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 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!

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.