Friday, December 19, 2008

Politics makes strange bedfellows...

A lot of people on my side of the political fence have their knickers all in a bunch because President-Elect Obama went ahead and invited Rick Warren to be the presiding clergy at the Inauguration.
He's anti-gay, they say.
Yes he is.
But what kind of Democrat, what kind of Christian would Obama be if he shut people out just because they disagreed with him?

As much as I loathe the position of (most) evangelical Christians when it comes to the discussion of the rights of GLBT people, what disgusts me even more is that they have become a sect that chooses to focus on a few hot button issues about which the Bible has little to say - gay rights, abortion, sex education, creationism - while neglecting the issues about which the Bible has the most to say - poverty, oppression, the marginalization of the few by the many.

My point is, how can we accuse the religious Right of having too narrow of a focus, if we then turn around and do the same?
Christian gay rights groups like Soulforce have a hell of a time just getting conservative pastors to sit down with them and have a conversation. If the Right says "We won't talk to you or associate with you because you're gay," how is the Left making things any better by saying "We won't talk to you or associate with you because you're anti-gay?"

Obama is right.
There are issues on the table that we can agree upon, and we ALL need to work together to address them.
Do I want the legal right to marry my partner? Yes.
But the guy who is sleeping on a freezing cold sidewalk tonight because he doesn't have a home and the shelter is full....well I think his issue is a little more pressing at the moment.

I recognize that I am in a privileged position to be able to say that.
I managed to make it out of my teens and through the hell of high school without killing myself, many gay kids are not so lucky.
Every minute of every day someone somewhere is verbally abused, fired, thrown out of their home, assaulted or killed, just because they don't conform to the sexual 'norm' that someone else has ingrained in their head.
And as much as some Christians would like to deny it, the words flowing from the pulpit can do as much damage, if not more, than those shouted in the street or whispered in a high school hallway.
Yes, the gay rights issue is an important issue, a life and death issue - as is poverty, oppression, health care, violence, addiction, the economy, education, and a slew of other issues that leave people homeless, helpless, and hopeless.

Jesus said, "you will always have the poor with you."
Well, I believe we will always have Christians who believe in their heart of hearts that being gay is a choice that God has forbidden. I can't get inside their heads and change their minds, and neither can Obama. That doesn't mean we can't find common ground on the 98% of the Bible that we can agree upon - feed the hungry, support the weak, strengthen the fainthearted, help the suffering, honor all beings.

We shouldn't stop talking to each other, or inviting each other to share in our common celebrations, just because we disagree on how we believe God intends for us to live in this world.

I say kudos to Obama....we finally have a Christian in the White House who pays more than lip service to Jesus' command to "love thy enemies."

Paul said "we, who are many, are one body in Christ” (Romans 12:5)
Now if we could just get the left hand and the right hand to stop bitch-slapping each other we might just get around to putting one foot in front of the other and solving some of the problems in this world.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008


I am now officially in decompression mode.
I emailed my last paper of the semester last night and woke up this morning high fiving God for helping me get over the first hurdle of seminary.
My winter class starts in three weeks but until then I plan on doing NOTHING.

Well....I do have one (really thick) book to read before the class starts, and I did promise my SO that I'd organize her books in her office....her hundreds and hundreds of books. Oh, and I need to do laundry today, and vacuum, and clean up all the sawdust that the maintenance guys left behind when they came to fix our ceiling (a year and a half after the rain destroyed it), and I have to drag out the SpotBot and eradicate all the kitty puke stains that have accumulated on the carpet since I left for school....but first I need to go to Bed Bath and Beyond and buy some more Bissel Kitty Puke Stain Remover for the SpotBot because we ran out (our kittys love to puke)....and THEN I can put up our Christmas decorations (and see if the $14.99 5ft Christmas tree that I bought at the Crap-o-rama, errr, I mean Christmas Tree Shop, actually looks like the picture on the box).
But first, I need to clean the kitchen....and the bathroom.

Other than that, it's time to reeeeeeeelaxxxxxxxxxx!
Hey, it will be at least three weeks until anyone asks me to explain the Trinity - cat puke here I come!

Now, here's Roomba Cat to give you a preview of my day:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Isn't Foreigner a rock band from the '70s?

A snippet of a conversation that I had with my mother on the phone last night...

Mom: Are you all finished with school?
Me: Almost, I have one last paper to write for Systematic Theology.
Mom: What do you have to write for that?
Me: Oh nothing much, I just have to explain God and the Trinity in 3000 words or less.
Mom: Well, the Trinity shouldn't take more than 15 words.
Me: (laughing) I think it will take more than that.
Mom: What's to say? The Trinity is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Me: Yes, but not every Christian tradition agrees on what that means...for example I have to explain the differences between the beliefs of the Western Church and the Eastern Church...
Mom: Oh...well, I just know what the Catholics believe. I didn't know you had to write about foreigners...

Moms....gotta love 'em.

OK boys, which one of us is going to be Mick Jones this time?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In the home stretch...

It’s 2 am and I can’t sleep, so seeing as my every waking hour is crammed with school stuff, now is as good a time as any to blog!

Of course I won’t be able to post this until later today because the internet connection is down in the residence halls….again. So I’ll have to go over to the student center or library to get online. (yeah, they thought that T1 line they put in four years ago was plenty big enough to handle the wireless needs of a few hundred seminary students….little did they know that people would be downloading full seasons of “Heroes” from iTunes, video chatting on Skype, and playing World of Warcraft all hours of the day and night. Seriously, when do these people get their work done? (so says the one with the Slingbox streaming her cable TV signal from home to her laptop.)

The semester is over next week. I still have two group presentations to do and two papers to write but I feel as if I’m coasting towards the finish line. The presentations are complete for the most part, they just need to be presented; one of the papers will be fairly easy to knock out, and the other will probably have me tearing my hair out over the weekend, but the end is nigh, and I can feel it.

So, how do I think I did? So far so good. In my Pastoral Counseling and Creating Healthy Congregations classes I’ve gotten an A or A- on every paper, and the presentation we did tonight in the PC class went really well. In my Paul class I got an A on the one paper we had to do, and I’m feeling really good about the worship service that my group is presenting tomorrow. The one grade I’m still iffy on is for Systematic Theology. I got a B on the first paper (which I was bummed about at first but then found out from talking to other students that that’s considered a “good grade” for that class and very few get higher then that….geesh!). I’m still waiting to get back my 2nd paper, and the 3rd is due next week, so the final grade for this class is a giant question mark right now.

I wish I didn’t have to care about grades. And as I’ve heard ad nauseum since I got here: “churches don’t look at your seminary grades when they’re thinking about hiring you, so relax,” but unfortunately I can’t. I have to maintain a 3.5 GPA to keep my scholarship, so those B’s have me bumming while other people are humming. (that’s a little rhyme there, did you catch that? Give me a break it’s 2 am).

The reason why I’m bumming even more is that at the beginning of the semester I had the choice of taking one class Pass/Fail and I chose the Paul class given that we were being graded on only one paper and one presentation (you tank on one and you’re sunk).
Now it looks like I would have gotten an A in that class. Crap.

The big surprise for me this semester is how much I’ve been enjoying doing the group projects. I pretty much took the reigns on all three of them, as everyone liked my suggestions during the brainstorming sessions, I ended up designing/organizing and formatting each presentation, and kept everyone on the same page via emails. Don’t get me wrong, everyone did their fair share of the work, and added onto the ideas that I came up with, and given that most of my fellow students are working and/or have families to tend to outside of seminary I’m sure they were happy to hand off all the organizing work to the poor schmuck (me) who seemed eager to do it. But hey, it was fun being the schmuck. It felt good to come up with an idea, envision how it might play out, put it all down on paper and have people say: “this is great! Let’s do this!”

I especially enjoyed designing the worship service for the Paul class. They even let me do the bulletin (I know….schmuck) but I love doing creative stuff like that, choosing a format, picking the fonts, making a logo for the front cover, making it look all nice and professional…
Hmmm…I’m sensing that I’ve discovered that I like being in control.
The good thing is that I don’t feel like I NEED to be in control. I came up with the framework for the presentations but everyone was free to do what they wanted with their parts. And even though I designed the worship service I was happy to let someone else write and perform the sermon (a woman who I just found out today has only preached once in her life and has yet to take a preaching class…this should be interesting!)

My fear coming into seminary was that I would be the mousy one who would sit back and let everyone else take control and hold back on making suggestions out of fear of having them rejected. So it has surprised me not only that I enjoy the creative process so much, but that I have been so forward with offering suggestions, and so organized when it came to presenting them in a format that everyone could understand and then being the proactive one keeping everyone updated and on the ball.
I used to dread these class presentations when I was kid. Now I’m so excited about how well tonight’s presentation went and I’m so looking forward to tomorrow’s service that I can’t sleep.

In tonight’s class we did a presentation on Death and Resurrection and I played the role of a pastor presiding over a funeral/memorial service while the others were the voices of the grieving and the deceased. We did a communion ritual at the end to symbolize renewal and rebirth and after we finished my professor came up to me and asked, “Are you a pastor?” When I said no, her eyebrows shot up and she said “well you certainly act like one – you preside very well!”

You know, when you make the decision to turn your life upside down and dump a ton of money into following one particular path, words can’t express how good it feels to hear someone who has been on that path for many years tell you that you’ve made the right choice.

Suddenly those B’s don’t seem all that important anymore. ;-)