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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.

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.