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27 December 2009

I Want a Church...

I want a church:
where liturgy is prayed
and not read off a page - whether recited perfectly or mumbled and mispronounced.


I want a church:
where scripture is taught and proclaimed
and not where sermons are performed in imitated cultural idiom.

I want a church:
where the music ministry is a culturally-relevant ministry
steeped in spirituals, soaring gospel and confident in shared hymn and anthem traditions
and not a competition or recital.

I want a church:
where the language speaks of God and to God, making space for God to speak
and not silencing rhetoric reifying hegemeny.

I want a church:
where people pray from their hearts whether or not the use the ancient rubrics
and not a room full of people disconnected from God, each other and themselves.

I want a church:
where people serve God by serving each other inside and outside of the walls
and not a country club where most refuse to pay dues
and refuse to let the pittance that is collected meet anyone's real need.

I want a church:
where children and teenagers are recognized as the Church of today
and not the church of tomorrow.

I want a church:
were people study, pray and work together all year long
and not one that closes for the season or the summer.

I want a church:
that engages the brokenness of this world with prophetic words and healing balm
and not one that watches out of its deteriorating stained glass windows
and the world destroys itself, including its own members.

I want a church:
where pettiness and meanness are the exception and not the rule.

I want a church:
where people speak and act as though they have been transformed by God
and not as though they have never even heard the words they mouth around their gossip.

I want a church:
that gives without scheming to take it back
and not one that uses people, uses them up and throws them away.

I want a church:
that loves so much it is embarrassing and humbling and irresistible and infectious
and not one that is filled with hate and utilizes fear for hateful purposes.

I want a church:
of whom God is not ashamed, nor I,
and not one shamelessly parading and promenading as an imperial token,
neither knowing nor caring that the emperor has no clothes.

I want a church:
that I don't have to die to join
and not one whose present reality is an imitation of life.

I want a church:
that is not perfect
and not one that is wholly unconcerned with seeking perfection.

I want a church:
where all are welcome
and not one where all check-writers are tolerated, to a point.

And I want it now. Soon. This Sunday. Tomorrow. Come Holy Spirit.

24 December 2009

Empire and a Post-Colonial State of Mind

Don’t bite the apple Eve,
Caught up in the in crowd,
Now your in-style,
And in the winter gets cold en vogue with your skin out,
The city of sin is a pity on a whim,
Good girls gone bad, the cities filled with them,
Mommy took a bus trip and now she got her bust out,
Everybody ride her, just like a bus route,
Hail Mary to the city you're a Virgin,
And Jesus can’t save you life starts when the church ends
.
Jay-Z, Empire State of Mind
Jesus saves. That's what Christmas is all about.
But there's a lot of trouble in the world. A lot of souls need saving. And many of them believe in Jesus.
Churches talk about individual and corporate salvation, salvation in this world and salvation in the world to come. Fire insurance.
Polarities make a post-colonial feminist nervous. It's not my salvation or the salvation of the world - all creation; it's both/and. It's not abundant life in another life or abundance in this life; it's both/and. At least that's how it should be. That's what the already/not yet kronos/kairos time of the scriptures signifies.


The already, the Incarnation, is what we're preparing to celebrate as we prepare for the advent of the not yet. It's not the not yet that's troubling me. Not so much the when of the not yet. But the trouble in the world since - and dare I say in spite of - the already.

That's what I think Jay-Z's Empire lyrics are getting at with that audacious line: 

Jesus can’t save you life starts when the church ends.

In this season of hope and expectation, the light is shining in the darkness. The darkness cannot overcome the light. Yet what John (1:5) doesn't say is that the light does not overcome the darkness. The darkness and light co-exist. There is always shadow.

Perhaps there are no shadows in heaven.

14 December 2009

Snake in the Grass

You sonofa....SNAKE!
Who told you to try to get your life together? You'd better act like you know! Who do you think you are? I don't want to hear about your daddy. Keep doing what you're doing and this little pain you feel today is nothing; you will know pain like you have never imagined.

Sound familiar? The photo may have misled you. This is not my take of Tiger Woods public/private conduct, but the gospel of the day, of this third week in Advent:

Luke 3:7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

This is an Advent Gospel? This IS an Advent Gospel. Mr. Woods is not the only one among us who has behaved as though he were hatched from an egg laid by a cold-blooded reptile.
It's not to late for him. It's never too late to repent. God hears, forgives, heals and restores. Even when people won't forget and can't forgive. Even when marriages fail. God forgives what we cannot. Even while we are living with the shameful and painful consequences of our actions, God is with us. Immanu El.

We wait. Watching and praying. For God who has come in Virgin-born human flesh, to come again.

12 December 2009

Dear God, please take these knives out of my back...


Just the ones with Christian hand prints on them. Thanks for listening.
Amen.

06 December 2009

Privilege and Peril

When I teach about privilege - white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied - I also teach about peril. I'm careful to point out that privilege and peril regularly coexist in individuals and communities to avoid setting up an "oppression olympics." For example, the peril I experience as a black person and as a woman coexists with the privilege I experience from my socioeconomic status and the privilege I experience from my hierarchical standing as a professor and as a priest.

Apparently, that's just me. I have been watching other folk who also enjoy privilege while living with peril who have no interest in articulating or acknowledging their own privilege. In this case it is white privilege. I have been watching and listening as some white gay men dominate the equality movement articulate gay identity over and apart from black identity, build on and steal from the Civil Rights Movement and proclaim that black liberation is "over."

I have also observed white women who are deeply concerned about the status of women in the academy and the church invest in, nurture and support white women and only white women. For these women, women of color are not women - unless we want to support the white women's agenda. Support for women of color is called divisive, shifting the focus from gender to race and ethnicity.

Neither group, white gay men nor white women in these contexts acknowledge the power they have from their white privilege. But they use it. It is a peculiar thing to see white privilege wrapped in a mantle imperiled victimhood.

It seems to me the movements for women's equality and LGBTQ equality when divorced from any concern about the status of women of color or queer colored folk is not really about civil or human rights. On one level these culture wars are about the fury white folk feel when their white privilege is not universally acclaimed and honored. As a result, some white gay men have no problem using sexism or racism in their campaigns for - not equal rights - but the restoration of their privilege. And, some white women cannot identify or partner with women of color in achieving equity for all women because their womanhood is intrinsically linked with their whiteness, rendering women of color unrecognizable as women.

Unarticulated privilege is still privilege. White privilege is nearly unescapable.

30 November 2009

Bah Humbug!


I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love the festivals of Incarnation: Annunciation (and its overlap with Good Friday, then the long silent gestational unmarked season until) Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. I hate the commercializiation of Christmas.
What, I wonder, would happen if everyone who celebrates Christmas bought their gifts after Christmas to give on Epiphany, emulating the traveling sages?
I love blue and purple and white and gold. I don't like red and green (together; OK I like red).
I love Christmas carols and hate Christ-less holiday seasonal music/muzak.
I hate seeing Christmas decorations the day after Halloween - I love the Feast of All Saints and miss the Feast of All Souls.
And I dislike the syncretization of Christmas with Yuletide.

I love Christ-Mass and Advent wreaths and candles and angels and children's choirs and congregational singing. I love the themes of light and hope and peace and joy and the penitential themes: repentance and restoration and fear and death.

Come, holy child, come.
Transform our world, our hearts, our churches into Your Church.
Amen.

16 November 2009

Veterans (and Armistice) Day




One day we will celebrate our veterans without new ones waiting in the wings.
In the words of Isaiah 2:4~
God shall judge between the nations,
and shall mediate between many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

One day. But not today. Today Joel's voice (3:10) is louder~
Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruning hooks into spears;
let the weakling say, “I am a warrior.”

Let us honor our veterans by working for peace as though
- and since - our lives depend upon it.
Let there be peace on earth.
Amen.

12 November 2009

Who Is Killing Black Women?


Who isn't? Some days I feel endangered. Not just like an endangered species. But endangered myself. Not from any one I know or see around me, but from the world at large.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
the leading cause of death among black women between 25 and 34 is HIV/AIDS;
HIV/AIDS is also the third leading cause of death among black women between 35 and 44;
HIV/AIDS is also the fourth leading cause of death
among black and latina women between 45 and 54.
The vast majority of those women are infected by intimate partners, in many cases by men they trust and believe are monogamous. There are women who are coerced into unprotected sex with their partners and women who are raped.
In some cases, if those women seek medical care for their rape trauma, they may find themselves denied medical insurance later if they are treated prophylactically for HIV/AIDS. (Lack of medical insurance does not enhance life expectancy in our world.)
Other women - black, brown, beige and white are being killed outright by their partners.
Murder is the leading cause of death among pregnant women and pregnant black women are three times more likely to be murdered than pregnant white women.
Anthony Sowell, the alleged serial killer in Cleveland OH is the primary suspect in the murders of at least eleven black women whose bodies have been found in and around his home. Some of the missing women were not reported as missing others were and their cases were not CNN-MSNBC-Nancy-Grace headline worthy. Missing black women do not receive the same media attention as missing white women.
There has been some discussion in the aftermath of the Sowell discovery as it overlaps with the execution of John Allen Muhammad for the serial sniper killings in the Washington DC area in 2002 of occurrence of black serial killers. Are there really fewer black serial killers than white (or those from other ethnic groups)?
If it is the case that serial killers generally (although certainly not exclusively) target members of their own ethnic communities, then does it matter that the likely majority of black serial killers' victims are - and will be - black women? Does anyone care?
Who is killing black women? It is horrifying to consider that in many, many cases, the killers of black women are black men.
Black men are supposed to be our cultural bulwark: fathers, uncles, elder brothers; fulfillment of romantic dreams: lover, friend, partner, partner, companion and our co-journers and sojourners in the struggle: brothers and brothas. And many are all that and more.
Yet there are these predators, who devalue the lives and bodies of black women and meet little cultural opposition. They are out there. And they are dangerous. They are killing us.
Late addition: I have to add that black women also kill black women. And some mothers kill their daughters before they can grow into women. I don't know who is responsible for killing five-year old Shaniya Davis, but the thought that her mother is implicated in prostituting and trafficking her is heartbreaking.

02 November 2009

Celebrating the Saints


For all the saints...
I am so grateful to God for the saints who made it possible for me to be, and to be here. I am also grateful for those who are not my ancestors or relatives but whose sacrifices - sometimes unwilling, sometimes outright murder - crafted this world and this Church on a foundation cemented with bodies, blood and bone: I bless you on this day.
On this Festival of the Saints I remember those whose names are known to none but God alone and call them blessed: You holy saints of God, I bless you on this day.
Canaanites and all conquered peoples who lost land and life in the name of someone else's god: I bless you on this day.
Members of every subjugated nation under the heavens living and dying under imperial tyranny: I bless you on this day.
Women and girls whose bodies are regularly broken, broken open, broken into, so that men can feel like men: You holy saints of God, I bless you on this day.
Muslim, Jewish and Christian martyrs of the Crusades: I bless you on this day.
Muslim, Jewish and Christian martyrs of the Inquisition: I bless you on this day.
Christians killed by other Christians in the name of Reformation and Counter-reformation: I bless you on this day.
Native peoples of every continent hunted to extinction, confined to reservations, categorized as wildlife, commercially exploited, trivialized and mocked: I bless you on this day.
Witchy women and crafty children murdered by men in the name of fear called God: You holy saints of God, I bless you on this day.
Holy martyrs of the Ma'afa: I bless you on this day.
Sun-kissed children of Africa, a long way from home, building a nation that reviled and rejected you even as it depends on you: I bless you on this day.
God-wrestling people of God baked in ovens built, tended, emptied and resupplied by those who called themselves Christian: I bless you on this day.
African victims of genocide perpetrated by Africans: You holy saints of God, I bless you on this day.
Palestinian sisters and brothers living under Apartheid's reanimated corpse-regime: I bless you on this day.
Central and South American migrants whose labor is needed while their persons are despised and rejected: I bless you on this day.
Child saints whose tiny bodies cannot withstand the violence raining down on them from adults and sometimes from other children: You holy saints of God, I bless you on this day.
The words to James Weldon Johnson's world-renowned anthem (with the first verse concluding) are my psalm of praise on this All Saints Day.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.


21 October 2009

Let's Talk About Sex

The desire for sexual intimacy is primal, evolutionary, ingrained, God-given, holy and wholly inescapable. And the long-standing teaching of the church, synagogue and mosque and all of our scriptures is that people who are not married and have sex sin against God and against themselves and in some religious traditions, against God in themselves.
Sin. That is a hard word.
Sex. That is a bad word.
Sex has come to equal sin for many.
Even sex within the sacrament of marriage has been (and remains) problematic in the Church. Do it only for religious reasons. Do it (only) to make babies. Don't do anything while you're doing it to prevent pregnancy. Don't do it just because it feels good. Do it whenever (and however he wants it). Don't do it that way. Don't tell anyone you do it that way. Don't enjoy it (at all or not too much) if you're a woman. Don't do it if you're menstruating. Don't do it if you're pregnant. Don't call forcible intercourse rape.
The rules for unmarried people are all the above, plus just don't do it.
Is that (really) what the bible (really) says? Is that (really) what it (really) means?
Interestingly enough, there are loopholes. For men. And to some degree for the women who meet their needs.
Only married and marriageable women are required to be celibate or chaste. And only Israelite women and girls are officially marriageable. There is even a marriageability continuum: never-married virgin girls are most marriageable and sexually experienced women or girls - rape victims, widows and divorced women are least marriageable. Prepubescent non-Israelite girls are less marriageable than prepubescent Israelite girls, but more marriageable than sexually experienced Israelite women or girls.
An Israelite man - including married men - could have sex with a widow, divorced woman, rape-victim or foreign woman or girl with impunity. Only sex with another man's wife was considered adultery. Sex with an Israelite's marriageable daughter was also punishable. A woman who had sex with a man to whom she was not married reduced her marriageability quotient. And a married woman who had sex with a man other that her husband was an adulteress. (One overlooked aspect of Jesus' teaching on divorce and adultery was that he expanded the Torah to restrict Israelite men's sexual access.)
This loophole for men is revealing. Men who reported and recorded their experiences of and with God - or claimed them, interpreted, preserved and canonized them did not hear or experience (or report or preserve) God as saying that women had the same sexual needs as men. Perhaps God said so and they could not hear or understand God. Perhaps God said so and they ignored God. What would the scriptures have said if women were their primary (or sole) producers, preservers, interpreters and proclaimers. These men did hear God say something that meant a single sexual partner over a (much shorter) lifetime was inconceivable for them.
The ancient practice of marrying off teenagers as soon as they reach puberty - not reproductive maturity, but the first blush of sexual desire - bears witness to the strength of sexual desire.
How can the church, synagogue and mosque live fully in the present era guided by our holy texts?
We must stop pretending. We must stop pretending that we still live in the Iron Age. We must stop pretending that women are fundamentally different from men. We must stop pretending people don't have and want to have sex. We must stop pretending that we don't know sex is good.

10 October 2009

Faith, the Assurance of Things Hoped For...

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.


The Nobel committee has faith. They have placed their faith in President Barack Obama in a breathtaking manner. They have, as is their right and according to their own rules and precedents, given the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to another sitting U.S. President; one with less tenure than any previous recipient.
They have taken his words seriously and believe that he will do all that he can to bring his vision to pass - his vision of a world in which nations work together to address war and conflict, poverty and climate change. They have decided to encourage the President, both with one of the world's most prestigious awards and with $2,400,000.
What a stunning model! How often do people in this world say to anyone: "I believe in you." "I believe in what you are doing." "I want to help you make your dreams come true." "You and your dreams are making the world a better place." "I want to be a part of the world you're making."
With their affirmation, the Nobel committee has given voice to the longings of peoples far removed from the African Americans and other Americans who placed our hope, faith and trust in Barack Obama when we elected him as our President. The Nobel committee revealed a European (and perhaps a global) desire for change in the world order and hope that President Obama can and will bring substantial change. To that end they invested their currency - money and prestige - in our young President.
I pray that the peoples of the world do more than hope for change, peace, prosperity and health care. I pray that we will work together with the American President, world leaders, grassroots organizations and each other to be and bring the change we want to see in this, our world.

25 September 2009

The Scandal of the Virgin Birth


Scandalous! The scandal of the Gospel may have been the crucifixion for Paul. But for far too many others it is the specific circumstances of the Incarnation. Human flesh and blood. Worse, a woman's flesh and blood - that she was not sexually experienced only mitigates the horror and shame a little.
Dr. Cornell West suggests that the scandal is the proximity of the Messiah to urine and feces. I suggest that the proximity of the Messiah to a
woman's offal is even more untenable.
I've been having (or trying to have) a conversation off and on with some church folk about what it means (and meant) that Jesus of Nazareth was woman-born. And how that impacts how we understand the expression "Son of Man" in the Gospels in particular, but also in other parts of the scripture.

God uses the Hebrew expression
ben-adam to address Ezekiel and remind him that he is only human.
Daniel sees the Aramaic equivalent bar-enosh in a vision that testifies that this child-of-human-flesh is no ordinary mortal.
The Gospels translate the Hebrew (and Aramaic) description into Greek:
huios to anthropou, anthropological offspring. Jesus applies the term to himself seeming to mean both mortal - he will die on that cross and, more-than-mortal; he will transcend that cross.
The mortality of Jesus is inseparable from his humanity. And the historic creeds of the Church through the ages affirm that Jesus inherited his humanity biologically, from his mother.

What is at stake in proclaiming that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and the Son of Woman is not some radical departure from the Gospel. It is the radical (radix = root) Gospel.

But if we call Jesus the Son of Man (in the generic sense of course), we don't have to think about that woman's body or the
parts of her body with which Jesus had the most intimate contact.
The poet Frances Croake Frank asks:
Did the woman say,
When she held him for the first time in the
dark dank of a stable,
After the pain and the bleeding and the crying,
"This is my body, this is my blood?"
Did the woman say,
When she held him for the last time in the
dark rain on a hilltop,
After the pain and the bleeding and the dying,
"This is my body, this is my blood?
Well that she said it to him then,
For dry old men,
Brocaded robes belying barrenness,
Ordain that she not say it for him now.
To be continued...

15 September 2009

Can't We All Get Along? Or At Least Behave?

Rodney King's much ridiculed but heartfelt plea, "Can't we all just get along?" has stayed with me since the LA riots memorialized by his name. I have found myself asking that question off an on since then. This summer has me asking, "Why can't we get along?" And "Why can't we disagree agreeably?"
Health care reform town hall meetings...Joe Wilson...Serena Williams...Kanye West...church council and vestry fights...campus shootings...domestic violence...violence against children...
There is a stunning lack of civility in the United States right now. Much of it is political and partisan, racially tinged and directed towards our President, his administration and family, but not all. Rage-based crimes on our highways and in our neighborhoods, including those perpetrated by and against children are commonplace.
I don't know if it is a lack of home training, a lack of common sense or an increase in violence on TV and at the movies. But it has got to stop. Not so much for God's sake. But for our own. We who have to live here. And our children.
We are shaping a world for our children. And we are shaping children for this world. And I am, quite frankly, past concerned. I'm downright scared.
At the risk of oversimplifying, let me suggest that those of us who believe that everyone (including the past and present Presidents - and anyone who loves or hates them equally), is created in the image of God, treat everyone as though our words and deeds were the only proof of that truth.
And for those who don't believe? Perhaps our actions if not our beliefs will be contagious.

11 September 2009

Remembering 9/11


Luke 13:1 One day there were some people in the presence of Jesus who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

In the days after 11 September 2001 I found myself turning to this text, drawn by the image of a collapsing tower, the reverberating question, "Why?" and, the inadequacy of the implied response of those to who Jesus is speaking - somehow the dead deserved to die because they were sinners, (really bad ones).
That judgmental response: America is a sinful nation (full of homosexuals and/or racist foreign policies), the people of New Orleans are depraved, debauched and practice voodoo, the people of Asia aren't Christian, they're Muslim or Buddhist or some sort of heathen - they deserved 9/11, Katrina, the tsunami.
Jesus' words remind us that we are all sinners, that horrible deaths are not divine punishment, and that we all are called to repentance, victim and survivor alike.
What Jesus does not answer in this teaching is "Why?" Why is there evil in the world? Why do people suffer? Why do good people suffer? Why do people suffer inordinately? Why do bad things happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why? Lord, why?
Theologians and biblical scholars call the question and attempts to answer it "theodicy," or "God's Justice," as in "How can a just God allow/tolerate evil?" And, "The holiness of God is such that even the presence of evil in the world does not diminish it."
The response in quotes may be theologically correct, but it is unsatisfying. I turn again to the response of Jesus, what he says and what he leaves unsaid. Jesus takes on the practice of blaming the victim because it to is sin.
But he does not answer the question, "Why?" Perhaps, he does not because he cannot. Jesus knows that sometimes there is no answer to the cries of pain and suffering uttered by the human heart. He will not suffer bad theology and the piling on of more pain by would-be pastors and theologians.
He leaves the question unanswered because there is no answer that will suffice.
Jesus' response to the question why did some people die in the collapse of the towers of Siloam in the New Testament, in New York, at the Pentagon and in the field of Shanksville, PA is silence.
The answer is in that silence.
And I am listening...

04 September 2009

Whose Prayers Does God Hear?

So much of the language of Christianity and other religions is exclusive with rewards - blessings and salvation - either exclusively or predominantly for members and insiders. Perhaps chief among those rewards is the privilege (and promise) that the Sovereign God hears our prayers. And that even if God hears the prayers of all humanity, we who are in special (or even right) relationship with God have special, intimate access. Many earnestly invite others into that special relationship, but there is still an us/them, insider/outsider dichotomy.
There is a passage in the Jewish and Christian scriptures that models a radically different practice. In his much celebrated prayer marking the Divine Habitation of the temple when God physically moves into the temple in Jerusalem in the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon entreats God to hear the prayers of foreigners.
1Kings 8:41 “When a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name 42 —for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, 43 then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built..."
What strikes me is that Solomon isn't praying for the conversion of the outsiders. He does pray that foreigners would know and reverence (fear) his God. But not that they would adopt the religious practices and beliefs of his people. It seems that many religious people and communities practice the opposite: once people have joined or converted, then they are assured that God will hear them.
What would this world be like if we all prayed that God would hear and answer the prayers of people who don't believe what we believe or worship how we worship?
There is something else in this text, Solomon imagines a world in which outsiders find prayer to his God desirable. Do the pious folk in any religious tradition - particularly those that advocate conversion - conduct themselves (ourselves) in such a way that anyone outside our communities actually wants to pray to our God?

29 August 2009

Ex-Con Should't Mean Exile


Michael Vick is lucky that he has a skill off of which other people can make money. A LOT of money. Most black ex-cons do not get a chance for a second chance. I am glad to hear that he is penitent. And I don't mind him getting a second chance in his chosen/former career. I am more concerned about all of those formerly incarcerated women and men who cannot get jobs in any field, who are shut out of the society they're trying to reenter and, who are condemned for returning to the only way of life they have left to survive and for a social support system.

26 August 2009

Back to School


We are no longer an agrarian society, yet those rhythms shape us even if we have no connection to a school system. Year-round employees regularly schedule summer vacations and many of those who live near water spend as much time at the water as they can.
The heat of the summer seems to be a reminder that these days are few; that Fall is coming and Winter is not far behind.
Perhaps it is because so many fiscal and governmental calendars begin in July and October that September feels more like a beginning than the end of the year.
For those involved in an educational setting there is so much newness: new faces, new lessons, new books, new clothes, new anxieties, new heartaches.
The Fall is also a time of spiritual reflection and renewal.
The Jewish High Holidays, the ten Days of Awe from Rosh HaShannah to Yom Kippur and the month leading up to them can overlap with the beginning of the school year (more-or-less, depending on the calendar intersection).
The apple has become the symbol of both education and the High Holidays.
Reflection, repentance, confession, renewal.
A fresh start.
As fresh as a child's face on the first day of school, full of the seeds of promise.
May it be a good, and a sweet year.

10 August 2009

No Place for Dragons


This world’s no place for dragons
Not any more

We’ve killed the magic and the mystery

Not with our science and technology

Zoology or theology

But with our violence and degradation



This world’s no place for magical creatures
Whose wingspan
is only exceeded by their capacity to expand our imaginations



Their iridescent scales can’t gleam in the smoggy light of day
Their curving trunks can’t writhe around trunks in deforested lands
Their undulating whiskers can’t ripple the surface of garbage-filled seas

Their fiery exhalations can’t compete with the scorching of this world



There be dragons
But only in my mind
This world’s no place for dragons

29 July 2009

Black Power



This century, decade and year have witnessed the exercise of power by persons of African descent in the Americas at previously unprecedented and virtually unimaginable levels.
May I call the roll?
Thomas Clarence, Condalezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donna Brazile, and Barack Hussein Obama, just to name a very few in just one field.
These black women and men wield and wielded their considerable power with the authority and endorsement of majority white (in power if not always in numbers) constituents and sponsors.
Their successes and those of many, many more bear witness to the great distance this nation has progressed from its slave-holding roots, slave-owning presidents and slave-dependent economic system.
But we have not moved any great distance from the racism that spawned the conquest of the inhabited Americas, rape and pillage of Africa, its nations, inhabitants and their descendants and continuing xenophobia manifested in Islamophobia and white supremacist ideologies.
The simple fact is that Americans of color - are black brown and beige - are regularly treated as second class non-citizens.
I remember how surprised was Oprah Winfrey when interviewing Shoshanna Johnson, the first African American woman prisoner of war on record, after her release in 2003 that the white soldiers who came to the rescue of her unit initially tried to leave her, doubting her nationality until a white soldier vouched for her. (Ironically, it was easier for them to believe that she was a black Iraqi - they do exist - than a black American.) She simply did not look like what they believed an American, or American soldier looked like.
I am not surprised by the arrest of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. or the surrounding discussions. I am appreciative for the class implications of that discourse. For all of those who say that if this could happen to a man of Skip Gates' standing (class) then it could happen to anyone, it does. Everyday.
Now the stories are pouring out, particularly those of women and men who have access to the media. Both Dr. Rice (who had to argue with a jewelery salesperson that she wanted to see real, not imitation, pearls no matter the price) and Gen. Powell (who had to prove that he was the National Security Adviser to a person who did not believe that a black person held the job) have entered such stories in the public record.
Bloggers everywhere are posting the stories of lesser known persons who have been the victims of racial profiiling, particularly by the police.
President Obama has appealed for a national conversation on race, first after the high-tech lynching of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright and after the fraudulent arrest of Dr. Gates. Black folk have been having this conversation sice we got here, voluntarily or involuntarily.
It's well past and high time for white folk to have this conversation among themselves in comparable numbers. While the work of theorists and social critics is invaluable to this end, these conversations need to happen in white enclaves, congregations, clubs and around dinner tables.
One of the first topics: the acquisition of power by a few black and brown persons does not signal the end of racism or the advent of a post-racial society.
As Lani Guinier put in her 30 July post to the Chronicle of Higher Education:
"The undisputed historical backdrop for the porch encounter includes 240 years of chattel slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow, and 400-plus years of intergenerational wealth transfer during most of which time black people not only owned little property—they were property. In roughly 50 of the first 72 years of our country's first century, the presidents of the United States themselves owned slaves. In the infamous Dred Scott case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that a black man had no rights that a white man need respect, five of the justices were from slaveholding families."
Power to the people.

20 July 2009

God Created Them In God's Image


As a post-colonial scholar I have learned to be critical of binaries – two opposing views, positions or categories that sum up any idea or experience, including physical manifestations of gender in the human species.
Things are not either black or white, right or wrong and people are not only not just gay or straight, but also neither are they either male or female.
The world is complicated and complex. Are so are the people who inhabit it.
People have come into this world with indeterminate or multiple expressions of gender from the beginning of humanity’s sojourn on this globe. At every level of scrutiny from genital to genomic, there are more than two types of human body configurations. (This doesn’t even take into account all of the internal physiological variety among individuals – everything from where the aorta branches to where the internal organs are in the body.)
Along with the false notion that people are either female or male is the cultural assumption here in the West (and to varying degrees in other parts of the world) that there is a way to be male and a way to be female. And that way in each case is single and the polar opposite – or complement – of the other.
I am reminded of this when I hear some – certainly not all – trans-persons, persons in the process of changing their gender discussing why their new gender is who they are. Many rely on stereotypes that articulate single ways of being female or male: I like baking, I love football, I never/always played with dolls. It does not surprise me that there are some trans-folk who eventually seek to have their surgery reversed as much as possible and return to life as a person of the gender identity the lived previously, from birth.
This is not to say that there are no folk who have legitimate gender identity issues which are appropriately resolved through therapeutic means including pharmacological and surgical means. I am not making that claim.
I am interested in those folk whose expressed gender identity does not conform to an idealized norm. They may be living a gender-neutral life as much as they are able, they may be living a gender identity that is at odds with their biological gender but feel no need for surgery to fell complete as a wo/man. They may simply be lesbian or gay.
There are so many ways to be fe/male. I simply get nervous when I hear people making life-altering decisions for them and for their children based in part on stereotypes. And I know that most responsible surgeons work with therapists and that gender transition takes time by design.
I just wonder how some folk would understand themselves if they weren’t limited to two options.

15 July 2009

One Voice in the Anglican Communion



The Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb is the Professor of New Testament at Virginia Theological (Episcopal) Seminary. She is also a member of the Anglican Communion Covenant Design Group, the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, and the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission.
In these capacities she has written on the full inclusion of sexual minority Christians in the Anglican Communion and the integrity and survival of the Communion. In We Will With God's Help, Dr. Grieb writes:
One of the early desert fathers, Dorotheus of Gaza, has given us an image for understanding this passage that many of us have found helpful. He describes our human situation as a circle. God is at the very center of the circle, as its focal point, and every human being that God has made is a point on the circumference of that circle.
Dorotheus reminds us that it is false to think we must choose between loving God with everything in us and loving our neighbors as ourselves. We can deduce that it is false by observing that as we move towards the center of the circle, as we approach God more closely, at the same time we also become closer to our brothers and sisters who are, in the same way, being drawn towards the center of the circle by the attractive and attracting love of God. That same love which draws us to itself like a powerful magnet also draws us to love our neighbors as well. These loves are not in competition; rather they come together in the well-ordered spiritual life. God’s gentle but effective centripetal power resists the centrifugal forces within us that are inclined to fractious and schismatic separation from one another.
I have found it useful to meditate on Dorotheus of Gaza’s geometric parable as I think about the pressures on TEC and the Anglican Communion at the moment... If we think of ourselves as points on the circumference of the globe of which God is the center, then it is self-evidently a false choice to be asked to love either our neighbors who are nearby or those who are far away; our neighbors who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, or our neighbors who, for the present at least, oppose their full inclusion in the life of the church.
At this point I am reminded of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” It is wise practical advice, a useful strategy. This is entirely appropriate, for once our theological situation is clarified (as we are drawn to love God more and more, we are to relate to each of the points of the Compass Rose, whether near or far, as a neighbor to be loved) then the questions that arise are in fact strategic ones: (1) What does loving our GLBT neighbors, both here and around the Anglican Communion, look like? (2) What does loving our neighbors, both near and far, who for the present oppose their full inclusion in the life of the church look like? (3) How can we act gracefully at the present time in a way that moves the Anglican Communion as a whole to go far by going together?

In the past two years the Episcopal Church has not ordained any bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the larger Anglican Communion as we were asked. We have not formalized liturgies to consecrate same gender partnerships as we were asked. Yet the bishops of the Southern Cone have continued their intrusions into the American church, flagrantly flaunting the requests of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the wider Communion. And I fear all that shall be said and remembered about these years is the Episcopal Church's affirmation of the possibility of ordination for all the baptized.
I wish more more people had listened to Dr. Grieb and we were as a Church and as a Communion wrestling with these questions.

09 July 2009

Die Another Day


In the past two weeks I've had a number of conversations in which someone has suggested that there is an increase in the number of deaths around us. In each conversation I've pointed out that there was an apparent increase in the number of celebrity deaths, but the actual numerical trends of all deaths remains constant.
Underneath each of these conversations is the fascination and fear most of us has with death. (I'll not comment on celebrity cults in this post.)
There seems to be an assumption that it is "natural" to live to a ripe old age. I think this is an American and more broadly, a Western idea based on our technological and medicinal accomplishments: we just ought to live into old age. There is also, in some Christian communities, a reliance on the verse which claims that the "normal" human life-span is "seventy years or perhaps eighty" (Psalm 90:10) as a literal immutable promise.
Yet the lived reality is that people die every day at every age: in the womb, at birth, as infant, toddlers, children and teens, as young women and men, as middle-aged adults, yes as septa- and octogenarians and even nonagenarians and centenarians.
As much as we might prefer to "die another day," unless we choose suicide we cannot choose the moment of our deaths. We certainly cannot avoid the day of our death.

W. Somerset Maugham tells it this way in Appointment in Samarra:
There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now Master, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me [Death] standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

As for this this day, it is not yet past. I cannot say with certainty that I will die another day.

03 July 2009

America's Original Sin


The juxtaposition of the protests in Iran and the Fourth of July weekend bring to mind the ways in which racism is inscribed into our historical documents. While the Declaration of Independence is intentionally silent on Africans in the Americas and slavery, it does speak about the original inhabitants of this double continent:
"the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."
I don't ever remember hearing that read at Independence Day celebrations.
Freedom for some is an oxymoron.

28 June 2009

The Bridge Poem


[This poem is a psalm for my soul.
I need to read/breathe/speak it in regular doses.]

by Donna Kate Rushin

I've had enough
I'm sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody
Nobody
Can talk to anybody
Without me
Right?

I explain my mother to my father
my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother
my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks
the Black church folks to the ex-hippies
the ex-hippies to the Black separatists
the Black separatists to the artists
the artists to my friends' parents

Then
I've got to explain myself
To everybody

I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.

Forget it
I'm sick of it.

I'm sick of filling in your gaps

Sick of being your insurance against
the isolation of your self-imposed limitations

Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners

Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches

Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people

Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip

I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
Your manhood
Your humanness

I'm sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long

I'm sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf of your better selves

I am sick
Of having to remind you
To breathe
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self

Forget it
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die

The bridge I must be
Is the bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
Mediate
My own weaknesses

I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
And then
I will be useful

24 June 2009

The Whole World Is Watching




Iran.
Neda.
The whole world is watching.

And I don't know what to think. I feel. I feel many things: sorrow, horror, doubt and hope.

None of us can know how this will end. Or when.
Sometimes I think that nothing much will change.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has sanctioned and apparently conducted a recount and has acknowledged "voting irregularities."
In fifty cities, more votes were cast than there are inhabitants. This is insufficient to invalidate the election. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the lawfully elected President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And the Supreme Leader should know. It is within his power to declare the winner of the election and to depose the lawfully elected President if he sees fit.
Then there are the Mullahs of the Guardian Council, ironically also known as the "Council of Sages." Its members are appointed by the Supreme Leader.

This evokes both hope for and doubt about any real change in Iran's government. For some of the senior clerics publicly back Musavi. Former President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and his family - his daughter was arrested and released - are Mousavi supporters.
Yet, I am also aware that the impetus for the protesters was not to change the system of government, depose the Supreme Leader or abolish the Council. And I wonder, if Mir Mousavi had been eleted and ratified what if anything would have changed in Iran and in the world?

Now, in spite and because of the atrocities perpetrated by the Basij militia, I believe that it is possible that fabric of Iranian society and government is being rewoven. As in the case in most societies, the weavers are primarily women. The theological sacred canopy that has covered the decisions of the Supreme Leader, President and Guardian Coucil of Iran has been shifted from its base and may come tumbling down.

At my most optimistic, I believe that anything is possible. I remember the end of Apartheid in South Africa. That felt like a miracle.

And I remember all of the troubled places yet on the face of the earth: Palestine, North Korea, Darfur, Congo, and many, many more.

I hope and I pray for the people of Iran. Sometimes for I know not what. But I know that God knows, hears and answers prayers. Even those that we are unable to articulate. And I know that the Holy Spirit interprets and intercedes for us.

Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin in Iran. Inshallah. Amen.

20 June 2009

Life or Choice?

As with all binaries, this presents a false choice. Even if one believes that conception produces life immediately, that life is not the only life involved, or even at stake. Women’s lives matter. And the quality of our lives matter.

Many have argued convincingly of the so-called “Pro-Life” movement’s disregard for human life: anyone designated an enemy in war or other armed conflict – with no consideration for the possibility of false or even fraudulent identification in the case of enemy combatants, those condemned to die by our justice system – in spite, or perhaps because of the race and class based inequities in the system and, those who perform legal medical procedures that the movement wishes were illegal – along with anyone standing too close to those medical personnel.

I have been thinking about women’s lives and bodies in a particular way in this dispute. I am struck that women do not hold political office in proportion to our numbers in our communities anywhere on the globe.

Male-dominated religious and legal enclaves have decided that immediate post-conception life is more significant than any other life, particularly women's lives and, women must sacrifice their bodies and lives to accommodate it.

What almost no one seems to comment on is the role that men regularly play in forcefully impregnating women.

Rape is woefully under-reported, in part because it is under-prosecuted; those rapes that are prosecuted have a low conviction rate and even lower rates of incarceration. And there is stigma. All of these circumstances operate in male-dominated spaces in spite of the advances women have made in most areas of our common, public and political spheres.

This irony becomes harshly apparent when male-stream politicians make allowances for rape and incest exceptions to their theology, ideology and legislation for forced gestation – although there are many who believe that women must carry to term all pregnancies, even if they are raped into them as they were in Bosnia and are in Congo and Darfur and, on too many marriage beds in the US and around the world.

It is a disgusting irony that many women are sentenced to longer terms – nine months – than are the men who rape them. And what of the children? I certainly don’t want the Pro-Life people adopting children, not that they are anyway. Some are too busy thawing our and growing cells that in their current condition do not require food, housing or shelter.

So how would a rape or incest exemption really work? Would the woman or girl-child have to prove that she was raped? Would a conviction be required? Would the rape exam be legally required and binding? Would a woman have to report a rape no matter how that would affect her life just to get health care?

Abortion is a difficult topic. It is hard for me. I do not believe that any legislation can address all of the situations in which women find themselves – and are forced by men. At best I think of abortion as a necessary evil.

At this moment, I think that abortion should be rare, safe and legal.

And, I think that rapists should be executed.

19 June 2009

Rumi-nations


Love is from the infinite, and will remain until eternity.
The seeker of love escapes the chains of birth and death.
Tomorrow, when resurrection comes,
The heart that is not in love will fail the test.


In the past week I have had two conversations about Rumi.
One person grew up with his book in her home and was familiar with him, but not his context. (She thought he was a Rabbi!)
Another woman uses his poetry regularly in her worship services. She makes it a point to remind her congregation that Rumi was Muslim.

I am blasphemy and religion, pure and impure;
Old, young, and a small child.
If I die, don't say that he died.
Say he was dead, became alive, and was taken by the Beloved.

Mavlevi Jalal al-Din Rumi was a Sufi Muslim. And his poetic passion for God and God's creation flowed from his practice of Islam, and was not in spite of it.

With the Beloved's water of life, no illness remains
In the Beloved's rose garden of union, no thorn remains.
They say there is a window from one heart to another
How can there be a window where no wall remains?

I reflected on this rumination after watching news coverage of the pro-life activist who murdered and martyred a physician for providing legal medical services to women. I am always struck that these persons are never called Christian terrorists even when they like the Oklahoma City bombers and white supremacist who murdered a guard at the Holocause museum draw their ideology and actions from their Christian faith.

It seems that in our news cycles, only Muslims who bastardize their faith are religious terrorists. And Muslims like Rumi, who love God and the world with all that they have and more, are all-too-often lifted from their Islamic context so that a singular presentation of Islam pervades our media.

This is true Islam:
Our death is our wedding with eternity.
What is the secret? "God is One."
The sunlight splits when entering the windows of the house.
This multiplicity exists in the cluster of grapes;
It is not in the juice made from the grapes.
For the one who is living in the Light of God,
The death of the carnal soul is a blessing.
Regarding the dead, say neither bad nor good,
For that one is gone beyond the good and the bad.
Fix your eyes on God and do not talk about what is invisible,
So that God may place another look in your eyes.
It is in the vision of the physical eyes
That no invisible or secret thing exists.
But when the eye is turned toward the Light of God
What thing could remain hidden under such a Light?
Although all lights emanate from the Divine Light
Don't call all these lights "the Light of God";
It is the eternal light which is the Light of God,
The ephemeral light is an attribute of the body and the flesh.
...Oh God who gives the grace of vision!
The bird of vision is flying towards You with the wings of desire.

16 June 2009

Chrysler Doesn't Get It


Chrysler is ready to venture off life-support and open a plant, a single plant.
In this economy, Chrysler has decided to return to operations with a plant that produces on a $90,000 car that gets 12 miles per gallon, if that. (It is well-known that official MPG figures can be overestimated by up to thirty percent.)
Don't get me wrong, the Viper is a beautiful car. But cash-strapped Americans are not going to spend our hard earned money on a car that is worth more than the plunging values of our depressed homes - for the first 24 hours before it too loses value exponentially. And certainly not when gas is again $3.00 a gallon in California and those prices are headed east. (The price of gasoline has risen every day for the past 48 days in opposition to the price of oil.)
WTF!?!

14 June 2009

Of Love and Lovers


I love love.
I love the sights of love.
I love the smells and taste(s) of love.
I love the caress of love.
I love being in the presence of lovers.
Love feeds my soul and sustains the world.
The lack of love is poverty and hunger.

10 June 2009

Incarnation


At the heart of Incarnation theology is the notion that the human body is neither accidental nor unworthy of the habitation of God. The scandal of the Incarnation is the scandal of the human body. To paraphrase Brother (Cornell) West: Jesus was born too close to urine, excrement and sex for the comfort of some theologians.

The Church, philosophers and mere mortals have waxed eloquent and ad nauseum about the possible endurance of the human body after death in the after-life, in one form or a another. I don't claim any new revelation or more clarity on the old ones.

I do wonder if the body endures and all of our senses are heightened, what that means about our sensuality and sexuality. I know that Jesus said that we would be "like angels who neither marry nor are given in marriage." As unlikely as it may be, I wonder if he simply meant the abolition of marriage, possibly even childbirth, but not sexual expression.

Or, if our human flesh truly dies with this life, what does that suggest about how fully we ought to live this life?

05 June 2009

Peace Be Upon Us


The Holy Qur'an, like all scripture, contains life-giving and death-dealing words. Christians, even when quoting memorized scripture, sometimes know little about their own sacred texts and even less about those of others.
As President Obama invites the Muslim and Western worlds (as though they were separate and distinct) into renewed conversation and mutual understanding, I offer a few verses from the Qur'an for contemplation.

Quranic reflections on peace:
Do not make Allah, by your oaths, a hindrance to your being righteous and observing your duty to God, including making peace among humankind. (2.224)

You believers! When you go out (to fight) in the way of Allah, be careful to discern, and do not say to anyone who offers you peace: "You are not a believer." (4.94, in part)

Go to Pharaoh and say: Look! We are two messengers of your Lord. So let the children of Israel go with us, and do not torment them. We bring you a token from your Lord. And peace will be for the one who follows right guidance. (20.47)

Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary: a statement of the truth concerning which some doubt. (19.33-34)

If two parties of believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them. And if one party of them does wrong to the other, fight that one which does wrong till it returns to the ordinance of Allah; then, if it returns, make a just peace between them, and act equitably. Look! Allah loves the equitable. (49.9)

A mention of the mercy of your Lord to God's servant Zachariah.

When Zachariah cried to his Lord a cry in secret,
Saying: My Lord! Look! My bones grow feeble and my head is shining with grey hair, and I have never lacked blessing in prayer to You, my Lord. Look! I fear my kinsfolk after me, since my wife is barren. Oh, give me from Your presence a successor who shall inherit from me and inherit (also) the house of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, acceptable (to You).
(It was said to him): Zachariah! Look! We bring you tidings of a son whose name is John; we have given the same name to none before. He said: My Lord! How can I have a son when my wife is barren and I have reached infirm old age? One said: So (it will be). Your Lord says: It is easy for Me, even as I created you before, when you were nothing.
Zachariah said: My Lord! Show me some sign. He said: Your token is that you, with no physical infirmity, shall not speak to humankind for three nights. Then Zachariah came out to his people from the sanctuary, and signified to them: Glorify your Lord at break of day and fall of night.
John! Hold fast the Scripture. And we gave him wisdom when a child, and compassion from Our presence, and purity; and he was devout, and dutiful toward his parents. And he was not arrogant, rebellious.
Peace on him the day he was born, and the day he dies and the day he shall be raised alive!
And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, and had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect human. (19.3-17)

Food for thought.

02 June 2009

Buying American


Is it that simple? We've - through our tax dollars - bought (stakes in one case and majority in the other) American car companies as a collective. Should we now buy American cars as individuals to get our tax dollars back (yeah right!) or at least divest our government of its automotive holdings? (Our national banking holdings are a separate matter.)

What if we don't like American cars? What if we don't want American cars? Should we hold our noses and take our medicine with a spoonful of sugar. Is it our patriotic duty, like buying War Bonds during WWII?

I know I'm biased. I like Toyotas and I love my Prius. I've had two other Toyotas, a used Mercedes and a used Chevy. Neither the Chevy Volt nor the Ford Fusion move me. But the new Prius moves me to covetousness.

Sometimes I don't see much more than Cadillacs and Corvettes surviving as the future of GM or Chrysler. I have a bit more hope for Ford, and a whole lot more respect for their leadership before the economic collapse, particularly their decision to borrow money as an independent company and redesign their product line before the metaphorical feces hit the fanbelt.

I feel some moral obligation to at least look at Fords before I buy my next car. But I think it ought not be obligatory. If the American car industry is to survive it must produce cars that people want. And many of us want small, safe, energy efficient, reliable, good looking, exciting reasonably priced cars. Some of us will even pay a bit more than we would pay for a Japanese econo-box, if we like and trust the car. I don't imagine we'll ever pay as much for small fuel efficient cars as some folk pay for SUVs and their ilk.

Te tell the truth, I'm going to hold on to my Prius, after all, it's paid-in-full.

01 June 2009

Forked Tongues Don't Always Lie

Fire is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Pentecost. In part because fire is an enduring symbol of God's presence with God's people - the bush that burned and was not destroyed and the pillar of fire guiding the Exodus way in the night. Evoking fire, the color red is also emblematic of Pentecost.

I'd like to suggest another symbol. The forked tongue. This may be a hard sell for those who are superstitious about snakes, and (or as a result of) the Genesis story in chapter 3, or stereo-typical portrayals of Native persons in Hollywierd's Western genre.

But it is the forked tongue which appears miraculously in Acts chapter 2. The tongues, organs of speech (human? angelic? other?) are divided or forked in the same way as are flames of fire.
What then does the multiplicity or dual nature of the tongues suggest?

Perhaps the multiplicity and diversity of the church, our ways of worship, liturgies, songs, prayers and styles of preaching.
If the forked tongues of Pentecost are to represent duality, then perhaps, they represent the two languages of earth and heaven. For when we have done our best, preached our best, prayed our best, sung our best, we have failed to reproduce one syllable or a single note from the realm of heaven.

Back to the fire. I like to imagine that those forked tongues are indeed animated by Holy Ghost fire. And fire burns in red, orange, yellow, white and even blue hues.

So let the colors of Pentecost be many as are the languages, peoples, cultures and worship styles of God's people.

And let the forked tongue be a symbol of language that transcends human understanding, and our attempts to replicate and pronounce it.

29 May 2009

The Power of Prayer

This is a follow-up to my Gratitude Journal and Blame It on the Blacks (and Browns) posts.

I am particularly grateful for:
the power of prayer
the practice of prayer
the efficacy of prayer
communities of praying people

a God who hear and answers prayer.

Blame It on the Blacks (Or Browns)

In 1989, Tanya Dacri, a mother in Philadelphia, drowned her baby and then cut him into pieces and blamed three black men for the crime.

In Boston in 1989, a white man named Charles Stuart claimed a black man killed his pregnant wife. He had killed her himself. Yet for weeks afterwards, black men were rounded up, simply for being black, some forced to surrender DNA.

In 1994 a white woman named Susan Smith drowned her children, three year-old Michael Daniel Smith and four-month-old Alexander Tyler Smith by strapping them into their car-seats, setting her car to "drive" and sending it down a ramp into a lake.
She claimed a black man carjacked her at gunpoint and kidnapped her children. Every day, for nine days she lied. A black man victimized a white woman and her children. In South Carolina. In the American Southland. In Dixie. In the heart of the former slavocracy.

In May 2005, a white woman named Jennifer Milbanks ran away from her impending marriage. She claimed she was abducted by a Latino man (and a white woman).

In January of 2009, a white man named Clint Horvatt murdered his fiancée, shooting her to death in Putnam County FL. He claimed that an unidentified black man was the real killer.

There was also a election related episode in October, when a John McCain white female volunteer claimed a 6-foot-4 black man carved a "B" (for Barack) into her cheek. She had done it herself.

And this week (May 2009) a white woman in Philadelphia named Bonnie Sweeten called 911 claiming black men forced her into the trunk of their car after a fender-bender and stole her car with her daughter in it. She was caught on surveillance video withdrawing $12,000 (which she is now alleged to have stolen from a number of employers) and taking a plane with her daughter to Florida. She was at Disneyland.

The unspoken truth is that black (and brown) men are still "credible" threats.
And white people, particularly white women, are still credible victims.

In the Philadelphia case, the police had doubts early on. But they were concerned that one way or another, the little girl was in the hands of a criminal. But they didn't tell the public. The news media kept broadcasting the "black-men-did-it" news.
When the truth came out, very few news agencies held Ms. Sweeten accountable for the racialized accusation. Just the generic lie.

All of this in the week that America's first President of African descent nominated the first Latina candidate for the Supreme court.

Some of us still can't catch a cab.
Some of us are still pulled over for driving while black and brown.
Some of us are still followed around stores.
And our menfolk are still at risk, from the lies (some) white women tell.

Now, what the hell am I supposed to write in that gratitude journal?