weeks. Well I suppose it's healthier to take life in little chunks than try to see everything at once.

I'm gaining weight yet again, which I didn't really think I could do, but there you have it. It's something about the fall and starting school and all that stress that goes with it. Some days I think it's not worth worrying about, I can lose weight after graduate school, and I shouldn't starve myself now. But other days I think I might put on more weight than I can lose. And it's a health issue any more. That, and a money issue - I can't afford to keep buying new, bigger clothes. So it would really be better to drop a couple sizes so I fit into the majority of what's in my closet. But I honestly can't figure out how. And I'm becoming one of those people who's always on a diet, and I'm even trying fad diets, which absolutely disgusts me about myself. I'm learning the American way of "managing" weight. Ugh, it's awful.

I did learn a good thing in church on Sunday about the parable of the talents...instead of thinking that the wicked lazy slave is somehow a victim, think of him as a person who was simply afraid. He didn't need to be afraid, and that's what God/the master was chiding him about. I know, it goes along with the risk-taking aspect that I had already been told about. For some reason, though, the idea that his "sin" (which probably isn't even the right word - his failing? Mistake? Flaw?) was his fear. Thus, we trust in God, we don't have to worry about our little being taken from us and given to someone richer (because even if it is, so what?), and we don't have to worry about being cast out of the master's joy (because he won't do that). There. Problem solved. I wish all sermons helped me with my questions so neatly.

Another gem: at offering time, the kid behind me asks his mom, "Is this a tip?"

So yeah, I'm just really tired. And getting sick, or already sick, just coughing all night and feeling scratchy-throated and sore and tired. Too much sneezing, too. Probably just a cold. I'm so ready for the end of the quarter. It's to that point where it's not fun any more, and I just want it over with. It's to that point where you don't even want to register for next quarter's classes, because you know you'll inevitably hit these doldrums again. I'm tired, man. School's making me so tired.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Feminist rejection of atonement theory

I really like these words from Gail Ramshaw's Under the Tree of Life - they sum up nicely what's been bugging me about all the focus on Christ's suffering and death:

"That our sins merited our death and that Christ substituted his death for ours gave theological support to the stranglehold that death has on society.

"As a feminist, I reject also this cemetery parade. Along with many other Christians, I do not subscribe to the beliefs that God sends death to punish personal failings and, as the old hymns suggest, that the sufferings of Jesus were the worst in human history. I ask how one man's death can be the solution to the continuing deaths of the weak. All this death gets us nowhere.

"...In my piety, Jesus' death has significance both because it proves God's life as a human and it demonstrates the horrific might of injustice; but Jesus' death has its power for me because of the resurrection."

(page 96)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I'm high class

You'll notice my new button on the left. Apparently I'm high class blogging.

(does anybody know how to fix this annoying thing where my text has dropped to the bottom of the page? It's so yuk)

Multi-faith Extravaganza!

I am so proud of my kids! Tonite was the multi-faith celebration ("everything from Atheist to Zen!"), and it was an amazing experience! Everyone who participated was proclaiming their faith proudly - without proselytizing.

The tone was perfect - it was a true celebration of many diverse ways of reaching out to the divine (plus a very funny song by the Atheists). At the end we were encouraged to spend a moment in silence, and I could only give grateful thanks for these students whose lives I've been privileged to be part of, and God for bringing me to USC in the first place, and mostly just for the fact that everyone in that big room is seeking after truth and desires to know - well, if not God, then truth, and really, where is the difference?

So I am proud as I could be, of all these young faithful ones, who carry on the beautiful traditions of their heritage and add their humor and sensibility and brilliance.

Yeah, college ministry. That would be a very good thing.

If you ever have a chance to hear a Sikh play a tabla drum or see a Hindu dance or listen to a Baha'i song, go for it. Also a very good thing.

I had to leave too early, to catch the bus. As I headed across campus in the crisp night air, a couple raindrops kissed my cheeks, Moby came on iPod, and for the first time on about a week, I exhaled. That was one good breath.

I might almost be ready to take on the 2 papers I'm writing this weekend. But first, a good night’s sleep, and some deep, deep breathing.

Hey, who's the closed mind here??

Today I was chatting with a classmate about why I hadn't purchased a textbook (about free church liturgy) - mainly because it was expensive and I wasn't sure I needed it, and I made a joke about running from that church anyway. Well that led my prof, who overheard, to give me a mini-lecture (complete with diagram) on the value of learning things we don't like.

Apart from this being terrifically embarrassing, I found it to be extremely unfair. For one thing, I want a little credit for showing up at a freaking evangelical institution to get my MDiv. How in the hell am I being accused to not wanting to learn about things I don't like or feel I'm "past" - wouldn't I have gone to the infinitely more comfortable environment of Episcopal seminary if this were the case? I sit every day in classes where people are openly hostile to just about everything I believe, but I let them say their piece and I mostly don't say much. Believe me, my friends, I am spending every damn day incorporating knowledge that is not my own, that is not my interest, and that is sometimes helpful but mostly disdainful.

And I also have to point out the gross double standard at work here. What I've found since being at Fuller is that the majority of the people here could seriously care less about my tradition, much less those more "high" than my own (someone in class the other night referred to coming out of the Catholic church to "find Jesus"). People may be mildly curious, but they certainly don't want to take the time to actually learn anything. Can you imagine the stink that would go up if people were asked to learn my theological heritage as in-depth-ly as I'm learning theirs?

And it would be one thing if I were at a Baptist school or something, but this is an ecumenical institution. So it's not like I'm saying something crazy and unfair - they want to represent many denominations (there are over 100 here) and many theologies. And they do a pretty good job.

But I don't ever want to be accused of not being willing to learn from someone else or closing my mind to what I don't care for. I'm the freaking model citizen of ecumenical studies. And I'm full of unrighteous pride about it, yes I am. Seriously, I know I complain about it a lot, but I'm there, I'm learning it - I'm choosing to be there. I could leave. But I want to have a greater knowledge of the entirety of Christendom. For better or worse, I've chosen that path.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Did you hear about All Saints?

Not my All Saints, but one I care very much for, being in trouble with the IRS?? Possibly losing tax-exempt status for an anti-war sermon? (um, excuse me, but aren't Christians supposed to be anti-war? Isn't this a statement of our faith, not our politics?)

Can we all say double standard?? Where were these investigators when the Republican Voter Guides were being passed out in bulletins across the country? When Dubya was being worshipped from the pulpit? Hell-O??

(the link is to the LA Times story, which requires registration, if you don't want to register I'm sure Google will find something for you)

Episcopal Chapel

Sigh.......I love my people.

Today I went to Episcopal chapel. Let me say off the bat this is not going to be like my normal chapel posts. Why? Because we do Christianity right.

Snap! Did I say that?

Anyway, it was wonderful. We had a long discussion about the parable of the talents. And I have to say that the story troubles me quite a bit. I don't want God to be the master in the story. I want it to be proverbial, not instructive. I want it to be about the bad way the world is (the poor people, who don't know how to manage money, get poorer and beaten down and the rich, who get richer, get the poor people's money - well that's my latest interpretation anyway, largely egged on by a great story in our campus newspaper saying the same). I don't want it to be what it says right there that it is: "The kingdom of heaven is like..."

Oh, don't tell me the Kingdom is like that! Please!

I get that it can be about taking risks for God or loyalty or being a good steward or what have you. But I don't know if it addresses injustice - or maybe it does so badly. Luckily Jesus dealth with injustice in lots of other stories.

As Rev. Antony said to me this morning, this is a part of God I have to deal with. I don't want God to be this way...but what if God IS this way? Will I accept that? Will I take God on God's terms? Or will I change God into what I want God to be?

Well I got to ingest God along with my brothers and sisters in the Episcopal faith, and that was great for me.

I'm not going to the campus chapel tomorrow, so there'll be no vitriolic post. I've had my lovely chapel experience for the week and I don't want to ruin it.

Trader Joes goes cage free!

Some time ago I blogged about the campaign to get Trader Joe's to go cage-free with its egg producers. It worked! Wow...it's nice to see something change for the better once in a while.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Quote Post

I'm a big quote collector, so I thought I'd post a bunch for your reading enjoyment. This one's gonna be long...it's been simmering a looooong time...sorry not to put it in any discernable order, I simply mustn't take the time right now. Enjoy.

First, my favorite quotable people:

Rev. Barbara Crafton (sign up for daily "e-mo" meditations)

"Nothing forms us better than the simple discipline of showing up in the place where what we want to be can be found."

"Life is improvisational. Other people have lines in your play. God has lots of lines. You don't know what any of them are in advance. So stay alert. Listen up. And enjoy the show. "

"Of course you have to plan for the future, as best you can. Of course you have to clean up the messes you made in the past, as best you can. But you can't live in either place. We only live now. If 'now' is a place of pain, be present to it and let it be a piercing reminder of that for which you long. Let it burn the extraneous nonsense right out of you, as it certainly will do, leaving only the gold of what is truly important. If 'now' is a place of sunshine, be present to it. There will be other moments when you will need the memory of it.

Dr. John Goldingay (my OT prof; read with British accent for authenticity)

"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!"

Gail Ramshaw, Under the Tree of Life

“I know that for the feminist who quits the church, the New Testament writers are dead white males, and those who adopt their language are choosing to be buried alive, their mouth stopped by stale air and growing mould. But I am still testing the metaphors.”

“If religion is not about these mysteries, it might as well close up shop. If all we need are ethical systems and positive reinforcement, there are more straightforward ways to achieve such humanistic goals than the circles and swirls of religion.”

“If there is nothing greater than the self, nothing higher, nothing deeper, nothing divine, no community, we are of all creatures most to be pitied, having a mind to reach beyond ourselves, but with no beyond there to be reached.”

And other random wisdom I've picked up along the way:

The underlying democratic thesis of the Web allows for unheard-of opportunities to celebrate one's self. - Brian Williams (ABC News anchor)

"When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me." - Balmeet Singh (USC Sikh Student Association)

"My hairline isn't receding...it's maturing." - Joel (good times, dude)

"There are people in other religions who are being led by God's secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it." - C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

"All the paths that lead to God end up at Jesus, but they do not all start with him." - Mark Heim (Is Christ the Only Way? Christian Faith in a Pluralistic World)

Hoc ergo non est Deus, si comprehendisti – Augustine
(If you comprehend what you are saying, you are not speaking God)

"Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith." - Peter Bohler (close friend of the Wesleys)

"If you enroll as one of God's people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver. And what are God's laws? You shall not kill, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. To him that strikes you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also." - Clement of Alexandria (an early church father, Protrepticus 10)

"What value can be assigned to a philosophy which thinks that everything happens by fate? It is a belief for old women, and ignorant old women at that."--Cicero

"A saint is a dead sinner whose life has been carefully edited." - Fr. Jim Heft

"The terror of death...is not that it is the end or boundary in a quantitative temporal sense, but rather that it is the limit of that which is by nature without limits...there is heard in death the eternal God's contradiction of finite creatures that exalt themselves to limitlessness…Death in the biblical sense is not our death as mammals but our death as those who want to be divine and thus have to learn that we are human." - Helmut Thielicke (Living with Death)

"Christianity has been reduced to a choice, not a life. [True] Christianity is not 'have you accepted Jesus?' but rather 'how are you today with your Lord?'" - Dr. Todd Johnson (Shape of Liturgical Theology class)

The one whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou
And dream of Phaedian fantasies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images of folk-lore dream,
And all in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed, unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all are idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great,
Unspoken speech our limping metaphor translate.
- C.S. Lewis, "A Footnote To All Prayers"

"We too often forget that faith is a matter of questioning and struggle before it becomes one of certitude and peace. You have to doubt and reject everything else in order to believe firmly in Christ, and after you have begun to believe, your faith itself must be tested and purified. Christianity is not merely a set of forgone conclusions. Faith tends to be defeated by the burning presence of God in mystery, and seeks refuge from him, flying to comfortable social forms and safe convictions in which purification is no longer an inner battle but a matter of outward gesture." - Thomas Merton

"Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love." - Claude Monet

"Christianity is a liturgical religion. The Church is first of all a worshipping community. Worship comes first, doctrine and discipline second." - Georges Florovsky

"Faith is many things -- a tool, a routine, a belief, a reason not to slit your wrists. But it isn't a style, no matter what you've been led to think." - Laurel Snyder (Killing the Buddha)

"Our calling as pastors is not to act as emotional terrorists." - Dr. Francis Bridger (Grief, Loss, Death & Dying class) and Dr. Bridger on Jurgen Moltmann: "who's written more books than I've had dinners."

"We shall sleep until He comes and knocks on our little grave, saying: 'Dr. Martin, get up!' Then I shall rise up in a moment and shall be eternally merry with Him." – Martin Luther

“I’m a Christian married to a Jew living in a Muslim country trying to follow God's will. We're the massively dysfunctional family of Abraham.” – Sis Levin

“Where your investments are, there your heart will be, and where your heart is, that's how you see.” Dr. Glen Stassen (Christian Ethics class)

“These hurricanes that are coming are not, ‘Oh dear, we have a rainstorm,’ they're ‘Oh dear, we have greed.’ Let's do a little repenting, people.” – Dr. Stassen

“We say God is love but we behave as if God is hate…God is love, and if you are not love, you are not a godly person.” – Dr. Hassan Hathout (Muslim scholar)

“Love means deeds, not good wishes.” – Sheikh Saadullah Khan

This little Babe so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan's fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarmed wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.
- Robert Southwell, c.1561-95

"luminous beings are we, not this crude matter...” - yoda

One more movie rec

Now I can't vouch for if this is any good because I haven't seen it yet, but at least the subject is provocative (which you know I'm always up for). There will be a free screening Saturday November 12th in Fuller's Travis Auditorium at 7 pm. David Di Sabatino (the filmmaker) will be there for a Q&A. I will be there too, but that's probably less incentive to go.

You all in other places of the world, see if you can get the film to your church/school/whatever. I don't think it has distribution yet.

Oh, I haven't told you the name of the film yet! It's Frisbee: the Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher. Here's some info from IMDB:

What do you do when the Jesus freak who started your church dies from AIDS? Simple. Erase him from history.

Lonnie Frisbee was a young hippie seeker fully immersed in the 1960s counter culture when he claimed to have experienced an encounter with God while on an acid trip. This event so transformed him that Lonnie became an itinerant Christian evangelist, something of a John the Baptist of Southern California who compelled thousands of fellow spiritual seekers to make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. During the 1970s Lonnie Frisbee became widely known as California's "hippie preacher," the quintessential "Jesus freak" whose pictures frequented such magazines as Time and Life as the media told the story of a burgeoning "Jesus movement."

Lonnie Frisbee provided the charismatic spark that launched the Calvary Chapel church into a worldwide ministry and propelled many fledgling leaders into some of the most powerful movers and shakers of the evangelical movement. During the 1980s Lonnie was at the center of the "signs and wonders" movement, one that focused on reviving the practice of spiritual power through diving healing, speaking in tongues and other demonstrative manners of manifesting the power of God.

But besides his influence and beyond the miraculous stories that swirl in the wake of his life, what makes the story most fascinating is that his call into the ministry came while deeply involved in the Laguna Beach homosexual scene. Treated with contempt by the ministers whom he helped establish, Lonnie has been written out of their collective histories. He died as a result of the AIDS virus in 1993.

New and Improved

You may notice a few new things in my sidebar...or you should look right now if you haven't. Everybody's invited to add themselves to the Frappr map (that means you, lazy family members!). I promise it is quick and painless and they don't spam you (they couldn't anyway because you don't enter your email address).

Below my Recent Posts I've added a little section of Progressive Seminarian Bloggers - this is a new group that I was tickled to be invited to join. Check out these Divine-Masters-in-Training. Hopefully I'll soon have a neat logo up instead of my ugly boring font.

Now it is 10:31 on Saturday morning and I've done exactly zero work. Even last night, I watched Groundhog Day instead of doing my work. (J has been raving about it - he's watched it for his class - see post below about the class) It's a cute old movie and if you haven't seen it you should.

OH, and while I'm recommending movies, it's a crying shame how few people I talk to have seen the Japanese film Wandafuru Raifu (After Life). Please watch it. It's so great. (ignore the comment from the person who has no patience at the bottom of the imdb page)

That's all for now.

Question for my Unitarian friends

So J has been reading Emerson because he's teaching "Movies and the Meaning of Life" and the text uses Fight Club to teach Emerson's concepts.

And he had a question: he discovered that Emerson left his position as a Unitarian minister because he could no longer perform the Eucharist in good conscience. This led us to wonder: Why did Unitarians ever celebrate the Eucharist - I mean, what was the thinking behind that? Is it that Christ was a manifestation of the One God? And I assume that you no longer celebrate Eucharist, or am I wrong? If so, why do you? I'm just honestly interested in your Christology. I have a lot to learn about this church!

Anyway, the class is really neat. I will try to get J to email me the syllabus and I'll post it for you...but it's all based on the book Movies and the Meaning of Life: Philosophers Take on Hollywood edited by Kimberly A. Blessing and Paul J. Tudico (Open Court, 2005). J tells me "it's only good if you're a philosophy professor and you can correct all the errors in it." (apparently he's not entirely on board - plus you have to remember he was a filmmaker once so he's got strong opinions about exegesis of movies) But it's been a useful starting place and students love the class. It might make a cool church class as well. If you have a philosophy professor handy. :)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Lenten Chapel

I know you were all breathlessly awaiting my chapel report this week. Sorry it’s a little late – I was busy having ecstatic experiences reading feminist theologians. I’m back to my cranky self and will now comply.

So as you might guess from the title we had Lent a little early. It would have actually been a lovely Good Friday service. Too bad it’s ordinary time. But hey, we are Protestants, so what do we know?

What indeed. I’ll tell you what we know – we know crucifixion. But I get ahead of myself.

First my nitpickings, since I know people who can change things read this blog:

1. We must sing a song from TaizĂ© at least 8-10 times for it to do its thing. 3x doesn’t work.
2. The alto mic was too loud and her harmony drowned out the melody, causing many of us not to be able to discern what to sing.
3. Standing for the one song only felt artificial – just skip that next time.
4. When the speaker uses a wireless mic, remove the standing mic from in front of her face. It’s aesthetically unpleasing, unnecessary, and distracting.

OK, now to the service in general. The posters for chapel told us the title was “Acquainted with Grief.” So what do we open with? Well, duh – a rousing call to worship from the choir extolling us to “Sing for Joy to the Lord.” Okay, guys. Classic liturgical mistake. You don’t open a service that’s supposed to be about suffering and grief with a song about singing for joy. That’s so obvious that I’m ashamed for you. I know you know better. Tsk tsk.

We did get an absolutely gorgeous vocal solo of that number from Messiah about Jesus being a man of sorrows. Way to go! Just lovely. And I love O Sacred Head Sore Wounded, but again, timing, people. Let’s not completely forget that we actually have a liturgical cycle, a church calendar, that’s awfully handy for reference (particularly when one wants to consider how much time to spend dwelling on Jesus’ death vs. other parts of his ministry and person, but again, I get ahead of myself).

The choir later sang an arrangement of Ave Maria which was much more appropriate to the mood (although unfortunately there were rather manipulative photographs running throughout, which I tried to ignore, especially the one with the big honkin’ Israeli flag – I’m sure there wasn’t a political statement meant, but it was jarring).

Now we get to the sermon. It was a good sermon – a great one, really well delivered, and obviously well-received (but would have been better on Good Friday). The point was that Jesus suffered a lot and so when we suffer, Jesus feels our pain and we can take comfort in that.

I’m down with that. But the only time Jesus ever suffered, according to this sermon and the slides of classic art running behind the speaker, was on the day he was crucified. That’s it. One day in the man’s entire 33-year life. I mean, maybe he suffered other days, but we sure didn’t hear about it. Nope, the only suffering experience that is worth our examination is that day. Because of course, that’s the day everything changed, right? That’s the thing that causes our salvation, so it’s the only thing we care about, right?

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and remind everyone that Jesus’ suffering was not only on the cross. It was every day of his life. If I cry watching the news, if my small awareness of a tiny bit of the world’s sufferings leads me into depression that my mind can barely handle…how much more the pain of God? The acute awareness of every last painful moment for every last creature in all the whole world? And this weight squashed into a mortal body, lain upon a mortal mind, contained somehow within a mortal soul…

How did Jesus survive without Prozac?

It was very moving to contemplate Jesus’ death, and a welcome change of pace. But we simply cannot accept that this was all of Jesus’ suffering – the speaker called his desperate praying in the garden “his time of agony,” as if that was the only time! Perhaps it was the worst time, but surely not the only.

Jesus suffered throughout his life. He was our example of how to feel for the world – and how to do something about it. "Let your will, not mine, be done" – God’s will couldn’t have been Jesus’ death (that would make God a masochist)! That’s like saying your child’s death or the earthquake or the cancer are somehow “God’s will.” No, no, no! BUT: God’s will was to do anything and everything to prove God’s love for us. And that overrode self-preservation. Imagine that for a moment. God. Doing. That.

God through Jesus loved us that way every day, not just on the day of his death or during his Passion. Jesus spent every day of his life sharing this love and suffering the world’s pain.

I don’t think Jesus actually feared death, but he did realize how hurtful it would be for us later when we realized what we’d done, how terrible it would be for God to have been ultimately rejected by humanity. Jesus’ suffering sacrifice did effect reconciliation, but I don’t think it was just in one moment or on that one day. I think it was his lifetime – from the first huge sacrifice of incarnation to the daily ministry to the outcast and poor right down to the final sacrifice of allowing God to be killed. Could Jesus have lived on, not been crucified, and yet managed the work of reconciliation just by the way he was living? Maybe. Maybe.

In the end, the speaker’s message was right, even though her support was not quite broad enough for me. She said that it is good for us to be afflicted, and she is right. Being afflicted, suffering, makes us like Jesus. Causes us to see the world the way he did.

Without affliction, the world is okay. And if the world is okay, then Christ – and Christians – are worthless.

Liturgical Theology Joke

I have to give props to my Liturgical Theology professor who had to sit for photos today in our class (it was excruciating for him and for us) – he had to pretend to teach us and then he gave up and actually taught us but while a person was flashing in his face and telling him where to look and repeatedly bumping into the rest of us. Anyway, he had to write something on the board so there’d be more than a white background, and he wrote this:

Lex Orandi
Lex Credendi
Lex Luther


He proceeded to lecture us on the whip-smart humor of the creator of Superman, who cleverly preceded Saint Martin’s name with the Latin for “law.”

Now, some geek friends of mine pointed out later that the character’s name is actually spelled LuthOR. But I think that was just to throw people off the scent.

Oh, and those of you who are praying for my health (which I guess is one of you since only one person said they would), thanks, I seem to be recovering, and I put my finger on the dizziness problem. I'm a little distressed that I called the student health insurance people today and was told I was not covered to see a doctor unless something is actually wrong, so if I only think something is wrong then I'm gambling. They told me that if it turns out to be nothing, I have to pay for it, and if it turns out to be something, they pay for it. Isn't that a neat medical system? You can only go to the doctor if you're actually dead! And then, you can't go!

Well, J pointed out that he can probably sue if I die of cancer that went undetected. At least the cats will get to eat Fancy Feast the rest of their short lives.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tree of Life

Do you remember the first time you read a feminist theologian? The first time somebody said to you that God is not a man and you actually heard it. The first time you were reading along and suddenly it smacked you in your gut that you were reading your own thoughts and all these things you've been unable to articulate about why it feels so weird to be a woman and a Christian...they suddenly all come together under the beautiful writing of some inspired female?

It's happening to me right now. Oh, God, oh God, I'm reading just the introduction, the introduction to Gail Ramshaw's Under the Tree of Life: the Religion of a Feminist Christian and I tell you I am WEEPING - my God I am weeping copiously because this woman has pulled something out from inside me that was hidden but hurting and she's naming it and the sobs are coming even as I read and I type and I realize that this is why it has all not made sense and dear God maybe it will make some sense now after all!!!

Do you know that I never got to read this yet and never got to feel this way and thank God for liturgical theology class because I am finally reading some women writing about theology and WHAT a perspective and what a new way of looking at absolutely everything.

She says it: theology is men writing about what other men have said and done and thought and I know it probably seems overstated but the fact is that it is true and here is this woman telling me finally why it's all felt unreachable to me and right now I think - I fear - I tremble...could it be that I could find the way to being both? To being utterly female and yet fully Christian?

And there are these role models these brave amazing fucking brilliant women who've written down these struggles and these thoughts so that I can read them and weep. So that I can know that I'm not the first nor nearly the last to not know what's wrong but suddenly there it is and I am overflowing with emotion over finding this tender painful bruise in my theology where God was so very male and all the teachers and theologians and pastors and leaders and prophets were so so male and as much as I admired them I could never be like them not really. Not really.

Wouldn't it have been just awesome if Jesus had been a girl?

But we have what we have and history is what it is. We can move forward and by God with Gail's help I will. Oh! my brothers - I am sorry for you that you grow up with the knowing and the understanding and the deep-down awareness that it all fits for you...because you never get this incredible eye-opening world-shattering heart-stopping moment when it all opens up and you realize that in fact this whole thing could really include you and not just include but celebrate and affirm and even cry out for what you can offer, what you can bring into the discussion.

Oh, I am grateful to God that I found feminist Christians. And my sisters, find them and read them and hear them preach! (oh, Michelle - this is what you were talking about - that Anne's sermons make you cry every Sunday - I know it now - I know why - I'm right there with you babe)

I don't know if the oppression of the ages really builds up somehow in our collective subconscious - our African-American friends would say so - but whatever it is there is a huge release valve that needs to be opened for the American Woman Christian and I'm begging you to go find what does that for you. Because it's awesome and it is of God.

She's not just a feminist or theologian, she's me too. And if someday I can write that I've "studied the brilliancies, the abominations, and the nonsense in Christianity and other world religions [and] I am no tribal member. I am not able to tread along peacefully in the footsteps of my dead relatives. I want an unwieldy marriage: I want intelligently to affirm a set of communal beliefs. I want freely to elect the rituals and ethics of a community" - well you see she is not only hitting my woman-spots she is hitting me in the gut of pluralism and of faith-ownership and of finding a way to make all this mine.

But you see that cannot be done until God is a God to whom I can relate in entirety embodied and incarnated and for that to happen our woman parts cannot be ignored. Not just the sex but the emotion and the hysteria and the baby-making and the blood and all that primal energy that drives the creation of new life on this earth and binds us together and makes us somehow ineffably one kind of being. And God is in that. And now I am going to find out how and where and why and what I can do to tell someone else.

Because a lot more girls deserve this moment.

Clerks 2 (hardly clerkin')

That title has nothing to do with this post i just thought of it it's from the end of dogma if you're wondering.

This is the last week of my writing workshop and I don't think there's been any marked improvement (what do you think?). The trouble (and good thing) is that it's pulled me out of my comfort zone (blogging about me) and forced me to try - ack - creative writing. Shudder.

Last week I wrote such purile nonsense. And being me, I just had to share it because of course I fear nothing. And now I'm thinking what an idiot I sounded like (I wrote a poem with absolutely unveiled references to sexuality in the language of gardening - like that's not the most lameass overused trick in the book). I didn't really realize it at the time - but I was hating it right after. Like in that moment when the only other person who is consistently brave enough to read her work read hers. She is actually not all that brave - she can read hers because it's always good and she knows it is. She actually has some education in these things. She can spout off about any number of poets and recite from memory and compare romantic commitment to flying buttresses.

Meanwhile, I'm writing about Dick and Jane. Actually, that was probably more original when originally written.

I'm just really not a poet, which is something I've known for ages, and it's frustrating that poetry is used to teach writing becasue it's short and easy (ha ha) to produce and can teach us all sorts of useful tricks and language and structure issues. But I just can't do it without devolving into over-used crap. It requires so much more brainpower than I'm used to putting into my writing.

Anyway, throwing a pity party for myself is also not attractive (and I've been concerned about how I come off since a blogger whom I respect came down on me for being unattractive in my attitude) so I should probably just quit it.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can write my drama (both the kind for performance and what I vomit on the blog) in peace without expectations. Even my own. It's just...bleh...I just read these great poems and then somebody can come up with something beautiful in 5 minutes and all I can do is try to be funny or shocking.

(you see how I write the things that I think others must be thinking about me? The real question is: do I actually believe any of it about myself or do I just repeat the stereotypes I figure probably apply to me?)

I desperately want to write something for This American Life...maybe I should look through my posts and see if anything would read well out loud. Does anyone have a favorite post? Seems like I got the most response back when I was doing the Christianity and sex stuff, but it would be hard to read any of that on public radio.

I will tell you a secret, the real dream, the ultimate prize: if I could write anything, I would help to write the next revision of the prayer book. Oh! What a treat that would be!! And I could help inclusivise all the language, and write new prayers for hurricanes and clinical depression. And I could write the same-gender marriage ceremony, and a service at the loss of a pet (despite the giggles in Grief class about counseling people on such a topic). And I could find some way to incorporate the new way we see things...the new way we think in windows and icons (computer not byzantine) and blogs. We see the world differently now in my generation, you know.

Anyway, like if I won the lottery, I'd buy my way onto that committee. If I actually stuck out a PhD or the ordination process, I'd do it for that goal. Even right now, when I'm reading Duck and Wilson-Kastner and Ramshaw, I'm seeing how important this all is. It would just be so cool to be part of writing the great play of the liturgy, the drama of dramas.

Well now that is out of the bag, so I will forever question its propriety. As will you.

Now it's turned cold and I need to go to a meeting then walk (hopefully not in rain) to the train to go home and read some more. And post this and then you'll read it and now our two lines of history have merged. So off I go. See you.

hi.

prayer request

so if you all could remember my health when you do your prayers that would be super. i'm not going to get into details because it's - well, it's actually pretty gross. but suffice to say that it's becoming more than annoying and in fact a little frightening. plus i am dizzy for several hours each afternoon which makes reading or writing quite difficult during that time. and obviously i can't go that long doing nothing. the worst part is that i am terrified to get help because i don't have my nice easy hmo health insurance any more i have this terrible ppo thing and i don't understand how to use it or whether i'll have to pay for things so i'm just not going to the dr and i know that is bad. but if it turns out to be nothing and i pay for it (monetarily) for years i will be very sorry (this has happened before).

also j is still not breathing right and having his gasping fits and other nastiness and that's going on almost 2 months now. lucky for him his phd program pays for better insurance so he can at least go to the dr when he thinks of it.

mine is a weird combo of three sets of things which may be completely unrelated or may spell trouble added together. we will see. or not. we will probably just wait and see if it goes away. i know that is bad but save your breath because i've had enough guilt and nothing you say can make my health insurance any better.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Socs

I was reading my friend's (a fellow Fuller person) blog today and he was talking about how nice it was last Friday night to spend the evening actually socializing with friends, something that from what he wrote sounds like it doesn't happen very much for him. (I was fortunate to be among the friends socializing and was tickled to be appreciated)

This evening I was thinking: we don't spend enough time doing that in seminary. And it's not really the seminary's fault. There's this weird mode of thinking that people go into that basically puts school at the top of the priority list (or maybe church), with everything else pretty much being optional. So if you're too tired, you don't go to your friend's birthday party (I'm both guilty of this and the victim of it - and when you shell out $60/head to buy people dinner, it's not really happy when they don't show up or stay for dinner) (but I'm not bitter of course) or you call and say you can't do dinner because you're tired or you don't go to the movie or whatever it is.

And you know what? That's really dumb of us. Socialization is vital to our well-being. Hell, we spend all this time extolling the virtues of community in our classes, the very necessity of it for healthy Christian living, and then we hole up in our apartments maybe watching a movie and pretty much never doing much of anything else.

My friend Jeannette taught me the name for it: "Fuller flaking."

I'm glad I had a few years in the real world before going to seminary. I learned that making friends is tough so keeping them is paramount. And you keep them by...duh...spending time with them. Even if it's inconvenient. Because it always turns out to be fun. It's worth it.

So I guess I'm telling you guys in school to please force yourself to have dinner or see a movie or just do anything with someone else besides just your spouse. It's important for your well-being.

And if you're my friend, no more flaking. I want you to please take me up on that dinner invitation which always stands. If you've never let us cook for you, you've been missing out. :)

Oops, my name is earl is on. Gotta go.

Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained

10. A man's place is in the army.

9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be "unnatural" for them to do other forms of work.

7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievment of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, and maybe even lead the singing on Father's Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

[with great affection and admiration for my friend Mark who definitely owns this content]
[note: turns out Mark got it from Dr. David M. Scholer, my beloved NT exegesis prof. Way to go, Dr. Scholer!]

Where are you?

I've created a Frappr map for Feminary! Whoopee! Now I can see where all you freaks are. Just go visit the map and give me a shoutout, post a pic, whatever - but definitely enter your zip code, then you'll get a little map marker and we can see how far and wide we all are.

As incentive, I've posted a gen-u-wine photo of me (the mystery is revealed!), albeit a pretty old one. But it's from back when I was better looking.

Here's feminary's own frappr map: http://www.frappr.com/feminary

(big thanks to Joseph Santos-Lyon for the idea)

Pluggin'

I have to give a shout-out to Jamie Cullum for the song "Get Your Way", playing at the moment on kcrw.com.

What game shall we play today?
How about the one where you don't get your way?
But even if you do, that's ooooooookay.

What a great song for a guy to sing to a girl. : )

(alert: check the comments of Gott in Himmel post for me going off with Buffy lines)

(second alert: just read story about two upcoming films about terrorism: Syriana, by the writer of Traffic (enough said), and Paradise Now, a Palestinian film, the story of the last 48 hours of two suicide bombers' lives. Wowsa. Special LA engagement right now, hopefully will expand. Will see and report.)

Oh, and I must tell you that this morning was simply glorious. Me and the bed got it on. Ow! The cat is randomly attacking my stomach. I don't know what her deal is. Anyway, play hooky sometime and sleep in then get up and read the (Sunday) paper with coffee. Sure, it's a great way to spend Sunday morning, but it's all the more sweet on a Tuesday, I assure you.