Sunday, December 30, 2007

Whosoever's Top Ten of 2007

As the end of year rolls around, it's time to take a look back and see what sections of Whosoever our readers are visiting the most.

Here is Whosoever's Top Ten Visited Sections of 2007:

1. Bible and Homosexuality: http://whosoever.org/bible/

2. People Suck, by Candace Chellew-Hodge (this was my ordination
sermon in 2003): http://www.whosoever.org/v8i4/peoplesuck.shtml


3. Christian Agnostic Blog: http://christianagnostic.blogspot.com/

4. Gay Adoption: What Would Jesus Do? by: Miles Christian Daniels
http://www.whosoever.org/v7i4/adoption.html

5. Whosoever TeleSeminars (register now for our upcoming TeleSeminar
on Homosexuality and the Old Testament set for January 31, 2008):
http://whosoever.org/seminars/

6. Did Jesus Laugh? By Louie Crew:
http://www.whosoever.org/v8i3/louielaugh.shtml

7. Amazed by Grace: An Interview with author Philip Yancey by: Candace
Chellew-Hodge: http://www.whosoever.org/v8i6/yancey.shtml

8. Seeds of Hope (Rev. Paul Turner from Gentle Spirit Christian Church
answers reader's letters): http://whosoever.org/seeds/

9. Prayer Requests (a page for posting your prayer needs):
http://www.whosoever.org/prayers/

10. I Do Believe in Fairies, by Tyler Connoley:
http://www.whosoever.org/v9i2/fairies.shtml

Visit our top ten, and be sure to browse our back issues at
http://www.whosoever.org/issues.html

You can help make our Podcast page one of next year's top ten by visiting this page: http://www.whosoever.org/godcast/ and following the link to our podcast page. Listen back to some of our best podcasts this year featuring Mel White, Vanessa Sheridan, Eric Elnes and more!

Remember, Whosoever is supported solely by your generous donations. You can make your end of the year, tax deductible donation by visiting this page:


http://www.whosoever.org/donate/


Help Whosoever spread great peace in 2008!

Thank you for your continuing support of our ministry.

Happy New Year!

Blessings,
Candace Chellew-Hodge
Editor

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.
- Leo the Great, "Sermon"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Forgiving My Father

I read this as a commentary on a recent Rainbow Radio show. I've gotten a lot of feedback from folks who said it helped them, so I'm posting it here. The holidays are hard for some people because of unresolved family issues. I hope this is something that can help bring healing this season.

You can hear the commentary here (at the end of the show).

I was standing toe to toe with a complete stranger in the middle of a busy road in Peachtree City, Georgia. We were yelling, calling each other everything but a child of God. Moments before he had scraped my bumper in a minor fender-bender and I could not contain my rage.

This was not the first time I had been involved in a road rage incident, but it would be the last of this magnitude because of what happened next. The police came, and we exchanged information. The next morning, I awoke to find two flat tires on my car. The thought of my road rage enemy sneaking up to my home in the middle of the night to do further damage to my car frightened me. It was a wake up call. I had to get my anger under control or the next road rage incident could be my last.

To find the root of my anger I had to go back to my childhood. I am the last of five children born to a Southern Baptist preacher and his wife. I grew up in the church, hearing my father preach against many of the world's evils, especially the evils of adultery and divorce. Then, when I was 9-years-old, my father came home and told my mother he had been seeing another woman and wanted a divorce.

My father's hypocrisy created an angry, bitter and cynical child who grew into an angry, bitter and cynical adult. My relationship with my father deteriorated. I wanted nothing to do with him. I wanted nothing to do with church and I especially wanted nothing to do with pastors - who were the worst hypocrites of all.

I was in my 30s when I was finally able to honestly deal with my anger issues. By that time my father had been dead for years – felled by a massive heart attack when I was only 17. He was only 54. His death did not abate my anger. In fact, the night my mother told me of his death I told her that to me he had died years ago when he walked out the door into the arms of another woman. I had no use for the man.

At the root of my anger was a sense of lost security and lost control over my own life. One man's actions took our family from a solid middle class lifestyle to the foreclosure of our nice house. My mother and my one brother still living at home had to move into a housing project in a small town in northeast Georgia. We went from comfortable to living hand to mouth in the spread of a few months – all because one man decided to follow his zipper to another woman's door.

The unfairness of it all made me bitter. The sense of abandonment made me fearful. The loss of my innocence sent me into a rage – one that lasted a good 15 years or so. I can tell you from experience that anger tears you up from the inside out. The bitterness it plants in your heart grows strong and deep. The target of your rage is closer than your dearest friend. They are always with you, constantly stirring your anger and rubbing salt into your open wounds.

Emmet Fox wrote in his book The Sermon on the Mount that anger ties us "to the thing [we] hate. The person perhaps in the whole world whom you most dislike is the very one to whom you are attaching yourself by a hook that is stronger than steel. Is this what you wish?"

It is not what I wished with my father, and my only recourse – the only way to break that tie and release my anger – was to forgive him. In reality my anger wasn't doing anything but hurting me. It's not like I could call my dad and yell at him over the phone. He was dead. My anger made no difference to him. The only person it was hurting was me. If I wanted to be free from anger and bitterness, my only choice was forgiveness.

I made a pilgrimage to his grave one summer. A light drizzle fell from the cloudy sky as I stood at the foot of his final resting place. I don't know what I expected – perhaps I thought it would be easy to just say, "I forgive you, dad." But, it wasn't. When I approached the grave, I discovered my old friend anger had arrived there before me. I stood in the rain and held my anger – and I let dad have all of it. Anyone watching would have probably thought a crazy person was in the graveyard. I screamed at him. I cried. I told him all the awful stuff I ever wanted to say to him. That frustrated, angry, cynical, hurting 9-year-old threw a colossal temper tantrum. And it felt so good.

When it was over, the practical 30-something in me said, "You've come a long way to do this – you can't back out now." So, I laid my anger down to rest beside my father and with all the sincerity I could muster I said, "I forgive you."

In that moment, the heavens opened, the rain stopped and shafts of sunlight burst forth through the parting clouds. In the end, God really is a drama queen. How else can I explain why She led me to follow in my father's footsteps and become the thing I hated most – a pastor.

I left the graveyard lighter than I had ever been. My father is still with me – but now I feel his presence with joy. I understand now, he was simply a human being – doing the best he could. He didn't set out to hurt me, my family, or himself. He made mistakes. He paid the price. But, he taught me a great lesson: anger never creates grace. It's only forgiveness that brings heaven down to earth.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beliefnet sells out to the moneychangers

I wish to God this was something being reported by the Onion. Instead, it appears to be real and not a parody.

Fox Entertainment Group (FEG) today announced its acquisition of Beliefnet, a Web site that enables consumers to better understand their faith and build diverse spiritual communities by providing content and tools for a broad range of religions and spiritual approaches. Beliefnet, the largest online faith and spirituality destination, will become part of Fox Digital Media, spearheaded by President Dan Fawcett, which takes on an expanded role to support FEG’s vast cable, TV and film brands online, and drive FEG’s continued growth in the online market.


I'm taking bets now on how long it will take them to change the "Islam" tab to "Islamofascists."

Maybe WalMart will want to buy Whosoever ...

I'm So Tired of Politicians

I can't believe we have another year of this crap coming. I used to listen to NPR religiously on my way to work. Now, I can barely stand it. Instead, I'm grooving to Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews and even some Jethro Tull in the car these days. I can't stand the hypocrisy and downright stupidity of the political races these days.

So, a retired gay general who favors Hillary asked the Republicans a question about Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the world explodes. Let me get this straight (so to speak), only Republicans can ask Republicans questions? Democrats aren't allowed to ask questions? People who ask questions must be thoroughly vetted to make sure they support the party in question before they can ask a legitimate question - or even a stupid question? What the f...? Then CNN apologizes for letting him ask a question? CNN should grow a damn spine and say, "Hey, he's an American asking potential presidents a question - that's all the credential he needs." Stupid CNN - yet another reason to be glad I don't work there anymore.

Here is my question: where the hell is America? I used to live there, but apparently it packed its belongings in the middle of the night and fled. Wise move. I always knew America was smart. What we're left with is the clowns and charlatans who are creating some bizarro version of America where up is down and war is peace. Paging Mr. Orwell.

Now, I read that Mike Huckabee says Jesus would approve of capital punishment because he suffered the same punishment without complaint. May I repeat, "What the f...????"


“Interestingly enough,” Huckabee allowed, “if there was ever an occasion for someone to have argued against the death penalty, I think Jesus could have done so on the cross and said, ‘This is an unjust punishment and I deserve clemency’.”


This is what happens when idiots read the Bible. Following old Huck's logic, then Jesus supports putting the innocent or wrongly convicted to death. Hucky conveniently forgets that Jesus intervened in the case of a woman who was headed for the death penalty for adultery. The crowd was ready to stone her to death, but Jesus pardons her and sends her on her way. Hmmm - sounds to me like the J-man supported clemency over punishment.

Christian theology holds that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was preordained and had to happen for the redemption of the world. However, I prefer to see Jesus' death on the cross as a protest of the death penalty. He was wrongly convicted of crimes he did not commit but willingly went to his death to expose the fear of the powers that be. The powerful always destroy what they fear and Jesus' death exposed the leaders of his day for the true cowards they were. Jesus' death is powerful and gives us a guide to live by - to speak truth to power and oppose the cowardly fear-mongering leaders of our day who prefer punishment over clemency and war over peace.

I agree with Hucky-boy that Jesus was too smart to run for political office, which says a whole hell of a lot about Hucky's intelligence level as well as his grasp of what Jesus came to proclaim to we gullible, idiotic humans. Jesus understood that true power was among the people, not the potentates who pontificated about their righteousness. Now, if we can only convince the people of their power so they can send the potentates packing.

In the meantime I'll be rocking out in the car, and if anyone spots America, please let me know where she is. Tell her all is forgiven and she can come home now.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Check out the New Podcast

Check out Whosoever's latest Godcast, if you haven't already. I had a great interview with Dr. Hyena (who is concealing his identity to avoid harassment from the Klan), one of the organizers of the Ku Klux Klowns that totally put the KKK in their place in Knoxville earlier this year.

Their amazing counter-protest is exactly what Jesus is getting at when he counsels us to not resist evil. We don't let the evil of the world set the rules of engagement. Instead of angrily yelling at the evil, the Klowns deftly lampooned them, ending their protest early. This is what Walter Wink calls Jesus' "Third Way."

The Godcast also features an interview with transgender author and consultant Vanessa Sheridan. She's an amazing woman who has written a book reconciling her transgender identity and her spirituality. She also works to educate the corporate world about TG issues.

Here is the text of my meditation moment for the Godcast on how Dr. Hyena and Vanessa Sheridan are both educating our opponents using Jesus' Third Way.

When faced with opposition, our society only gives us two choices: fight or flight. Jesus, however, urges us to find a third way - a way that opposes the violence and hatred in our world, but refuses to let the violence and hatred dictate our response. As Walter Wink writes in The Powers that Be, Jesus' third way is "at once assertive and yet nonviolent."

Wink's book is full of examples, but my favorite is story of the residents of a squatter's camp in South Africa before the fall of Apartheid. One day, the police came with bulldozers to tear down the camp. They gave the women there five minutes to get their stuff and leave. Instead of packing up, the women stripped off their clothes and stood naked before the bulldozers. The police turned and fled - embarrassed by the women's nakedness.

Wink writes: "The Powers that Be literally stand on their dignity. Nothing deflates them more effectively than deft lampooning. By refusing to be awed by their power, the powerless are emboldened to seize the initiative, even where structural change is not immediately possible. This message, far from counseling an unattainable otherworldly perfection, is a practical, strategic measure for empowering the oppressed."

This is why the Ku Klux Klowns were so effective that day in Knoxville. The Klan left their rally hoarse and dejected because they were deftly lampooned. For that moment, the powerless were emboldened against these racists. The racist structure of our society has not changed, but the oppressed now understand they have a practical, strategic measure they can use to seize the initiative. We need not cower when racists or homophobes start their rants against us.

We have the power of parody, the power of deft lampooning to put them in their place. We can strip naked before them and watch them run.

In a like manner, Vanessa Sheridan has found the third way - focusing on educating those in the workplace about the issue of transgender people. Through her revolutionary educational practices, she is helping those who may have verbally or physically abused transgender people in the workplace come to a place of understanding - if not acceptance - of their co-worker's transition.

Both the clowns and Sheridan are employing practical nonviolence as a way to educate and overcome the hatred and violence in our world.

Wink says nonviolence "is not victory over the enemy but the transformation that only love can effect. And that transformation may change us every bit as much as those whom we oppose." In short, he says, nonviolence "invites miracles."

May we find ways to invite such miracles into our lives today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Longing for Dave

No, I haven't suddenly become heterosexual. Don't worry.

The "Dave" I long for is the Dave played by Kevin Kline in the movie of the same name. In the movie, Dave is a lowly everyman, quietly running a temping service, finding people jobs. He just happens to be a dead ringer for the current president, Bill Mitchell. After the president suffers a stroke, the chief of staff and head speech writer concoct a plan to replace the president with a look-alike so they can continue Mitchell's ruthless and heartless agenda.

Dave is strong-armed into the job, but having a heart, he begins to wield power in a different way, looking for ways to cut the budget, create jobs and help the less fortunate.

What strikes me about this movie (well, other than the complete suspension of belief one must do to enjoy it) is that a healthy sense of shame is present within those in the administration. There also seems to be a fear of the press revealing something shameful about the politicians in the story.

At a cabinet meeting Dave, in an effort to save a homeless shelter being cut out of a works bill, goes around the room quizzing cabinet members on wasteful spending in their offices. He asks the commerce secretary to cut 53 million dollars from their budget that was being spent on ads to make people feel good about purchasing American made cars. When the commerce secretary balks, Dave tells him:

"Well I'm sure that's really important, but I don't want to tell some eight-year-old kid he has to sleep in the street because we want people to feel better about their cars. Do you want to tell him that?"


The secretary looks around at the cameras and considers his options. He can either keep his 53 million bucks or be painted in the press as a heartless bastard. He opts to give up the 53 million.

That would never happen in real life. In real life, the commerce secretary would laugh, keep his 53 million in pork and the press would dutifully not report it. We have an administration that tells kids every single day to sleep in the street or die of treatable and preventable diseases because of ideological rigidity (rhymes with stupidity). We have leaders in this country who choose party over country, politics over humanity, and selfishness over compassion.

Certainly politics has never been like "Dave" (don'tcha love the French movie poster?) - but we have had leaders who understood that what affects one segment of society affects all segments. We have had leaders in the past who understood that for America to prosper, all of America must prosper. We have had leaders who understood that sometimes human life trumps profits.

Where are those leaders today? Where is the press that will actually report on the atrocities the current administration has committed against our country?

Now, there's a move afoot to further consolidate the media into even fewer hands than the big six who own them now. This would be a disaster. The media already coddles any politician who will protect their interests. Consolidating into fewer hands means more infotainment, more dumbing down of the media, more lead stories on dead celebrities instead of dead soldiers and more Foxification of the news business. This is the reason I left the business in disgust in 2003. The media is already ruined but this would make the media finally the tool of the state that this administration seeks. When a free press is silenced, fascism isn't far behind.

We should all be longing for Dave right about now - a leader with a heart, a press willing to shame those who would force children to sleep in the streets - and a really hot first lady.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Transgender Day of Remembrance

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to remember those killed because of the deep hatred of the transgender in our society.

The day began in 1999 after the 1998 death of Rita Hester. Her murder, like so many transgender murders, remains unsolved.

Rev. Paul Turner has an excellent memorial posted at Rev. Bitch, Sir:

The people we mourn for this day are apart of the community most would just as soon not deal with. Oh we go to watch the drag shows and tell our jokes and we have added a “T” to the GLB_Q but don’t really take seriously folks in the transgender community live in a very dangerous and un-supportive world.

We do not take seriously they find it extremely difficult to get jobs, get health care or any kind of support and dignity.

In fact just this past month Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and the HRC made it clear they were not even worth naming in a piece of legislation design to give us job protection. The political spin was that it could not pass if the transgender community was part of it.

In fact, the leaders of HRC told me they were nothing more then a “political calculation”

So the message went out loud and clear...it is still open season on those who would dare to transition from one gender to another.


Let us pray for those we have lost:

A Prayer for Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 20th


God of creation, Source of life,
we behold your newness with each new day.
We watch how the seasons transition
from winter to spring to summer to fall
and then the cycle is renewed.

Your creative process of life
is ever before us in all its diversity
and human life is no exception.

As we observe Transgender Day of Remembrance,
we pray with thanksgiving
for those whose lives have been cut short
by fear, hatred, and violence
because they were perceived to be different,
because they had the courage to live their lives
with integrity and openness,
because they did not conform
to someone else’s view of how they should live.

We remember and give thanks
for the seasons of their lives,
for the love and friendships they shared
and the ways in which their living
has been a gift to us all.

Be present to those of us who are grieving,
may your peace rest on us.

Be present to those of us who are angry,
may the power of your love inspire and embolden us
to use our anger to dismantle hate,
the fear of difference and all that incites violence.

And send us out into the world
with the wisdom and guidance of your Spirit
and with evangelical courage
that we may work in solidarity with one another
to build your community of welcome, justice and peace.

We pray in the name of the Christ, who transforms the world. Amen.

Prayer by Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer,
Transgender Day of Remembrance, 2006

Thursday, November 15, 2007

That Confounding God

If God did not choose to work in ways that confound us, grace would not be amazing. It would not be grace.
-Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith


God continually confounds me. Greed, war, violence - all manner of evil runs rampant in our world, yet God does nothing. Or, at least God seems to do nothing. God seems to leave it all up to us.

Every month I attend a meeting of community groups in the county where I live. I talk with people doing all manner of good works - housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, finding shelter and providing protection for the abused, visiting the imprisoned, providing transportation for those in poverty. Why do these sorts of organizations even have to exist? Why must we take it on ourselves to right the wrongs of the world, break the cycles of poverty and violence and heal the wounds of others?

Where is God? Why can't God simply make a world where good things can be created faster and bigger than bad things? Why must we live in a world where those who create good things have to stand by and watch others piss all over it? I don't get it.

If we claim that God is "almighty" why can't God get off his lazy ass long enough to do something almighty in the world?

God continually confounds me.

But, I guess Norris is right, that's what makes the grace we receive so amazing. I am blessed each time I walk out of that community meeting, hearing of all their struggles and accomplishments. I know that God is hard at work through each of the organizations present. Perhaps not in the superhero "almighty" way we might think - but it seems that grace is all the more amazing when it bubbles up under the muck and mire of the world, bringing a refreshing fountain to all who approach and receive.

Finding that oasis of grace in this world is truly an amazing experience.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Be Among the Living

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
Luke 10:25-28


I love it when Jesus gets asked a question and then gives a completely different answer than what he was asked. He does that in this passage as the lawyer asks Jesus specifically what he must do to "inherit eternal life." Jesus answers with a question - quizzing the lawyer on the law. The lawyer gives the right answer, then Jesus gives the zinger.

"You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."

We miss Jesus' meaning here when we simply read it in an English translation. When we go back to the Greek, we understand that Jesus is telling the lawyer something completely different than how to "inherit eternal life."

The lawyer asks how to get "aionios zoe" or life that is everlasting. Jesus tells him however that if he follows the law's command to love God, neighbor and self with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, "you will 'zao'" or "live." Instead of telling the lawyer how to have everlasting life, Jesus was telling the lawyer how to live right now. Zoa means "to be among the living" or "to enjoy real life."

The lawyer makes the mistake so many of us make. We see Jesus as our ticket to heaven. We don't have to live here in this misery and endless cycle of want and desire and dissatisfaction. Instead, we want to know when it will be over - when we can cross the Jordan and be in the Promised Land with Jesus in eternity. In short, we want to know that it's okay to forsake this life for the next.

Jesus says, "NO!" Instead, we are instructed in this passage how to live now. It's not our love of God, neighbor and self that stamps our ticket to heaven. Instead, it's our love of God, neighbor and self right here, right now that brings the reign of God into this reality.

Jesus is telling the lawyer - and us - that the key to life - to be among the living, enjoying real life - is love. We must love God, our neighbor and ourselves with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. Unless we are doing that right now - we are not alive. To be eternally alive, first we must be alive - but we are dead right now unless we are practicing this all consuming, wasteful love that we are commanded to embody right here, right now.

Jesus is telling the lawyer - and us - to stop looking for short cuts, to stop wishing our lives away on some dream of a better world where we live in peace and harmony with God. We can have that world now if we simply live by the law of love. Resolve today to be among the living, to enjoy real life by loving as God commands.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thursday Noontime Thoughts and Prayers

All self-understanding arises from understanding ourselves as spiritual beings, and it is only contact with the universal Holy Spirit that can give us the depth and the breadth to understand ... The way to this is not difficult. It is very simple. But it does require serious commitment.
-John Main, OSB, “Space to Be,” from MOMENT OF CHRIST


Sometimes I simply don't understand myself. I don't understand things that I do, things that I say or things that I think. People driving cars around me brings out this part of me that I don't understand. I get angry with people who drive - especially if they drive too slowly in front of me, try to occupy the same lane I'm occupying or generally do any other sort of stupid driver trick whenever I'm around them. I turn into an angry, seething mess.

I don't understand me.

I'm a nice person, really. I'd do anything for you if you needed it. If one of those drivers who made me mad needed me, I'd be there - bygones being bygones. But, I'm simply short tempered when I sit behind a wheel of a car. I see everyone else as either a proven or a potential idiot.

Which is not to say I'm the smartest driver on the road. I've done plenty of stupid things behind the wheel of a vehicle. I know I'm not the sharpest spike in the road some days and I probably make someone else's proven or potential idiot list plenty of days. But, I don't understand that angry person who takes the wheel most days. I don't get her. Where does it come from? What's my beef with other drivers?

When I get in the car, I guess I lock the Holy Spirit in the trunk - then crank the CD player up so I can't hear all the banging around back there. I'm sure we all have areas of our lives where we disconnect from Spirit - even if it's just for the commute to work. Why do we do that? Why do we disconnect ourselves from the very power that can give us the breadth and depth to understand - even those dark, angry places inside of us.

I've made a vow to give the Holy Spirit the passenger seat whenever I slide back into the car for my next drive. Perhaps I'll lock my angry self in the trunk and H.S. and I can crank it up to 11 and rock to Springsteen on the way home.

Feel free to post your thoughts, prayers and praises!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Spiritual Self Defense for GLBT Christians

There's still time to get in on tonight's teleseminar on Spiritual Self-Defense for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians.

Go here to sign up and join us at 7 p.m. tonight!

http://www.whosoever.org/seminars/

It will be a great event!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

And We Get Blasted for "Twisting" Scripture?

So, the evangelical Christians have decided that a set of quotation marks can save them from Jesus' clear prohibition against divorce.

Instone-Brewer, an expert in Jewish thought during Jesus' era, writes that Christ's interlocutors were not asking him whether there was any cause at all for divorce, but whether he supported something called "any-cause" divorce, a term a little bit like "no-fault" that allowed husbands to divorce wives for any reason at all. Instone-Brewer claims Jesus's "no" was a response to this idea, and that his "except for sexual indecency" condition was not a statement of the sole exemption from God's blanket prohibition, but merely Christ's reiteration of one of several divorce permissions in the Old Testament — one he felt the "any-time" advocates had exaggerated.


Since the original Greek had no punctuation like quotation marks, this "expert" believes he can change Jesus' words by adding some punctuation? Viola - you can get divorced now. Jesus was only speaking to a specific kind of "no-fault" divorce and not divorce in general.

Whenever pro-gay biblical scholars add a comma or any other explanation for why the Bible doesn't condemn homosexuality, the Evangelicals scream bloody murder and accuse us of "twisting" the scripture to fit modern day morals.

Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle.

The Time article explains it all away thusly:

Still, the controversy suggests that even the country's most rule-bound Christians will search for a fresh understanding of scripture when it seems unjust to them.


They'll just deny that fresh understanding to others who see the traditional condemnation of gays and lesbians as unjust.

I need some hip waders - the hypocrisy is getting mighty deep around here.

Tuesday Morning Thoughts and Prayers

But, Meredith, part of the challenge the news media has had in covering this story is the old habit of taking the on the one hand, on the other hand approach. There are still people who believe that the Earth is flat, but when you’re reporting on a story like the one you’re covering today, where you have people all around the world, you don’t take — you don’t search out for someone who still believes the Earth is flat and give them equal time. -Former Vice President Al Gore on the Nov. 5, 2007 Today Show


Have I ever mentioned how much I love Al Gore? When he finally took off the wooden politician suit and just became a genuine human being he has really started to blossom. His criticism of the media here hits home for me and I'm so glad that someone has finally said this to the media.

As a 25 year veteran of the media, it always frustrated me that we had to be "fair and balanced" on stories that truly did not have another side. Gore is right. Those who criticize the research on global warming are just as uninformed as their flat earth comrades. They are not the "other side" of the issue - they are those who deny hard facts. That doesn't make them a balancing side. It simply makes them kooks.

That's the same issue we face as GLBT people. The media is convinced there is "another side" to our story when there isn't. The story on GLBT people isn't GLBT people balanced by some anti-gay preacher any more than the story on African-American people is balanced by some Ku Klux Klan member. There are not two sides to our story - especially not the gays versus God angle that the media laps up like the dogs they are.

Increasingly, science is showing that GLBT people are "that way" because they're meant to be "that way." No argument from scripture will negate that. Rebuttals from scripture are not the "other side" of the story - it's simply a flat earth believer ranting against the facts. They should be treated that way by the media. However, I've met few "journalists" who are willing to the let the facts get in the way of a good story. They see a juicy argument brewing - a chance to get some ratings by having both "sides" yell at each other and they begin to drool.

Our media is in a sad state these days. Thank you, Al Gore, for pointing out the obvious. May there be many more willing to stand up to the beast in the same way.

If you have a prayer or a praise, feel free to post it in the comments so we can pray and praise with you.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday Thoughts and Prayers

Woe is me, that I am an alien in Meshech,

that I must live among the tents of Kedar.

Too long have I had my dwelling

among those who hate peace.

I am for peace;

but when I speak,

they are for war.

Psalm 120:5-7


I am increasingly feeling like I am an alien in Meshech - forced to live in the tents of Kedar. The drumbeat of war against Iran grows stronger as we continue the fruitless killing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even well known torture techniques are being embraced by our leaders. Whenever we who support peace speak, we find little support. The leaders we elected, the media, those who get their news from that mainstream media are all for war - believing that it actually solves something despite all the strong evidence to the contrary.

The warmongers are like those in Meshech. The Moschi people were considered barbarians. Interestingly, it was their tribe that would eventually be the namesake of Moscow. The leadership there is no longer speaking of war, ironically. We have become the Moschi people - all for war.

Kedar generally refers to the nomadic Arabic Bedouins. To "dwell in the tents of Kedar" means to be cut off from the worship of the true God. The warmongering of our leaders leaves us cut off from God. Living among those who are constantly beating the drums for war, constantly stirring up the fear and bloodlust of the people, makes it hard to hear the still small voice of God that insists on peace.

We who want peace - not just the absence of war, but true peace - are like foreigners in our own land. I don't recognize my country anymore and I long to be reconnected with the true God of peace. Until then, I will continue speak for peace among the tribes that hate peace.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday afternoon thoughts and prayers

Truly if, as Jesus said, you have to become like a child to receive the Kingdom of God, what does it say about you if instead your willful ignorance of children’s needs causes them to suffer? It says you are not worthy of the kingdom of God, that’s what it says.
-Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Only a Sick Society Plays Politics with Children's Health


The Democrats are trying again to do the right thing and provide health care to millions of children in the United States. The president and many Republicans in Congress - each professing a faith in Christ - are working hard to block this measure. They talk about how we can't afford the SCHIP program, but the real reason they are blocking the measure is pure ideology - they don't want everyone in our country to have health care. They don't want to anger the health care industry that lines the coffers of their political campaigns.

The bottom line is, they truly do not care about the children. The Jesus they profess to follow tells them that children are the key to the kingdom of heaven - that the love of money is the root of all evil - but these "Christians" will sell a child down the river if the money is right.

As Thistlethwaite writes, we are a sick society when we'll force a parent to choose between the mortgage and paying for their child's health care. We are a sick society when we stalk children who dare to speak up for a fair health care system in our country. We are a sick society when we'll justify spending trillions of dollars on a war that leaves millions dead or maimed and still dare to call ourselves "pro-life."

We are not a society fit for the kingdom of heaven.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thursday Morning Thoughts and Prayers

I do not doubt that it was You who called me, with so much love and force. It was you. I know. That is why the work is yours and it is You even now - but I have no faith - I don't believe.
-Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light


The new book, Come Be My Light, reveals the deep doubts and loss of faith that the one woman on all the Earth we would least expect such sentiments from - Mother Teresa. This is the woman who worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor and sick, not just in Calcutta but around the world. When the book first appeared, some people were shocked by these revelations and some even expressed losing their own faith because of it, reasoning that if Mother Teresa had doubts what hope is there for the rest of us?

I had the opposite reaction. It comforted me to know that Mother Teresa lost her faith from time to time - or she lost her faith for the last fifty or so years of her work. It made me feel much better about my own lack of faith sometimes. If even someone like Mother Teresa, who did great works despite her doubts, can fail in her faith then I must be on the right track.

I have had moments where I'm not sure if God even exists, let alone gives a fig about any of us. I look around at the war, the pure evil being displayed by elected officials and their minions, and I have to stop and wonder - if God exists is he even paying attention?

Over at Street Prophets, their latest Progressive Bible Study posits that if we believe God is almighty then we have to ascribe even evil to God. This is the world view of ancient Hebrews who would rather have a monotheistic God responsible for both evil and good than be accused of polytheism by believing in an equal opposing force of evil.

A God that perpetrates both good and evil is too much for me to wrap my mind around right now. If I believed God created both good and evil, I don't think I'd believe in that God for long. I know God makes it rain on both the evil and the good, but that's an affirmation that shit happens, whether you're good or evil. That's wholly different than God creating evil.

I have to believe in a good God - a God that does both evil and good makes no sense to me - but perhaps that's the point. Perhaps that's where Mother Teresa lost her faith. She toiled so hard against the evil in the world and hardly ever saw a glimmer of God's goodness. In that situation, I guess it would be hard to believe in a God that is only good.

When we try to nail God down, God always eludes our easy definitions and wiggles out of our expectations. Perhaps God does perpetrate both good and evil. Perhaps God isn't the Pollyanna, bleeding heart liberal I wish She would be. Perhaps, all I can really say is, "God is ..." and leave the rest to God.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wednesday Morning Thoughts and Prayers

A human being is a longing for God and nothing less than God will satisfy us; the seductive voices that would make us anything less than this are to be resisted. Our battle will continually be with the deadly reductionisms in the world today; with attitudes that diminish human beings to disposable commodities, to means to commercial or political ends.
-Alan Jones, Exploring Spiritual Direction


Each of us has a longing, whether it's for money, fame, the perfect relationship, the perfect house or car. But, material wants (And some people see relationships as material possessions!) are just a symptom of our deeper longing for the joy and happiness that only a relationship with God can provide.

We're not quite sure how to cultivate that relationship. We have this push and pull relationship with the divine. We desperately want to live in that blissful oneness with our creator, but at the same time, the seductive voices of the world tell us we have to give up everything material to get it. We are caught between God and the world. God calls us to a journey, often fraught with pain and challenge, to deepen our relationship with Her, while the world offers shallow, immediate gratification. So often, we grab for the easy, the shiny, the new. We are always disappointed, always grasping for more and more when the new wears off or an equally attractive worldly bobble appears on the horizon.

The irony is that when we take the chance on God and go on that journey to deepening our relationship with Him, the material world fades in the distance. The new and the shiny are not as attractive as before. We don't miss the instant gratification because we know it will not give us lasting joy.

As we journey with God, drawing closer to God, filling our spirit and senses with God, material concerns and possessions are seen in a new light. Instead of objects to please us, they become tools to be used to please God and further God's work in the world. The material world becomes a resource to implement the greater good, not just a source of instant pleasure. We still can take pleasure in material things, but we now understand their purpose. They are not here for our selfish use - to be consumed and tossed into the garbage the next day. Instead, they are here to be used for the good of all.

As we draw closer to God, resisting those seductive voices become easier and our view of the material world changes. No longer do we see people and things as disposable commodities to be used. Instead, we see them as holy, beloved creations of God and we honor them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tuesday Morning Thoughts and Prayers

The Lord, when He wants to change a situation, has a better method. He changes people, and changed people change situations.
-Norman Vincent Peale, Positive Imaging


As I drove to work yesterday, I noticed the PowerBall Lottery was up to $51 million.

"Oh, Lord, I want that," I breathed.

I probably don't really want that - the money would be nice, sure - but all the new "friends" that come out of the woodwork would be distressing. All the attention. You'd never be able to trust anyone again. The question, "Do they like me or my money?" would always be present.

::Sigh::

So, I continued on to work, realizing that the underlying problem was that I just wanted life to be simple. A lot of money would make many things in life very simple. No need for the daily grind of commuting, working and commuting again. No need to ever worry about debt or bills or anything that involves money - except whether or not your banker and your broker really like your or your money.

That's what we all want - a simple life - a life where God swoops in an makes it all right. No more uncertainty. No more fear. No more wondering what you'll do if this or that tragedy occurs.

Alas, God does not work that way. We were given free will in this world which limits God's ability to swoop in like Superman. Sure, God can still do miracles if She pleases, but those are few and far between. For the most part, God watches over us, lets us make our mistakes and then helps us pick up the pieces so we can move on.

Instead of coming in and fixing things for us or taking away all uncertainty, God has a better way. God changes us. As we experience insecurity, fear and despair, God grows our faith. God grows our strength and our character with each trial we face. God does not bring us to these trials - our own free will does that - but God is ever with us through good times and bad times.

By becoming more loving, compassionate, caring people we begin to change the harsh, hateful ways of the world. As one of my favorite theologians, Bono, sings, "I can't change the world, but I can change the world in me."

Rejoice in that knowledge. God is ever shaping and changing you so you can change the situations that surround you.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Thoughts and Prayers

"Waiting on God is a bore; but what fun to argue, to score off opponents, to lose one's temper and call it 'righteous indignation,' and at last to pass from controversy to blows, from words to what St. Augustine so deliciously described as the 'beningnant asperity' of persecution and punishment."
- Aldous Huxley, "The Perennial Philosophy"


Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon marching in a circle - oh, and getting yelled at. Such is the life of an activist lesbian pastor in South Carolina.

I joined about two dozen other people from the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement in a silent vigil at the "Embrace the Change" concert in Columbia where anti-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin was making his appearance despite protests from the GLBT community. Senator Barack Obama (who only appeared at the fundraising concert via Memorex)had refused to remove McClurkin from the bill and instead added "balance" by inviting the senior pastor of my church, Rev. Andy Sidden, to give the opening prayer.

As we marched across the street from the concert hall, a self-appointed spokeswoman for God decided we needed some preachin'. She insisted that God did not love gays and lesbians because "God created them male and female."

We had agreed to a silent vigil so we let her spew her hatred and condemnation unchallenged. She, of course, caught the attention of the camera crews on hand and was promptly miked up by a couple of them and interviewed. She refused to give her name. I love bigots who still want to maintain their anonymity. If she's so proud of her hateful speech, she ought to at least be willing to give her name just as proudly. We all gave our names to the reporters and photographers hovering around us. We have no problem telling the world about love and giving our names while we do it.

Neither she, nor us, can wait on God. It's way more fun to argue, to score points and express our righteous indignation. She felt righteous, but so did we. Instead of trusting God to reconcile us all, we contend with one another - shouting, marching, protesting, holding vigils. Instead of finding common ground where we can work with each other and God to achieve God's realm of peace, we fight and score points against one another, taunting each other over trivial differences of opinion.

Waiting on God is boring - but it's necessary if we are to recognize when God moves. We can certainly work while we wait - but let our work be searching for common ground, not just shouting at one another across the divide.

God, forgive us all for our arrogance. Give us the patience, and the joy, to instead, wait on you.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Rev. Sidden on the Radio

Rev. Andy Sidden, Senior Pastor of Garden of Grace UCC, where I serve as associate pastor, appeared on Mike Signorile's radio show yesterday to discuss the controversy around his being chosen to give the opening prayer at Barack Obama's black gospel concert this Sunday in Columbia, SC.

Use this link to listen to the interview.

Friday Morning Thoughts and Prayers

Kind words do not cost much. They never blister the tongue or lips. They make other people good-natured. They also produce their own image on men's souls, and a beautiful image it is.
- Blaise Pascal


Just as I began to create this post an ad for one of the politicians running for president flashed across the television. I did not say a kind word to him. In fact, the words I said were quite unkind. True, he couldn't hear me, but I heard me. I heard the disgust in my voice, the underlying frustration in my tone. I felt them blister on my tongue and lips. What is the true cost of my stinging words, even uttered alone in a room, against another human being? They may not harm this politician, but they tear at my own soul.

Kind words don't cost much - harsh words cost plenty. They can destroy friendships, marriages, churches and nations. A war of words has a high price tag. It causes agitation, irritation, anger, and often results in real war - humans battling one another because of something another person said. Gossip is pricey - kind words don't cost much.

Jesus tells us it's not what goes into our mouth that defiles us, but what comes out of it (Matthew 15:11). If words of anger, irritation or hatred come from our lips, that is surely what is in our heart. My words to the politician reveal my own irritation and anger in my heart. My words tell more about me than they do about that politician. My words mean I need to work more on me - allowing God to soften my own heart. It says nothing about the politician.

Today, resolve to speak kind words. They don't cost much, so spend freely. Speak kindly, even of those who irritate or anger you. Create beautiful images in the hearts and minds of others. Utter words of compassion, understanding, grace, mercy and love - even if you're all alone. Give over to God any words of anger or irritation that come from your heart.

If you have prayers or praises to share, please do so in the comments.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Pastor is Now Famous

So, perhaps you've heard the brouhaha about Barack Obama and his association with a homophobic gospel singer set to perform during a show in Columbia, SC this Sunday. The GLBT community is going nuts, of course, demanding that Obama get rid of said performer.

Instead, the campaign has asked an openly gay pastor to give the opening prayer. That pastor is none other than Andy Sidden, the Senior Pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ where I am privileged to serve as his associate pastor.

When he told me yesterday that they had asked him to do this, I told him he'd make news if he did it. He didn't think some little old pastor doing a prayer would be anything newsworthy - but I knew better. I told him Obama needs to throw the GLBT community a bone and he's the bone!

Andy's already taking some hits over on Pam's House Blend for agreeing to do this, but I am proud of him for taking a stand and for taking the opportunity to give a voice to our community against this blatant homophobia.

In addition, Andy will be appearing on Mike Signorile's Sirius Satellite Radio show at 4:30 p.m. this afternoon. Catch it if you have SIRIUS OutQ 109, and let me know how it went. I gave up my satellite radio about a year ago.

And give Andy your prayer support while you're at it. He's getting it from both sides now!

Thursday Morning Thoughts and Prayers

If a thought or behavior divides us, it is not of God; if it unites us, it is of God. -Wayne Dyer, Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life


Why is that such a hard concept to grasp? Humans live to divide. We divide into tribes, nations, religious affiliations, classes, races, sexual orientations and genders. What ridiculous creatures we are - wanting to find that extra something that makes us more special than someone else, more favored than someone else and especially more loved by God than someone else.

Scripture tells us that God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11) and that before God there is no male or female (Galatians 3:28). There is no distinction when God looks at us. All God sees are His beloved children. All God sees is Her image, lurking inside of each of us, dying to get out. But we keep our God essence locked up tight as we divide and divide and divide.

We feel so righteous when we divide. We feel like we're engaged in an activity blessed by God, but we are not. Our penchant to divide comes from fear and fear does not come from God. We are afraid that someone might get more than us, be more favored than us and be loved by God more than us. In that fear, we divide, we hate, we destroy anyone who threatens our feeling of specialness.

We see it in church and society all the time as GLBT Christians. Those who fear including us in God's love verbally abuse us, call us names, exclude us, and work to keep us from full participation in the body of Christ. In society, those who fear losing their special status pass laws preventing us from benefiting from federal marriage laws or federal job protections.

Fear and division do not come from God. Only when we set aside our differences and realize that we are all beloved children of God will we finally get a glimpse of what God intends for Her realm. The realm of God is here - we only make it a reality when we unite in the assurance that we are all special to our Creator.

Remember, if you have a prayer or a praise, feel free to post it in the comments and we'll pray for you or celebrate with you!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Morning Thoughts and Prayers

What if genuine faithfulness is less a matter of waiting on God and more a matter of working or playing with God?
-Kirk Byron Jones, Holy Play


How many of us are waiting on God to do something in our lives? Whether it's bringing about peace and joy, that perfect job, that perfect mate, that perfect house, car or other possession. How many times have we been told to be patient that God will work it out? So we sit on our blessed assurances and bitch and moan and say, "Well, I'm waiting on God."

What if God is really waiting on us? What if God is waiting for us to understand that if we truly want peace and all those good things we desire, we need to get to work, to make God our co-worker instead of our rescuer. What if God is winking at us, waiting for us to give a knowing wink back and learn how to play with God.

Why do we always talk so reverently of God, in hushed tones, averting our eyes so that God won't get angry with us or punish us for some perceived sin? Why can't we understand that the God who loves us beyond all imagination wants to work and play with us.

An Episcopalian friend of mine once remarked, "God created us because God thought we might enjoy it." We must celebrate our lives. Instead of waiting for some mysterious God to rescue us from our troubles and despairs, we need to get out there and pursue God with all our heart, mind and strength. Work with God on what you want in this life and don't forget to take some holy recess time. Play on the swings with God, go down the slide - backwards if you like, get dizzy on the merry-go-round. God laughs and plays right along.

I'll try to be faithful in posting some morning thoughts and give you all a chance to use the comments to post any praises and prayers you'd like to lift up. What can we celebrate or pray about today for you? Let us know.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Say What You Want, Just Spell My Name Right

Alas, the author of this blog cannot even do that - referring to me as "Challew" the entire post. He accuses me of mangling scripture, yet his reading skills are so poor he can't even tell an "e" from an "a." Too rich.

His critique of Whosoever is hysterical (and full of self-righteous hysterics) however, so go check it out - excerpting it does not do it justice.

Theological Bull$%!&

Here in the buckle of the Bible belt you don't have to drive too far to read all sorts of crap that passes for "sound theology" in today's conservative churches. They are the source of much amusement for me and would be even more amusing if so many people didn't buy into this kind of claptrap about God. So, I'm going to start writing regularly about the theological bull$%!& I regularly see around my area.

I'll provide photographic evidence of as much of this crap as I can, but I didn't have the camera when I read this morning's gem:

"Are you ready to meet him in your present condition?"

Theologically there are so many problems with this statement, but let's focus on the major underlying assumption: "You have to change your ways before you'll ever be acceptable to God. You are such a scum sucking worm that God could never, ever love you as you are right now, so shape up, jerk, or you'll spend an eternity burning in HELL!"

But, they can't fit all that on a small message board, so they go with the shorthand:

"Are you ready to meet him in your present condition?

My answer is, "Yes, of course."

Why? Because God meets ME in my present condition. God isn't waiting somewhere far off ignoring me until I clean up my act, wash my face and stop that damn sinning. Instead, God is with us constantly, getting dirty with us. God meets us every minute in those moments when we think bad thoughts about others and in those moments when we have rare altruistic thoughts without a selfish motive. God is with us in the good times and the bad - when we're wishing the idiot driving the car in front of us would swerve off the road and out of our way and also when we're coming to the aid of someone who just swerved off the road in front of us.

Anyone who tells someone else that they must change before God can love them is lying. Plain and simple. Those who put the sign up are probably the smugly self-righteous crowd who believe that yes, they have properly cleaned up their act and God is favoring them even as they finish spelling out their theological bull$%!&.

God tells us we can come to Her heavy laden and unburden ourselves. We don't have to come unburdened and all fixed. God is the one who does any repair work that's needed. Trying to change ourselves without God's help or thinking that we can win God's favor by even trying is the real sin here.

Here's the truth - God is with you now, in your present condition, and She thinks you're incredibly wonderful.

Amen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Who said this?

''In a world wounded by conflicts, where violence is justified in God's name, it's important to repeat that religion can never become a vehicle of hatred, it can never be used in God's name to justify violence,'' he said. ''On the contrary, religions can and must offer precious resources to build a peaceful humanity, because they speak about peace in the heart of man.''


Oddly enough, it was the same man who said this:

''It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally."

''This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves," he wrote then, ''but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent."


Tell me, Pope Benedict, why is it okay for you to use God to justify your verbal violence against gay and lesbian people but then you go to Naples, Italy and denounce all violence done in the name of God?

I'm just asking, because calling gay and lesbian people "disordered," "immoral," and "self-indulgent" is just as violent as a kick or a punch. It's been said that while sticks and stones break bones, words can never hurt you, but words do hurt because they give those who put stock in your words all the excuses they need to go out and beat and/or kill gay and lesbian people and feel righteous about it.

Your words, Pope Benedict, are violent and perpetuate violence. Unless you repent of your violence toward gay and lesbian people you're no better than the punks you denounced in Italy. The thug waiting in the alley for his next victim may be holding a knife or a gun, but your words of hatred for gay and lesbian people are just as deadly.

Shame.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Please sign and return

I realized one of my childhood dreams today. I have just signed a contract with a major publisher to publish my first book.

I'm still sort of in shock.

It's so damn cool.

My book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians will be published by Jossey-Bass in the Fall of 2008.

It's so damn cool.

I did what a bunch of writer and wannabe writer friends of mine said couldn't be done.

"First time writers don't get agents," they sagely intoned.

Oh, yeah?

I found one after six query letters to potential agents.

"Just a fluke," they shook their heads. "Beginner's luck. Now settle in for the long wait to find a publisher."

Six weeks later - a publisher.

It's so damn cool.

Now, they're all asking me how I did it.

My answer: Write a damn good book. Write a damn good proposal to sell it.

That's what I did.

It's so damn cool.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Godcast from Whosoever

Check out our sixteenth podcast, or "Godcast" from Whosoever: An Online Magazine for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Christians, features an interview with Eric Elnes about his new book Asphalt Jesus which chronicles the 2500 mile trek he and several others took across the country in an effort to put action to progressive Christian principles. God had some surprises for them along the way - Eric will tell us more. We'll also take a meditation moment. And, we'll wrap it up with some holy humor.

Whosoever Godcast #16

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Send in the Clowns

I've read a ton of literature on the effectiveness of nonviolent direct social action, but I have never seen it quite put into action like this before.

A Ku Klux Klan rally in Knoxville didn't get so much punked as they did "clowned." Back in May the local Kluxers held a rally and got a big surprise.

Unfortunately for them the 100th ARA (Anti Racist Action) clown block came and handed them their asses by making them appear like the asses they were.

Alex Linder the founder of VNN and the lead organizer of the rally kicked off events by rushing the clowns in a fit of rage, and was promptly arrested by 4 Knoxville police officers who dropped him to the ground when he resisted and dragged him off past the red shiny shoes of the clowns.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted, “White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt “White Flour”.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more, “White flowers?” the clowns cheers and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s tried once again in a doomed and somewhat funny attempt to clarify their message, “ohhhhhh!” the clowns yelled “Tight Shower!” and held a solar shower in the air and all tried to crowd under to get clean as per the Klan’s directions.

At this point several of the Nazi’s and Klan members began clutching their hearts as if they were about to have a heart attack. Their beady eyes bulged, and the veins in their tiny narrow foreheads beat in rage. One last time they screamed “White Power!”

The clown women thought they finally understood what the Klan was trying to say. “Ohhhhh…” the women clowns said. “Now we understand…”, “WIFE POWER!” they lifted the letters up in the air, grabbed the nearest male clowns and lifted them in their arms and ran about merrily chanting “WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER!”


LOL! What a brilliant idea. Send in the clowns indeed. This is what nonviolent advocates mean when they talk about "Jesus' Third Way." I can just see Jesus painting his face and donning some big red shoes to lampoon the ridiculous Pharisees of his day.

This is how we fight hatred, folks. Satire is powerful.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Oh, hell

On the drive home yesterday I flipped through the AM stations, which I often do on a lark when I'm truly bored, and found one of my favorite things to listen to - hellfire preachers.

I don't know who this woman was, but she had an irritating refrain of, "Does that make sense, yes or no?" She, of course, gave no time for anyone to say, "Um, no ..." - because she was on to the next point. If that rings a bell with anyone, please let me know who this woman was. The signal crapped out before the end of her sermon. Does that make sense, yes, or no? :)

Anyhoo, she had a fascinating sermon - one I agreed with in part, but another that I really disagreed with. Her main premise was that hell is real but is neither immanent nor eternal. She believes that when we die, we lie in our graves until Jesus returns to resurrect us all and divide the sheep from the goats. Then the party of heaven and the agony of hell begin. Until then, all our dead loved ones (and hated ones) are simply taking their dirt nap. Does that make sense, yes or no?

She then went on to say that hell is not eternal, but is a refining fire where we are cleansed so we can then be with God. This is the part I actually agreed with in many ways. I truly don't believe there is as "hell" per se, but that there is a reconciling process we go through after death. Ultimately, however, we all are reconciled to God.

But, here's where her argument didn't make sense for me. She talked about how when Jesus returns he will smite the evil in the world, and presumably the evil who have already died - so the goats are destroyed and all that's left are sheep. Why would there even be a need for hell if that is so?

And if the only way that God can overcome evil is to destroy it (an act of spiritual and physical violence) doesn't that mean that God is ultimately powerless to reconcile evil? (And why do we take such glee in picturing God violently destroying the "bad" people?) Why does God have to destroy evil violently instead of "destroying" it by reconciling it to him in whatever process God may choose?

Does that make sense, yes or no?

I tried desperately to keep up with her argument - she had scriptural proofs and whatnot, but in the end it seemed to fall apart for me on many levels that I have outlined above. I believe that God reconciles us and does not wish for our destruction, no matter how poorly we've acted in our lives. I'm not quite sure of the idea that we dirt nap until the second coming. Since I'm not convinced of the "second coming" as some grand rapture like event, it's hard for me to picture what those who believe in such things are talking about. I think Jesus returns every day and every day we torture and kill him like before. Jesus gives us a chance daily, hourly, minute by minute, to bring the kingdom of God to earth, and daily, hourly, minute by minute, we fail to bring it about because of our inability to see that we are interconnected, interwoven to one another. Our self absorption keeps us from recognizing Christ already in the world.

Does this make sense, yes or no?

I'm not sure any of it makes sense, but it's always fun to speculate.

Speculate along with me if you feel so moved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

South Carolina is sooooooo proud!

Our law books here in the Palmetto State require that each child be given an "adequately minimal education."

Mission accomplished.



Here's a link in case you can't see the video above.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Follow the path

"When we look around at what other people have and where they are going, we lose focus on what's important: what we have and where we're going. Yes, there is more than one path to the top of the mountain. But the only one that will get you there is yours. Do not look longingly at the paths of others. Give yours your undivided attention and keep your focus." -Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

It's easy to look longingly at the paths of others this week. There are so many accomplished, or at least highly skilled, guitarists wandering the campus. There have been three staff concerts over the week where our teachers have shown their skill. One student remarked that he'd either burn or sell his guitar when he got home because he'd never be that good.

Well, he'd certainly never be that good in the way the teachers are that good. The teachers are not even that good in the way the other teachers are. We all have our own path. We all have our own style. We all have different levels of dedication to our instrument. Some of us play part time, after work, on the weekends. Others, like our teachers, have made music their entire lives. They eat and drink music, sleep it and dream it. That is their path.

My first day here I was tempted to give up my own pursuit of the guitar. I'm an after work and weekend player - 30 minutes a day, tops. Will I ever be as good as any of my teachers? I don't know. I suppose I could be if I dedicated myself to learning what they know. But, I don't want their path. I want my path. I don't do anyone any good by envying another person's life. That's just a distraction away from the fear of living my own life. Looking longingly at the path of another means we fear our own path. We're afraid to find our own heart, our own style, for many reasons. What if we're simply not good enough, not talented enough, not dedicated enough? So? If this path isn't working for you, find another one. Keep searching until you find the path that speaks to you.

You may play your guitar "in the style" of another player. But, you'll never play just like them. You don't have their heart. You don't have their style. You're not on their path. Emerson says our lives are the accumulation of the experiences we've lived. We can't live someone else's experience and we can't walk their path.

There's no use in envying anyone else. If someone else is doing what you want to do, pursue that goal - but realize your path to that goal will look different than theirs. Celebrate their path, uplift them as they travel. But understand, you're on your own path. Stick to it - put the force of your accumulated life behind it - and you'll soon find yourself staring at the world from the mountain top.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Idol worship

I'm engaging a little bit of idol worship at guitar camp. One of the instructors this week is a favorite performer of mine: Billy Jonas. If you've never heard of him, please check out his Web site and buy tons of his CDs. He calls himself a "repercussionist" and uses found objects like barrels and cans for percussion instruments in his songs.

I performed his song, "One" at church and the crowd loved it. Billy was disappointed to learn that the recorder crapped out when we performed it. I was, too. I would have loved to preserved it for posterity, but I'm sure we can do it again.

I've always wanted to use his song "God is In" for a sermon, but was having trouble figuring it out from the recordings since it was in a alternate tuning. He was gracious enough yesterday to teach me the song after dinner last night.

::swoon::

After showing me the chords he asked me to play it back to him and I refused. I was already embarrassed enough and told him to give me some time to practice it up so I wouldn't look like a complete fool trying to play his music. He promised to catch up with me later this week, so I guess I need to practice, eh?

I'm exhausted. Last night I stayed up late (remember 9:30 is bedtime for me) and jammed with a group of folks in one of the jamming tents. I sat with my guitar in the case until the last minute and was coaxed to play a couple of songs. I should have had someone take a picture since I'll probably need to prove to some people that I actually mustered up the courage to play for strangers ...

It was exciting and pass-out frightening all at the same time. As the song passed to the next person I realized I was literally shaking. The air was chilly here last night, but it wasn't that kind of shaking - it was a terrified shaking. But, it was good terror. The folks in the tent were generous to my face, even if they're deriding me today. I don't know if they are or aren't so I don't really care. I felt affirmed in the moment and really, that's all that matters.

I'm glad they only do this thing once a year. It will take me all of the next year to fully digest all of the incredible things I've learned here just in three short days. Theory to pick apart and understand, songwriting tips to incorporate and use, tips and tricks from other players to practice and use. The list is endless.

My back hurts, but my spirit is soaring.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

That's gonna leave a mark ...

Well, today at guitar camp, I got a tattoo. Okay, it's a press on tattoo, but I'm thinking of making it the real thing. It's the circle of fifths with a snake as the circle. Check out the pic. It's a handy little tool complete with a chord speller in the middle.


I have graduated to music geekdom.

All hail the music geeks.

It's been a full day. I haven't had a chance to come back to the room to chill before now. Classes in the morning, then a half capo workshop after lunch followed by another class and a free form writing session with a fellow student. The teacher calls it "ink vomit" - just five minutes of free form writing based on a beginning phrase. This is part of the songwriting course I picked up after dumping the "Stealin' from Chet" class that was going to be too over my head technically.

It's turned out to be a great switch since my other two classes are theory. The songwriting class gives me a chance to let the right brain play and it's like a kid going to recess for the first time in months. On the monkey bars, jumping off the swings, then jumping off backward, getting dizzy on the merry-go-round. Damn. This kid hasn't played in awhile. It's nice to have the freedom to do that.

The "ink vomit" (I do hate the word "vomit") is an interesting exercise. You take a phrase and just riff on it and see where it leads. The one the fellow student and I did began with a line from a poem she had: "If the moon were a house ..."

Here's my ink vomit (actually lead vomit, since I used a pencil):

If the moon were a house, I'd sell it to the highest bidder and immediately buy it back. If the moon were a house it would be finely decorated, but have no atmosphere (ba, dum, bump), If the moon were a house I could see inside your window every night and watch over you as you sleep. I'd build an addition just to block out the sun, so you'd have to stare at the moon the rest of your life. If the moon were a house, I'd paint it purple with beige trim and make the property values of the universe plummet. If the moon were a house I'd put a couch on the porch and park my beat up Chevy on the craggy lawn. No need to worry about the growing grass because it's the moon. If the moon were a house, I'd have you over every night so we could shoot pool, drink beer and watch the world go round. If the moon were a house I'd live there forever but I'd kick the old man out and make the place my own. If the moon were a house, we'd live there together until we grow too old then we'd simply float away into space. Floating forever, away from the moon where we made our house.

Well, they call it "vomit" for a reason - but there's a fun song in there somewhere ...

I'm including a shot of the pedestrian bridge to the other side of campus. Warren Wilson is gorgeous and the view of the mountains with the morning mist is breathtaking. The bridge is beautiful and represents what I'm working on this week - bridging that gap between mind and spirit, body and soul, music and musician.

I'm well on my way to that spiritual journey - and I know it's gonna leave a mark.

Monday, July 30, 2007

This one time, at band camp ...

I arrived in beautiful Asheville last night, all set to sharpen my chops at the Swannanoa Gathering. It's both guitar and contemporary folk week, so there are people wandering the Warren Wilson College campus with guitars and mandolins. (No trumpets and I'll steer clear of any I see.) One guy told me he had a bazookie (not sure how to spell that), which he says is a bass mandolin. Can't wait to see that appear at a jam session.

I spent the first night not even touching my guitar, but watching a lot of other people play theirs. Orientation consisted of some housekeeping items and a short performance by each teacher. It turned into a monster concert and left me feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. I found the beer tent and headed back to my room to play the three songs I know by heart and began to doubt the wisdom of coming to place where everyone seems way ahead of me in skill.

The lady at the beer tent was philosophical. "Well, you expect your teachers to be a lot better than you."

Indeed.

But, there's that nagging voice that says you're not good enough and you never will be. I tied that voice up and set it in the closet before leaving for class this morning, but it escaped. The first class on theory was a blast. Great stuff to know and learn. I even have a press-on "circle of fifths" tattoo that I'll be sporting later today.

But, the voice made its reappearance in the second class called "Stealing from Chet" where we're learning some Chet Atkins licks and styles. Having never finger picked before it was way over my head. After I blog, I'm going to go out into the rain and talk with the class folks about perhaps finding a different class. The songwriting classes looked great, so I may try that. I haven't written any songs since the 80's, but it's never too late to start again, eh?

I haven't taken many pics yet, so I'm simply including a shot of the room - er, cell, that I'm sharing with a lovely woman from Australia. We are getting on fine, as she might say. No snoring and we're both cold natured so the room is nice and toasty. Mmmm.

I'm approaching this week as a spiritual retreat as much as a chance to learn more guitar. Last night, I felt the spirit in the first few minutes of the orientation session as the organizer and three others sang this great song.

Sing, like you don't need the money
Love, like you'll never get hurt
Dance, like nobody's watching
If it ain't got heart
It ain't never gonna work

I'm here to find my heart this weekend. We all have a song inside of us ready to be played, we simply have to find it and bring it out into the world with our whole heart. I'm in search of my heart this week and I'm listening very closely to the music not just outside of me, but inside as well.

Once I find that music, I'll never feel inadequate again. Even if I still suck at guitar.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Visit Reverend Bitch, Sir

My good friend and sometime mentor (though I always resisted whatever he suggested), Rev. Paul Turner, has launched his own blog.

Dubbed "Reverend Bitch, Sir" you only have to read a few lines to understand the title. Paul is as outspoken as he is out - and believe me, he's way out.

A blog suits him and I'm looking forward to reading as he muses loudly in cyberspace.

Check it out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I am the answer!

I just realized this morning that two days ago, I became the answer to life, the universe and everything. I turned that magic number - 42.

I always chuckled at the absurdity of Douglas Adams' assertion that 42 was the answer to life, the universe and everything, not quite understanding its meaning until now.

I've discovered that 42 really is the answer the life, the universe and everything. I've never felt better, looked better or even smelled better. I think 42 is the answer to it all because at this age you can look back on life and know that no amount of money in the world would make you go back to your teens, 20s or even 30s, because you were such a putz back then.

At 42 you have the wherewithal to resist the temptation to believe your own hype, but at the same time know that there's a world of infinite possibilities just waiting for you. You've reached that magical age where people take your opinion seriously. They actually listen to you when give advice, and they don't yet cringe when you say, "Well, when I was young ..."

It's a grand and glorious age, this 42. Instead of celebrating each birthday as the anniversary of my 21st birthday, I think I'll start making each birthday the anniversary of the best age - 42 - where you become the answer to life, the universe and everything.

Woo hoo!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Religious groups no longer at the back of the parade

In every pride parade I participated in when I lived in Atlanta, the religious groups were always in the very back. We were the afterthought - the red-headed step children of the pride parade. The organizers showed their discomfort with our very presence by placing us so far in the back that most of the party was over by the time we reached Piedmont Park. They just didn't want to be bothered by those religious types.



My, how times have changed.


NEW YORK -- Religious groups led the city's gay pride parade on Sunday, lending gravity to an often outrageous event that also featured a jumble of drag queens in feather boas, marching bands, motorcycle-riding lesbians, rugby players and samba dancers.

[...]

As in past years, exhibitionists were also on display as the parade inched down Fifth Avenue and into Greenwich Village. Some revelers gyrated in bikini briefs and pranced in spike heels.


But the placement of the Christian, Jewish and Buddhist religious organizations near the head of the march - ahead of AIDS service groups and political advocacy groups - gave them unaccustomed prominence.


This truly is a significant development in our movement. I predicted a long time ago that our push for civil right would never be won unless we gave prominence to our religious groups, and perhaps, finally, the powers that be in our movement are listening.



I hope this is and enduring trend, and religion is not just the new black - to be tossed out with the next fad.

Monday, June 04, 2007

It's Pat!

I can count on one hand the number of times I've agreed with Pat Buchanan and still have enough fingers left to pop the top off a cat food can. The cats would be on their own however, if I had to count the number of times I wanted to lob a spitball at the back of Pat's head during a live appearance he made at a TV station in Atlanta I worked for during Pat's delusion that he could be elected president. But, I had a mortgage and future cat food tins to buy back then … so, alas, they were only thoughts. But, I digress.

This rare occurrence of agreement with Pat happened as I was reading one of his latest columns entitled "Why Congress Caved to Bush." He nails it.
Why did the Democrats capitulate?

Because they lack the courage of their convictions. Because they fear the consequences if they put their antiwar beliefs into practice. Because they are afraid if they defund the war and force President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops, the calamity he predicts will come to pass and they will be held accountable for losing Iraq and the strategic disaster that might well ensue.

[…]

The congressional Democrats are cynical, but they are not stupid. If the surge works and U.S. troops are being withdrawn by fall 2008, they do not want it said of them that they “cut and ran” when the going got tough, that they played Chamberlain to Bush’s Churchill.

And if the war is going badly in 2008, they know that the American people, in repudiating the party of Bush and Cheney, have no other choice than the party of Hillary and Pelosi and Harry Reid.
The Dems know they are not beholden to the people who put them in office – where else will they go if the Dems don't get us out of Iraq as polls show most people want Congress to do? They'll vote Republican? Riiiiiight. So, while the Dems may have to take some abuse in the interim, they know they still have the vote of the poor suckers who think war is immoral, and especially immoral when it's founded on lies and out and out greed.

I pray earnestly that one day we'll have a two party system in this country – or at the very least, we'll discover either leaders with guts or be able to pull ourselves away from American Idol long enough to realize that we do have the power to change this corrupt system.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Baptists love you ... really!

No longer content to just sit by and hate the sin, the Southern Baptist Convention has officially hired a "love the sinner" director.

On Friday, Bob Stith, after retiring as pastor of Carroll Baptist Church in Southlake Texas becomes director of Southern Baptists' Ministry to Homosexuals Task Force.

Thirteen years ago Stith began to feel guilty about negative attitudes toward homosexuals coming across in his own preaching. He got involved in Exodus International, a Christian ministry that leads people out of homosexuality, and Living Hope, a non-denominational Exodus referral agency in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

In 2001 Stith made a motion at the SBC annual meeting to establish a task force "to inform, educate, and encourage our people to be proactive and redemptive in reaching out to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions."


What sent ol' Stith over the edge is that "gay right activists" - y'know, those folks who want everyone to be nice to gays and lesbians and give them equal rights - those evil people, are trying to "normalize" homosexuality by pulling the wool over everyone's eyes and making them believe that the Bible doesn't clearly condemn homosexuality.


Stith said if people are born homosexual and cannot change, the Bible must be wrong, because 1 Corinthians 6:9 says there were people in the early church who came out of homosexual lifestyles. Stith said even a tacit embrace of homosexuality as acceptable and normal threatens the authority of Scripture.


Well, guess what, Stithy-boy, the Bible must be wrong by your math, because 1 Corinthians 6:9 doesn't say one word about homosexuals. It talks a lot about male prostitutes, but not one word is spoken against gays or lesbians (who, by the way, are generally not prostitutes - those who are should certainly "come out" of that "lifestyle").

But, of course, the Bible is wrong on many things, including the shape of the earth (round, not with four corners), the status of women (equal, not property), and the practice of slavery (wrong, not condoned by God). But, in this case, it's really not the Bible that's wrong as much as it is the interpretation. Since the word "homosexual" wasn't coined until the 1800s, there's no way it appeared in the ancient text. And don't think the ancients didn't have words for the gay and lesbian folks among them, they certainly did - they just never mentioned them in any of their list of moral condemnations.

So, please, SBC, keep your "outreach" in the closet. We have no need of "ex-gay ministries." We need good Jesus-lovin' men and women telling us about God's love for us just as we are, since that is how God formed us in the womb - same-gender loving children of God.

Now, that's Good News!

Friday, May 04, 2007

It would be funny if it weren't so sad

So, Bush tells Congress that they had better not send him any legislation that eases restrictions on abortion. Why?

Because he will not “allow taxpayer dollars to be used for the destruction of human life.”

Um, so why are all of our taxpayer dollars begin used to fund a war??????

Isn't it fundamental in any war that there will be "destruction of human life?"

Oh, I forget, a fetus has more rights than a Muslim, or a U.S. soldier all grown up from fetushood.

The hypocrisy of this statement would be hilarious if it wasn't costing human lives every single day. When will "human life" include Muslims, soldiers and anyone in harm's way instead of just meaning a glob of cells that cannot live outside the womb?

When?