Thursday, February 28, 2008

I just don't get it....

Our friends in the Episcopal Church continue to have their hands full with those rouge congregations who have carried through on their threat to quit the ECUSA. After pouting and holding their breath because the bible-busting liberals had gone and ordained (gasp!) gay and lesbian clergy and then (shriek!) had the gall to push the bar even further by installing non-celibate gay bishops, and (ack!) don’t even get me started on the fact that they went ahead and elected a WOMAN as the grand-poobah of the whole ECUSA shebang….the dissenting congregations finally threw up their hands, took their ball, and announced for all to hear that if the lefty-libbies didn’t play the game by their rules then they would just march on home and find someone else who would.
So off they went to join the renegade cool kids gang, known as the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, and they now bow to the will of Nigerian archbishop Peter Akinola… a lovely little man who believes that all homosexuals should be rounded up and imprisoned for the hateful crime they have committed against society…you know, the crime of loving, living, breathing…

Not content with removing their bodies and their pledge units from the ECUSA, the 11 congregations who dissented in Virginia are now embroiled in a court battle to keep the 30 million dollars in church property that rightfully belongs to the ECUSA (see story here.)
In other words, they don’t want to play with the liberal leaning Christians, but that doesn’t mean they should have to give up their pretty little church buildings and all the shiny baubles contained within that they’ve come to know and love.

The dissenters expect to spend as much as 3-5 million dollars on litigation that could take as long as three years to complete.

Does anyone else recognize the cognitive dissonance that arises with this little situation???

Here we have a group of religious people who are so committed to following the literal and inerrant Word of God as presented in scripture, that they’re willing to uproot entire congregations and spend millions of dollars to ensure they stay on the course that God had intended. The problem is, they’ve chosen to hinge their entire point of battle on a handful of biblical passages that (supposedly) declare homosexuality as a sin and prohibit the ordination of women.
In all, we’re talking about less than five scriptural passages.
...One line in the priestly laws of Leviticus, the explanation of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, one paragraph in Paul’s letter to the Romans, and the line in 1 Corinthians that prohibits women from speaking in church…(which BTW contradicts Paul’s earlier assertion that women as well as men were meant to prophesize God’s word and has led some scholars to declare that 1 Corinthians was not written by Paul but by a later follower with a different agenda).

So, on one side of the scale we have a set of passages that are either of questionable origin or are open to multiple interpretations, and would fill only a half a page if listed together.
On the other side of the scale we have all the biblical passages that speak directly of compassion, love, mercy, judge-not-yet-ye-be-judged, the unity of the church, how one hand has to work with the other not against it, not to mention all the flat out commands contained in both the Old and the New Testament to give to the poor, feed the hungry, liberate the oppressed, etc. etc.

This is a lopsided scale indeed.

Yet somehow our rouge ex-Episcopalians have chosen to ignore the heavy side of the scale and have placed all their energy and righteous rage on the side that could be blown away in one breath.

In direct violation of the words of Christ himself, who said “whatever you do to the least among us, you do to me,” these 11 congregations have aligned themselves with a Nigerian faction bent on exclusion (at the least) and imprisonment and death (at the worst) of those whom they have judged to be morally corrupt (again, on the basis of a handful of scriptural passages).
And to further confound true Christian sensibilities, they’ve chosen to take 5 million dollars that could be spent on the aforementioned poor, hungry and oppressed, and use it instead to line the pockets of lawyers in a fight to keep their buildings and baubles.

This is a group of Christians who have chosen to put their numbers and their weight on the lesser side of the scale in an effort to tip it towards their side, to make it seem as if they are fighting for the sanctity of the Bible, for the Word of God Himself.

Never mind that most of the Bible they’re defending is lying ignored on the other side of the scale…
And that this portion of the Bible contains a weight that they will never be able to counter balance, regardless of how many obscure Priestly laws or suspect Pauline letters they try to pull onto their side….that is the Word, the weight, of Jesus Christ Himself.

It seems overly simple to me, but even if one believes in the marrow of one’s bones that homosexuality is a sin based on a handful of God’s words, one must look at the tidal wave of love and compassion contained in all of God’s other words, and one has no choice but to leave the judging of others to God…and get on with the lifting up of others; those who have fallen and those who have been pushed down by human hands.
And nowhere, NOWHERE, in the Bible does God/Jesus give us permission to be the ones doing the pushing.

That alone should tell us that we have no right to be playing with the scales in the first place.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wednesday Words of Wisdom - Star Wars style

I couldn't resist posting this one (although Eileen the Episcopalifem beat me to the punch) cuz it's just too darn cute!
Here it is, the viral video of the week:
Star Wars according to a 3-year-old.

And our Wednesday Words of Wisdom:
"Don't talk back to Darth Vader...he'll getcha!"

Monday, February 25, 2008


It's good to have Monday off...
Sleep in, go to the grocery store and buy Yodels, sleep some more.
But soon I will have to pry myself out of this chair and go to a Ministry Council meeting at church. Perhaps they won't notice if I nod off half way through.
It's definitely a two kitty-bed day.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday (not so) Fun Video

I ran across this clip from the television show ER on another blog and I was surprised at the mixed reaction that I had after watching it. The clip features a confrontation between the show’s hospital chaplain and a dying man - a doctor who had worked as a prison executioner. The man was convinced that God would not forgive him for the ‘murders’ he had committed and he had no hope for salvation.
Watch the clip and then read on:

My first reaction after seeing this clip was: “Oh my God, that’s going to be me.”
During seminary I’ll be required to do a semester of training as a hospital chaplain, and I’ve heard from other pastors that it really is a trial by fire. As in, ‘here’s your name badge, here’s a list of patients who may or may not be happy to see you, now go visit them.’ It’s literally all about walking blindly into hospital rooms, not knowing anything about the patient you’re approaching, what their illness is or what their religious beliefs are, or whether they even have any desire to see a chaplain or not.

When I saw this clip from ER it frightened me.
What would I say to this man?
Being a progressive Christian, my theology is not based on a need to have all the answers.
My theology is of the fluid, ambiguous, we-can’t-possibly-know-what-God-is-thinking variety.
I compare it to the feeling one gets when standing on wet sand at the edge of the shoreline, as the waves roll in and out. As the water rolls past your ankles you can feel the sand shifting beneath your feet. You’d swear that you’re moving along with the waves, being pulled first away from the shore and then further onto it, you fight to keep your balance but when the water recedes you find that you haven’t moved at all.
This is what theology feels like to me.
Constantly shifting and moving around me, occasionally throwing me off balance, but in the end the movement is all an illusion. Regardless of how my beliefs evolve or change I’m still standing right where God intends me to be, centered within the unmovable mover.

I have no need for black and white theological dogmas or set in stone creeds. I don’t have concrete beliefs about sin, suffering, evil, or the existence of hell. I have an understanding of what others believe, and I’m hoping that seminary will help me to solidify what it is that ‘I Believe’ so that I can better articulate it, but I don’t expect to come out of seminary with a renewed certainty about anything.

Do I believe that Hell is an actual place where evil doers are destined to be tortured for eternity while a vengeful God turns his back on them?
Do I believe that Hell is a self-imposed state in which lost souls find themselves when they’ve turned away from God, but all they need to do is choose love over fear and they will be released from their hellish state and discover that God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace had never left them, they had only failed to see it while encased in the darkness that their own fear had created?
Yes I do believe this. At this point in my life.

Does this make me a wishy-washy, new-age, God-is-only-Love type of Christian?
I guess it does.
So how will I respond to those who DO need concrete answers?

What do I say to those who see my ambiguity as a sign of weakness, a symptom of an ‘unreal’ faith?
What would I say to a dying man who shouts out in his pain:
“I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real hell!”
Interestingly enough, when I did a search for this quote from the clip on Google to find out what other bloggers were saying about it, I found it mentioned primarily on sites that are of the more biblical-fundamentalist variety. These bloggers were championing the words of the dying man in this clip, giving each other spiritual high fives over the fact that the man spoke ‘the truth’ and made the wimpy, post-modernistic female chaplain run from the room in tears. One blogger wrote:
“I want to be that REAL chaplain that this man is searching for.”

I’m not sure which scares me more - having OTHERS expect me to have all the answers when I believe I do not, or believing that I DO have all the answers and that God will somehow become ‘unreal’ to me if I do not.

Thankfully, my google search also brought me to the blog of a woman who has been a hospital chaplain for over 30 years. She too was disturbed by the clip, not because the female chaplain was espousing the ‘wrong’ theology, but because she was trying to ease the fears of dying man using a theological language that was not his own.
She wrote:
“I learned early on in my training that it isn’t about me and what I believe. It is about the patient and what he or she believes.”
A ‘real’ chaplain knows to “put aside her personal theology and give the patient what he or she needs to be at peace. If that means going against a personal belief, so be it.”

Words of wisdom that I will not soon forget.

I may not believe in a vengeful God, an eternal Hell, or the existence of an unforgivable sin, but that doesn’t make the loving, merciful God that I do believe in any less real.
And it doesn’t mean I can’t learn to speak the theological language of those who feel more comfortable with beliefs that are set in concrete rather than scratched into sand, and learn what it is they need to hear to feel the loving presence of God.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways?

It was eight years ago today that I received an email that changed my life.
It was a response to an ad I had placed on Yahoo Personals.
The ad was done on a lark.
A friend of mine had asked me to write an ad for her, and as a way to ‘test the waters’ and join her in her adventure, I placed an ad for myself as well.
I never expected to meet the love of my life.
But I did.

I was resistant at first.
She lived 95 miles away in another state.
I had just gotten out of a short, but intense relationship with another respondent to my ad that had drained both my energy and my level of hope, and I wasn’t sure that I was ready to try again so soon.

We exchanged emails at first but in my uncertainty I didn’t respond as quickly as I should. My guard was up.
But she was persistent.

I had just gotten home from work one evening and I was lacing up my running shoes getting ready to go out for a run when I noticed an instant message had popped up on my computer.
It took me a minute to deduce that the sender was my ad respondent and immediately my head began to spin with conflicting emotions.
I’m not ready.
I should let this drop.
I can’t do this again.

I moved the mouse curser over the small x in the corner of the IM box.
With one click it would be over.
I let the curser hover there for an instant,
and then something inside of me said ‘No’
Don’t throw this away.
Take a chance.
Walk through the door that has opened in front of you.

So I did.
IM’s and emails progressed to phone calls, and six weeks later, after she returned from a long planned trip to Scotland, we finally met.

She arrived at my house earlier than expected.
I had just arrived home after working a 72-hour week and was upstairs in a vacuuming, cleaning frenzy when she rang the doorbell.
I didn’t hear it.
For 10 minutes she continued to knock with a rising fear that I was not home, or worse, I had changed my mind and was refusing to answer the door.
As if.
Finally I glanced out the window and saw her car parked out front and in a frantic panic I ran to my upstairs bedroom to change.
Looking completely disheveled in my carefully picked ‘first date outfit’ I flung open the door at the top of the stairs just as she was poking her head in the front door below.
The initial look of fear and uncertainty on her face soon changed to a broad smile and warm and inviting eyes.

My heart leapt out of my chest the first time I saw her.
And it still leaps every morning when I wake up next to her, every evening when we see each other after work, and every day that I get to spend in her presence.
Eight years on and she still makes me feel just as giddy and warm and fuzzy inside as she did when we first met.
She is my rock.
She is my anchor.
She is the love of my life.

There was a time when I thought this kind of love was impossible to find.
Relationships were hard.
Relationships were work.
Relationships were painful.
Relationships usually involved one person wanting/needing more than the other.
Now I know that this isn’t true.
There is love out there for us to find, we just need to look in the right place,
And with the right intention.

And we need to recognize it and be open to it when it comes along.

Twice I left the love of my life waiting on my doorstep.
And both times she took a chance and poked her head in anyway.

And on this Valentines Day, I feel blessed with the opportunity that God has given me to open myself up to love each and every day.

The next time you hear a knock on the door, answer it.
You never know what you’ll find waiting for you on the other side.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

One year on....

Well, in my present preoccupied stupor I’ve gone and done it…I missed my own Blogoversary!
January 26, 2007 was the birth date of this mish-mosh of a blog, and while I haven’t been as attentive to it of late, I’m glad I’ve kept it going. In the past 12 months I’ve met a lot of great people, discovered a bunch of fantastic blogs, and managed to unwittingly provoke those who stand on the opposite side of the Christian fence simply by being who I am.
It’s been a fun year!

The traditional gift for a one-year anniversary is paper.
And I still have my fingers crossed that this paper gift will come in the form of an acceptance letter to the NY seminary, preferably with the words “scholarship” and “full-tuition” mixed in there somewhere.

It has now been over 2 months since I mailed my application, and one month since I emailed them to confirm that my application is considered ‘complete.’
Yet everyday the mail only brings more credit card bills and subscription offers for clergy magazines. How sad is it that the junk-mail marketing firms have acknowledged my career intentions while the seminary remains eerily silent.

So I continue to spend my days shelving books, planning Sunday School lessons, and trying to ignore the pangs of uncertainty that come when one is left in limbo, waiting to see which door is going to open next…..and trying not to get my sights too focused on one door, especially when there is a good possibility that it won’t open as far, or as soon, as I’d like.

In the meantime, I will celebrate my one-year blogoversary by foraging for paper in the kitchen….I’m pretty sure there are some chocolate bars in there with paper wrappers that fit the bill.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friday Fun Video - Wieners for Jesus

This one has got it all...kidnapping, suspense, religious persecution, wiener poopie.

You can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Is this Soap Box taken?

They say the two subjects that one should never discuss at the dinner table or in mixed company are religion and politics…..well I’ve already broken that rule here in regards to religion (wave hello to all the Christo-fascists who still stop by here occasionally to see if I’ve said anything worth flaming me over)…so why not wade into the murky waters of politics as well?

I did my civic duty and voted on Tuesday. I went mid-morning to avoid the ‘crowds’ that all the news outlets had said to expect. The ‘crowd’ at my local polling place consisted of five octogenarians and one half-asleep college student holding a Hillary sign in the parking lot. Inside, all of the seniors were crowded around the Republican table, which gave me a clear shot to the Democrat table. I filled out my paper ballot, slid it through the optical scanner and I was in and out in under 5 minutes.

The process would have taken even less time if one of the seniors in front of me at the scanner hadn’t had his ballot repeatedly rejected by the machine. The volunteer stationed at the scanner suggested to the man that he may have ‘inadvertently’ voted for two people, and sure enough the woman in front of me held up her ballet to look at it and I noticed she had voted for McCain and Huckabee. The two of them got off the line and had to go back and request replacement ballots. Printed clearly across the top of our ballots were the instructions to Pick ONE Candidate but apparently that doesn’t apply to people who just can’t make up their minds.
I know those of us on the Democratic side have had a hard time choosing between two candidates who are essentially similar (gender and race notwithstanding), but McCain and Huckabee?? From what I’ve gleaned from the talking heads on TV, these candidates are of two different political stripes (moderate vs Christian conservative) and the average Republican voter is either for one or the other.

Of course, that’s assuming that the average voter takes the time to understand who it is they’re actually voting for. One of the 21-year-olds that I work with said he would probably vote for Obama because he “can’t stand Hillary,” but “Huckabee is kind of cool too.”
When I explained to him that his choices are on opposite ends of the political spectrum he admitted that all he know about Huckabee came from his appearances on The Daily Show.
Once again personality trumps issues.

Not that it matters in this young man’s case, he was counting down the hours until he turned 21 and could legally drink, but registering to vote isn’t even on his radar screen. He loves to comment on politics and initiates most of the Bush-bashing that goes on at work, but he has no plans to actually participate in the process that would give him a voice in how this country is run.
And he has plenty of company.

The news outlets are touting how this primary had a “record turnout” in the 24 states in which they were held, but those “record” numbers amounted on average to about 30% of registered voters. New York had a “record” 18% turnout at their primary. 18%???? Granted, this was only a primary, registered Independents were not included, and the other 82% of NYers were probably doing their civic duty by attending the Giants Super Bowl victory parade, but even in Presidential elections the average voter turnout in this country is only 50-55%, that puts the US in 20th place out of 21 nations that have established democracies. Only Switzerland is worse than us when it comes to voter turnout (those crazy Swiss, they just love exercising their right to be neutral).

I would expect that the political party that supports our current President and the war he instigated in the name of protecting our American Way of Life, would have a 100% turnout on election day. It seems to me that if one is willing to send young men and women to die in the name of freedom, one would actually take advantage of said freedom and get off one’s keaster and vote. But that’s just me.
I’m just a crazy liberal lesbian who’s undermining the fabric of this God-fearing nation just by existing.
But I voted. Heh, heh. heh, (insert evil laugh here).

American apathy usually takes the blame for our abysmal voter turn outs. People are tired of politics, they mistrust politicians in general, and they don’t have the time or the inclination to educate themselves on the issues or the candidates (that would cut into the time allotted to watching American Idol and reading up on the trials and tribulations of Britney Spears).
So we glean what we can from paid commercials, candidate appearances on TV talk shows, and 5-second sound bites from the 13 debates that we didn’t watch.

And we wonder why people choose candidates based on personality/likeability?
“Heck, this guy may have a voting record that is polar opposite to what I believe, but he made me laugh when I saw him on the David Letterman show so he’s got my vote!”


This is how we ended up with you-know-who for eight years.
People voted for the good-old-boy who rode horses and talked just like them, rather than the guy who flaunted his education with all sorts of big words and complex responses to questions that made him look all wishy-washy-flippy-floppy.

We want simple responses and black and white solutions.
We want someone who’ll stick to their guns no matter how unreasonable it is to do so.
We want the decider.
We got him.
And I’m ready to give him back.

So the moral to this little diatribe is:

EDUCATE yourselves and VOTE!

Vote for the candidate who you feel will best represent you and the kind of country you want to live in, be it Democrat, Republican, or Independent.

And try not to be like the woman who came into the bookstore yesterday and asked me if I knew the results of Tuesday’s primary. When I mentioned that McCain had a substantial lead she said “You know, there’s something about McCain that just rubs me the wrong way…I’m a life-long Republican, but Hillary is starting to look pretty good.”
Sooooo…..Bush was good enough for her but McCain is not.
She must like Hillary’s pant suits.