Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Monday, January 31, 2011

On this day

Sometimes, events in life conspire in such a way as to take your breath away.

The whimsical, fanciful way things sometimes happen in such a disordered fashion that brings a sudden order to your thoughts can lead you to think that there is a hidden hand somewhere, out there in the cosmos that is either trying to send a message, or just having fun.

This can happen in "real time" - the present - or in the past, by observing history.

Some folks call that "Coincidence". It's something uncanny, accidental or unexpected that happens without being related to the original event or intent. The folks in 12 Step Programs maintain that there is no such thing as "Coincidence," which some maintain is the name God uses when S/he wants to remain anonymous.

Others call it "Synchronicity." The concept of synchronicity was developed by Carl Jung who defined it as "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.". It's the experience of two or more events that are apparently unrelated by cause and effect or unlikely to occur together by chance that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.

I like the word "Serendipity". It means those occasions wherein you are looking for something and, quite unexpectedly, find something else that is of equal or greater importance than your original quest.

I don't know whether it's coincidence, synchronicity or serendipity, but reading over today's historical events has given me pause to consider these events on a framework of deeper meaning.
1865: The House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.

1919: Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who broke the sport's color barrier in 1947, was born in Cairo, Ga.

2006: Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died at age 78.
There's something about the juxtaposition of these events on the historical time line that catches me up short.

One wonders about things like the destiny of a child born on the day when slavery was abolished and deep sadness of the death of a Civil Rights hero and wife of a Giant of Justice who died on that very same day.

The New York Times article on the abolition of slavery contains this report:
At 3 o'clock, by general consent, all discussion having ceased, the preliminary votes to reconsider and second the demand for the previous question were agreed to by a vote of 113 yeas, to 58 nays; and amid profound silence the Speaker announced that the yeas and nays would be taken directly upon the pending proposition. During the call, when prominent Democrats voted aye, there was suppressed evidence of applause and gratification exhibited in the galleries, but it was evident that the great interest centered entirely upon the final result, and when the presiding officer announced that the resolution was agreed to by yeas 119, nays 56, the enthusiasm of all present, save a few disappointed politicians, knew no bounds, and for several moments the scene was grand and impressive beyond description. No attempt was made to suppress the applause which came from all sides, every one feeling that the occasion justified the fullest expression of approbation and joy.
One can only imagine the joy of that moment. . . restraining joy while waiting for that 'final result' that would finally remove the stain of slavery from our democratic process.

Well, slavery may have been removed as a legal entity, but the stain of the history of slavery can never be removed. Racism continues to linger today, in this very moment in history.

There have been some bright spots along the way. Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson would be one of them when, in 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed him on to be come the first black Major League Baseball player since the 1880s.

It wasn't only that Robinson was a magnificent athlete and stellar baseball player. The example of his character and unquestionable talent challenged the traditional basis of segregation, which then marked many other aspects of American life, and contributed significantly to the Civil Rights Movement.

It should be noted that part of the significance of this dramatic event was that it was played out on the 'fields of dreams' of the great American pastime of baseball.

He was one of the children of The Great Migration, born the youngest of five children of a family of sharecroppers in Cairo, Ga, during a Spanish flu and smallpox epidemic. After Robinson's father left the family in 1920, they migrated to Pasadena, CA, to be part of an extended family, which was one of the survival strategies of people who were fleeing the harsh injustice of Jim Crow.

There's something in me that rejoices in the birth of Jackie Robinson, who did his part in the Civil Rights Movement by being all that he could be as a man and an athlete and a citizen of the universe. That his birth "coincides" with the date on which slavery was abolished brings greater significance to both events.

And then, there's Coretta Scott King, whose most prominent role may have been in the years after her husband's 1968 assassination when she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the Women's Movement.

She was roundly criticized for her support of the full inclusion of LGBT people. In a speech in November 2003 at the opening session of the 13th annual Creating Change Conference, organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Scott King made her now famous appeal linking the Civil Rights Movement to LGBT rights:
"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people. ... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."
Coretta Scott King's support of LGBT rights was strongly criticized by some African-American pastors. She called her critics "misinformed" and said that Martin Luther King's message to the world was one of equality and inclusion. She told them "Like Martin, I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others."

Coretta Scott King, died in the late evening of January 30, 2006 at a rehabilitation center in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, In the Oasis Hospital where she was undergoing holistic therapy for her stroke and advanced stage ovarian cancer.

Her legacy of peace and justice makes her a Giant of Justice of equal stature to her husband. Her call to "make room at the table" is one that echoes the message of the abolition of slavery. Her death underscores the importance of this day in history.

Coincidence? Synchronicity? Serendipity?

I'm not sure.

I think history has a way of calling to the future, underscoring certain events with happiness and joy, sadness and loss, reminding us of the lessons we've learned - and, perhaps, have forgotten.

George Santayana said it best: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

We still have much to learn about the shameful legacy of slavery and racism. On this day, may we commit ourselves to those lessons of the past, that we, ourselves, might be transformed and become agents of change and transformation of the future.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Aw, nuts!

I'm beginning to think that the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives knows and understands that they can't accomplish what the Tea Party money paid elected them to do, so they are going to flex their muscles and scare people for the rest of their term while sending a message to their supporters that, see, they are actually doing what they were paid elected to do.

That's what I think on a good day.

On a bad day, like today, I think they've all lost their minds.

It's getting more and more squirrely on Capitol Hill - and I fear it's going to get worse, if it ever gets better.

I thought the reading of the Constitution was pretty silly. I thought the vote to repeal the Health Care Reform Bill, even though they knew it would accomplish nothing, was pathetic. 

But, this! Well, this just absolutely blows my mind.

There's nothing to be done but get directly to it:  Nick Baumann over at Mother Jones is reporting that the House GOPs are planning to redefine rape.

Yes, you read that right. They are planning to redefine rape. 

Rape, they say, is only really rape if it involves 'force'.

But, you see, it's really not about rape. It's about abortion.

Stay with me now. I warned you. It's going to get pretty squirrely.

As Baumann reports,
There used to be a quasi-truce between the pro- and anti-choice forces on the issue of federal funding for abortion. Since 1976, federal law has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman.

But since last year, the anti-abortion side has become far more aggressive in challenging this compromise. They have been pushing to outlaw tax deductions for insurance plans that cover abortion, even if the abortion coverage is never used.
The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act"  - a bill with 173 'mostly Republican' co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a 'top priority' in the new Congress - contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to drastically limit the definition of rape and incest in these cases.

Here's where it gets squirrely.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape."

Yes, you heard that right. "Forcible rape".

I'll give you time to scratch your head as you ask, "So, what's 'non-forcible' rape?"

Remember, we're making this up as we go along because the point isn't really about rape - much less, God knows, justice or the law - but abortion.

Turns out, forcible rape has no formal definition under federal law, Baumann notes, but legal experts and abortion advocates told Baumann that, should the bill pass, the new wording would most likely prevent Medicaid from paying for abortions for victims of statutory rapes not involving the use of force.

Okay, let me slow that down and run that by you again.

That was "statutory rapes (generally understood as the rape of a child below the legal age of consent) not involving the use of force".

So, ahem, okay. Let me just ask an obvious question: If an act of rape with a child below the legal age of consent results in pregnancy, how could it not involve 'the use of force'?

Does that mean that if a child below the legal age of consent consents to the sex act, it's not rape because, well, your honor, she obviously wanted it even though she couldn't legally consent to it?

Cue Annie Hall, "I'm too tense. I need a Valium."

Baumann's sources also told him that the revised wording might also disallow funding of abortions in cases where perpetrators used date-rape drugs on their victims, or targeted mentally incapacitated women.

Some states have no definition of forcible rape on the books, calling into question whether any abortions would qualify for federal funding in such jurisdictions.

Incest victims would have to be younger than 18 in order to access Medicaid-funded abortions. The bill also denies tax credits to private insurance plans that pay for abortions.

Wait. Wait. Wait.


Incest is, well INCEST. It's wrong. At any age. And, don't these people know that part of why incest is illegal is that a pregnancy resulting from incest (when there is consanguinity) is always a recipe for serious birth defects?

Sweet mother of Jesus, have these people lost their minds? Or are they just intent on driving us all insane?

So, here's a little primer for The 'boyz and girlz in da House' to help them understand a little more about rape. Let's just call it:
"Rape 101: The basics".
Rape is not a sexual act. It is an act of violence. Sex is the weapon.

If a woman does not consent to sex, it's rape.

If a man has to drug a woman in order to have 'non forcible' sex with her, it's rape.

If a man has sex with a post-pubescent child under the legal age of consent, it is rape (and reprehensible).

If a man has sex with a pre-pubescent child who is obviously under the legal age of consent, it is child molestation and rape (and heinous).

If a man has sex with a person who is mentally incapacitated, it's rape (and evil).

If a woman is out on a date with a man and doesn't want to have sex but he does and threatens her in any way and she capitulates because she's afraid of him, it's still rape, even though she knows him or may have even known him for a number of years.

If a husband forces himself on his wife, it's still rape, even though they are married.

If a woman is dressed in what is considered "seductive attire" and declines to have sex, it's still rape and it's not her fault. She wasn't "asking for it."
As we used to say, way back in the 80s: "What part of 'no' don't you understand?

Isn't that ironic!?!?

"The Party of No" doesn't understand "No."

Abortion? Well, that's a different subject all together.  But, I promise - with my hand on a stack of bibles - that if you work to change the reasons women feel compelled to have an abortion - like poverty, lack of access to quality health care, education, reproductive rights - you will reduce the number of abortions. That includes the number of abortions paid for by the federal government.

I know. That's a lot more difficult than changing the definition of rape.

I'm not a lawyer (and I don't play one on TV), but it seems to me that diminishing the legal rights of all women which are designed to protect them against rape, in order to protect the rights of those who are not yet legally 'persons' is, well. . . it's not only bad law, it's an injustice.

Besides, if it was your daughter, Congressman/woman, who had been raped, I'm thinking you're not going to sit in the waiting room of the local hospital Emergency Room trying to discern whether or not it was 'forcible' or 'non forcible' rape.

I don't know about you, but I am sick unto death of "Coach Boehner" telling his "team" to try some fake passes, end runs and trying to "sack the quarterback" (the POTUS). It's a desperate, pathetic, dangerous game they're playing.

Even though House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has called the bill a "high priority", it seems unlikely that the Democratic-controlled Senate would approve the law.

President Obama would also undoubtedly veto the legislation if. . . and I think that's a Very Big "if". . . it made it to his desk.

High priority?

What happened to employment - finding jobs for people - being "high priority"?

What happened to the economy being a "high priority"?

What happened to the "high priority" of reducing the deficit?

And what the heck ever happened to the Republican "high priority" of staying the heck out of people's private lives?

One of my friends suggested that this bill is just a little something bright and shiny to distract the Tea Party folks and make them think the Republicans are really doing what they wanted them to do.

Even so, it might be time to pick up your telephone and call the office of your local Representative(s) to Congress and let him/her know what you think about this absurd piece of proposed legislation.

Here's your opening line: "Aw, nuts!"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ignorance + Fear = Death

Three months ago, in October, 2010, Rolling Stone, an Ugandan newspaper, featured a front page diatribe against homosexuality with a picture of human rights activist and gay man, David Kato, under the banner that read "100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos. Hang Them."

Mr. Kato, an advocacy officer for the gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), led the list of 100 homosexual men and women whose names, addresses, and photographs were published in the paper. Rolling Stone urged readers to kill those on the list. A Ugandan court ruling prevented the paper from publishing more names.

On Wednesday afternoon, January 26, 2011, Mr. Kato was beaten to death with a hammer in his own home. Police officials said the motive was robbery, but LGBT Ugandans disagreed and said Mr. Kato was singled out for his outspoken defense of gay rights. He had been receiving death threats ever since the October edition of the newspaper hit the stands.

Indeed, one SMUG spokesperson went straight to the heart of the matter.

“David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009,” Val Kalende, the chairwoman of one of Uganda’s gay rights groups, said in a statement. “The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S. evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood.”

Ms. Kalende was referring to visits in March 2009 by a group of American evangelicals, who held rallies and workshops in Uganda discussing how to turn gay people straight, how gay men sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” intended to “defeat the marriage-based society.”
Those U.S. evangelicals include Scott Lively, the former head of the California affiliate of the American Family Association who has written the book "The Pink Swastika" about what he calls the links between Nazism and a gay agenda for world domination.

He and two others, including Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, have led conferences and workshops about the evils of homosexuality in Uganda.

A direct result of all this anti-gay evangelical rhetoric was the Anti-Homosexuality Bill introduced into the Ugandan legislature in 2009 which would prescribe the death penalty for gays and lesbians, though it has yet to be made into law.

The Americans who were involved forcefully asserted that they had "no intention" of stoking a violent reaction. The antigay bill, however, was drafted soon after. Some of the Ugandan politicians and evangelicals who wrote the legislation admitted that they had attended those sessions and that they had discussed the legislation with the American evangelicals.

Political Research Associates condemned the murder and demanded an end to “the export of homophobia to Uganda by American conservatives.”

“Kato’s murder is a heavy blow to the international human rights community,” said Rev. Kapya Kaoma, the director of PRA’s Project on Religion and Sexuality. “Those U.S conservatives who have lit the brushfire of homophobia in Africa have to bear some responsibility for this tragic death and for the conflagration that now threatens to consume all gay Ugandans.”

Some of you - okay, a distinct minority of those of you who read this blog - are saying, "Oh, pshaw! That's like comparing the so-called violent rhetoric of "a few" right-wingnuts to what happened in Tuscon. You can't blame the violent actions of criminals on evangelicals or politicians or conservative media. People have to take responsibility for their own actions."

Okay, let's talk about talking responsibility for own's actions - whether or not the consequences of those actions are "intended".

Let's review the time line here. In March, 2009, American evangelicals came to Uganda and gave impassioned sermons and lead workshops to educate Ugandans about the "evils" of homosexuality.

Eight months later, in November, 2009, legislation was introduced into the Ugandan Parliament which would include some of the harshest anti-gay regulations in the world, which includes jail sentences for those who "fail to disclose or report" known homosexual persons.

Even a reporter who privately interviews homosexual people - or their parents or medical staff to treat them - but keeps their identity anonymous could be found to have "promoted homosexuality," an act punishable by five to seven years in prison.

And were any Ugandans to have sex with someone of the same sex in another country, the law would mandate their extradition to Uganda for prosecution. Only terrorists and traitors are currently subject to extraterritorial jurisdiction under Ugandan law. Even murderers don't face that kind of judicial reach.

World wide attention by human rights activists focused on the proposed draconian legislation which resulted in provisions for the death penalty being dropped, but the bill continues, at this very moment, to simmer and stew in Parliament.

In October, 2010, the Rolling Stone published its "Homosexual Hit List".

The paper said homosexuals were raiding schools and recruiting children, a belief that is quite widespread in Uganda and has helped drive the homophobia.

Mr. Kato and a few other activists, who had endured months of death threats, sued the paper and won. This month, Uganda’s High Court ordered Rolling Stone to pay hundreds of dollars in damages and to cease publishing the names of people it said were gay.

On Wednesday, January 26, 2011, David Kato was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in his own home. He died on the way to the hospital.

Why yes, let's do talk about taking responsibility for our actions, shall we?

I would love it if someone would - indeed, could - explain to me how these events are NOT connected, one to the other.

Words have enormous power.

There is power in the fact that Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and the President of the United States of America have soundly condemned the murder.

Ms. Clinton said, in part,
"His crime is a reminder of the heroic generosity of the people who advocate for and defend human rights on behalf of the rest of us -- and the sacrifices they make. And as we reflect on his life, it is also an occasion to reaffirm that human rights apply to everyone, no exceptions, and that the human rights of LGBT individuals cannot be separated from the human rights of all persons."
Mr. Obama said,
"At home and around the world, LGBT persons continue to be subjected to unconscionable bullying, discrimination, and hate. In the weeks preceding David Kato’s murder in Uganda, five members of the LGBT community in Honduras were also murdered. It is essential that the Governments of Uganda and Honduras investigate these killings and hold the perpetrators accountable.

LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights. My Administration will continue to strongly support human rights and assistance work on behalf of LGBT persons abroad. We do this because we recognize the threat faced by leaders like David Kato, and we share their commitment to advancing freedom, fairness, and equality for all."
I am deeply grateful for their words.  I am especially grateful for Mr. Obama's assertion that "LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights."

Those are powerful words. Thank you, Mr. Obama.

I am grateful for the words of our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who issued this statement from Dublin, Ireland, where she is attending the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion:
"At this morning’s Eucharist at the Primates Meeting, I offered prayers for the repose of the soul of David Kato. His murder deprives his people of a significant and effective voice, and we pray that the world may learn from his gentle and quiet witness, and begin to receive a heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone. May he rest in peace, and may his work continue to bring justice and dignity for all God’s children."
I am even more grateful that The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has finally broken his silence about the deadly homophobia in Uganda. Dr Williams is also in Dublin for the Primates' meeting. He made the following statement regarding the murder of the gay human rights activist David Kato Kisule in Uganda:
The brutal murder of David Kato Kisule, a gay human rights activist, is profoundly shocking. Our prayers and deep sympathy go out for his family and friends - and for all who live in fear for their lives. Whatever the precise circumstances of his death, which have yet to be determined, we know that David Kato Kisule lived under the threat of violence and death. No one should have to live in such fear because of the bigotry of others. Such violence has been consistently condemned by the Anglican Communion worldwide. This event also makes it all the more urgent for the British Government to secure the safety of LGBT asylum seekers in the UK. This is a moment to take very serious stock and to address those attitudes of mind which endanger the lives of men and women belonging to sexual minorities.
It is, indeed, "a moment to take very serious stock" and "to address those attitudes of mind which endanger the lives of men and women belonging to sexual minorities."

It would also be a good thing, indeed, to make the connection between the words that convey those "attitudes of mind" and the consequences of such communication.
In 1987, six gay activists in New York formed the Silence = Death Project and began plastering posters around the city featuring a pink triangle on a black background stating simply ‘SILENCE = DEATH.’

In its manifesto, the Silence = Death Project drew parallels between the Nazi period and the AIDS crisis, declaring that ‘silence about the oppression and annihilation of gay people, then and now, must be broken as a matter of our survival.’

The slogan thus protested both taboos around discussion of safer sex and the unwillingness of some to resist societal injustice and governmental indifference. The six men who created the project later joined the protest group ACT UP and offered the logo to the group, with which it remains closely identified.

Artist Keith Haring developed this theme into the above graphic which became one of the logos of ACT/UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power).

As dangerous as silence about oppression can be, 'coming out' as an LGBT person and breaking the silence about the reality of LGTB people among us is still a dangerous act.

Ignorance continues to bread fear.

Ignorance, combined with fear, can be deadly.

If Keith Haring were alive today, I suspect he might alter his image and cut right to the chase, as it were.
Ignorance + Fear = Death.

Ignorance killed David Kato. Bigotry and prejudice, under girded by hateful, false religious doctrine fed that ignorance and provided fuel to ignite the flames of fear and violence.

There were consequences to David Kato breaking the silence about the reality of his sexual orientation as part of the fullness of his humanity. He did not intend those consequences. Indeed, he recently said, that he wanted to be a “good human rights defender, not a dead one, but an alive one.”

I have a hard time believing, given the wording of the legislation crafted by American evangelicals and the Ugandan politicians they influenced, that they did not intend the death of someone like David Kato as a consequence of their preaching and teaching.

What they, in their ignorance, perhaps did not intend is that Kato's death has made him a martyr to the cause of the liberation promised by the Christ they say they follow.

History has shown that martyrdom is stronger than any force to oppress. That will be David Kato's legacy. I suspect that the pending Ugandan legislation now has an even slimmer chance of passing Parliament.

While American Evangelicals like Scott Lively and Don Schmierer and the Ugandan politicians they influenced did not place the hammer in the hand of Kato's assailant, nor did they directly commit his murder, the consequence of their teachings will be their legacy:  Ignorance, fear and death.

In the end, that will speak a message that may not find justice in the courtroom, but will resound loud and clear throughout the cosmos and into the very heart of God, whose peace and justice surpass all human understanding.

UPDATE:  Read ENS story: Episcopalians condemn murder of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato
Archbishop Henry Orombi has previously declined to condemn violence against homosexuals.

The Anglican Church of Uganda has said it believes that "homosexual practice has no place in God's design of creation, the continuation of the human race through procreation, or His plan of redemption."

UPDATE #2 COMMENTARY: David Kato's funeral illustrates schism of Anglican Church
As the Anglican Primates gather in Dublin, Ireland, the question they must ask themselves and ponder this weekend is what kind of Anglicanism are we really representing? What are we proud of from David Kato’s life and the rites our church provided over his dead body? And what are we ashamed of?

Thursday, January 27, 2011


One of the joys of being at EDS is learning new ways to think about things - words, especially - that you always have always taken for granted.

I had a serendipitous lunch with Dean Ragsdale the other day, the way things often happen in refectories - now called "Brattle Cafe" (but not, thanks be to God, a 'cafeteria').

She happened to mention, in the off-handed way of casual conversations among old friends, that she's been thinking about the word 'parson', which she said, is derived from the word 'person.'

We went on to discuss the public nature of priesthood and all of the implications of that, but I found myself focused on this part of what she said.

"We often forget," she said, in that wise, wonderful way of hers, "that clergy are people first, before they were ordained. They are priests, yes, but they are people, too."

One of the wonderful resources I now have at my disposal is online access to the Oxford English Dictionary.

So, I looked up the word. Of course.

And, of course, she was right.

Here's what I found, in part:
Brit. /ˈpɑːsn/ , U.S. /ˈpɑrs(ə)n/


α. ME perosone , ME personne, ME persoun, ME persun, ME 16 person, ME–16 persone; Sc. pre-17 persown.

The ecclesiastical use of Latin persōna does not appear before the 11th cent; for a British (Scottish)
It appears that a person who was a parson was sometimes referred to as such as a pejorative term. Someone who thought he (sic) was 'above' being a mere human.

Now a person who is a parson who is in charge of a parish is often called a "rector" - "ruler", from the Latin regere and rector meaning "teacher" in Latin. In the Church of England, the rector is the Third Person of the parochial trinity, the Cruate and the Vicar being the other two.

Believe it or not 'rector' is also a nautical term. It can mean the number of miles a ship has sailed east or west. A 'rector' is also part of the rudder of ancient boats. It is not that which directs the ship but assists the rudder in determining the course of the boat.

I love that image. A rector is not the rudder which sets the direction of the boat, nor the Captain whose hand steers the rudder, but a small part of the rudder which helps to keep the boat on course.

Given the hull shape of the ceilings of most churches, it's a wonderful image. I'm told that this is one of the many theological statements made by ecclesiastical architecture.

For example, the space at the (liturgical) east end of the sanctuary, before the apse which contains the altar, is intentionally in a cruciform shape.

The apse intentionally faces east, reminding us from whence the sun/Son rises.

The particular pitch of the church ceiling is designed to remind us of Noah's Ark, now turned upside down, in which we make our spiritual home, secure in the promise of the rainbow that God will never destroy the face of the earth.

This is why we call the inside of the church a "sancturay". It's not just a holy place. It's holy, in part, because it offers shelter and security to all God's people.

I remembered something someone on my very first field education placement said to me, as part of my evaluation. He said, "Remember, in ordination, you are 'set apart' for service. Never forget, however, that you are still 'a part' of the whole people of God."

I think, when clergy forget that, well, we deserve being called 'parson' as a pejorative term. When we remember that we are 'a part of the whole' - a small bit of the rudder designed to help steer the boat - we become 'parsons' who have been set apart for a particular purpose, working together to bring us all closer, in the journey on the Baptismal waters of our faith, to the Realm of God.

I was thinking about that and connecting it to something Dr. Cheng mentioned in the class on Contemporary Christologies. He was talking about the four points of tension in answering the question Jesus asked Peter, "Who do people say that I am?".

The first is the tension between the person - or ontology - of Jesus and the works - or function of Jesus. Do we define him only by what he is reported to have done, or the person we know him to be?

So person vs. works. Ontonlogy vs. Function.

Another way to look at Jesus is "From above" - the mystery of Jesus, wherein the Divine is prioritized - vs. "From below" - the historical person of Jesus, wherein the Human is prioritized.

So, Mystery vs. History. Divine vs. Human.

Dr. Cheng pointed out that if we focus too much on one thing, we miss the fullness of Jesus. It's not either/or, but both/and, he said, in good Anglican fashion.

I think we miss the fullness of what it means to be clergy - an 'alter Christus' - when we focus too much on the status of ordination vs. the status of being a person.

Which, I think, was Dean Ragsdale's point.

Parson. I'm liking the sound of that word more and more.

It has a lovely non-gender-specific quality about it that makes it even more appealing to my sense of egalitarianism.

Parson Kaeton.

Okay, so it's not going to take off immediately and be the next red hot thing in The Episcopal Church. Given time, however, I think it just might catch on.

It's an admittedly archaic term that has a lovely quaintness to it - just quirky enough for a branch of Christianity already known for its penchant for quirky works like "refectory", "narthex", "apse" and "undercroft".

A parson is a person who is set apart for particular service in the church, but still part of the whole people of God.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love being here at EDS?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Ah, the French! Always so fatalistic. And, often so right!

It was author Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the January 1849 issue of his journal Les Guêpes (“The Wasps”) who coined the epigram "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose". It has become a modern proverb of sorts, meaning, roughly, "The more things change, the more they stay the same".

That's been my experience, thus far, of returning to the campus of The Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA after graduating almost twenty-five years ago.

Much has changed - and much is just about the same.

I should note that I am in what is probably the fairly unique position of being both an alum of Lesley University (it was College then) as well as EDS. That's important to know because EDS and Lesley are now partners in an educational enterprise, sharing a library and classrooms as well as student residences (formerly called 'dorms').

In the very near future, they will also be sharing educational programs, so one might be able to graduate with a double Master's Degree - say, an MDiv and a Masters in Psychology or Social Work.

I really believe this is the way of the future for ordained and lay ministry in the institutional church.

Needless to say, I'm a big fan of this collaborative arrangement. Even so, I must admit to stopping in my tracks the first time I saw the green "Lesley University" signs on the stately brown stone buildings of Winthrop and Lawrence Halls.

The Refectory, where seminarians always gathered to discuss theology or church history or wail over the impossibility of learning Greek while eating meals prepared with 20 year old men in mind - meat, potatoes, vegetables - is now "The Brattle Cafe".

I should give thanks that it's not "The Cafeteria". I know. I know. We Episcopalians are a persnickety lot about things like "undercroft", and "narthex" and "sacristy".

Just work with me, here.

A huge salad bar is now the centerpiece of the room.  In front of that, by the cash registers, is a hot buffet. Yesterday's offerings included chicken caccatori, eggplant parmesan, sauteed vegetables, brown rice and garlic bread.

A new feature is a chef with a hot plate and a wok who took up his station over to the right of the kitchen and stir-fried up a mean garlic chicken and broccoli with a light cream sauce, served over penne pasta. Lord have mercy, it was good!

The kitchen area still houses the coffee and tea (all fair trade, of course) as well as cereals, breads, bagels, fruit, and dessert.

A surprising number of Lesley kids were eating cereal for lunch. At first I thought it was because it might be less expensive, but then I remembered that my own kids, when they were that age, would eat a bowl of cereal as sort of an appetizer - before they really started to eat a meal. Or, they'd have a few bowls as their actual meal.

I watched one young woman eat a bowl of what looked like Lucky Charms while she sipped a few glasses of soda and munched on three pieces of garlic bread and then had a couple of oatmeal raisin cookies.

I couldn't help but think that her parents must have been, at that very moment, at a job they really don't want to do but need the money to pay her tuition and were comforting themselves that at least they were able to afford the "meal plan" so their daughter could eat well while at school.

Her parents may be surprised to know that she's cut her hair - well, shaved it, actually, on both sides - but she's left an interesting long curl at both ears. It's purple now - her hair - but just on top.

Not to worry. It will all grow out by the time she's home in June. Or, not. I did hear her say to a friend that she planned to ace the bio lab on Friday.

All is well.

It has ever been thus.

Having young, undergraduate students around EDS is a HUGE change, however. They are loud and giggly - as students that age have always been - but they have just never hallowed the sacred grounds of the campus, much less in the library and hallways and classrooms of The Episcopal Divinity School.

Yesterday morning, one young female student took a glass of water and went outside as we all watched her through the glass walls. She waited for the wind to blow and then threw the water into the air. It came down in snow. Honest to God!

We all applauded her efforts. Emboldened, she then disappeared into the kitchen and returned with an egg and a paper plate. She went back outdoors, cracked the egg open onto the plate and then returned as we timed the event.

In exactly 19 minutes and 48 seconds, she returned with the egg frozen solid on the plate. The room roared its approval as we collectively sent up a lament about the frigid temperatures that have beset the Boston/Cambridge area these past few days.

Suddenly, it felt warmer in that room - warmer than I had ever remembered it.

Did I mention that I love these kids?

Which is part of what hasn't changed. I mean, this is still a center of learning. Of intellectual curiosity. Of education. We are a 'divinity school' - a place of theological education - not just a 'seminiary'.

This is not a 'factory' which produces clergy who are carefully schooled in what to say and how to move in carefully choreographed liturgical dance steps - although, if you want that sort of thing, it's also available.

It's a unique place where clergy and laity are educated to think. To be intellectually curious about God and the people of God. And, once they have carefully learned what the voices of the academy and church tradition have had to say about any given subject, to question and challenges those assumption.

Everyone here - at EDS and Lesley - is here for the same thing - we just go about it differently and pursue different paths on the same journey.

Those who are passionately pursuing a path toward God through Jesus are still very passionate about that pursuit. It's just that there are a lot more people here, now, and not all of them are passionate about the same thing.

Which means that one can not automatically assume, when one meets a fellow student in the Refectory at the Brattle Cafe that the person is not a seminarian. Neither can one assume that said seminarian is an Episcopalian.

There are people from the broad spectrum of religious experience who are "seriously considering" becoming a member of The Episcopal Church, but haven't been "officially" confirmed or received. Others have become members of the MCC (Metropolitan Community Church), which also has a partnership with EDS.

Back in the day, the only question one might ask is, "What is your sponsoring congregation/diocese?" because no one was allowed into the MDiv program unless you were a postulant for Holy Orders.

Not so much any more. It's a bit more complicated here, now.

Which, I like, actually.

A lot.

It's such a wonderful opportunity to learn about someone else's journey and . . . and. . . AND, for them to learn about yours.

In fact, this is more like the "real world" where these seminarians - those who will become empowered members of the laity as well as those who will be ordained - will apply what they have learned here.

If you haven't noticed, the "real world" is very diverse - and getting more and more so every day. I think EDS is preparing its students for real ministry in the real world (Hey, I think that's a pretty catchy tag line, don't you think?)

That's called "Evangelism," folks. That hasn't changed. There's just more of an opportunity for it, now.

Oh, and one other thing has changed which provides unexpected challenges.

There are women who identify as men - but who are obviously (or, perhaps, not so obviously) women - and men who identify as women - but who are obviously (or, perhaps, not so obviously) men - and other people who are, well, trying to figure out the whole androgyny thing.

The challenge comes when talking with someone whose name is a bit gender-ambiguous who looks like what my mother would describe as a 'handsome woman' but refers to herself in the male pronoun, and expects that you, of course, will, as well.

It's a bit like looking at an orange and saying "pear". Or looking at the color red and saying "blue." I do well, one to one, but when a third or fourth person joins the conversation and I hear myself say, "Well she - er, I mean HE, was just saying . . . .". Well, it's a bit awkward.

I'll get the hang of it.

What I love is the way I am challenged to think - or reconsider - my assumptions about gender - especially the politics of gender and how that all connects at the crossroads of sexuality and spirituality.

I think the Trans/Queer community is helping this discussion and leading us to new insights in ways we couldn't have imagined without this element now being an honest part of the conversation.

One person said to me that s/he felt it was a vocational calling to be a Queer/Trans person - that this was a call from God to help fellow Christians understand what St. Paul meant when he wrote, "... no longer male nor female...." but "alive in Christ".

If we take that seriously, how do we live that out in community? How do we live that out in the world which is still rigidly structured around traditional - ancient, actually - understandings of what it means to be male or female.

How can we be faithful to being 'alive in Christ' and bring ourselves and others closer to the vision of the Realm of God when the the dominant (though dying) social paradigm is patriarchy and heterosexism?

I'm learning new ways of being with others in Christian community - which is exactly what I was learning 28 years ago when I first arrived on this campus.

As the French say, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose".

It's really quite wonderful, all this change and yet being the same.

In fact, it may really be the only way to live fully in this life as we prepare ourselves to return home, one day, to Eternity.

As the kids here say, "Peace out, girl scout!"

And, "Rock on!"

Monday, January 24, 2011


I am absolutely elbow-deep in reading about Jesus.

Jesus as He is seen through the eyes of the Black, Asian and Latino/a Churchs.

Jesus as He is seen through the eyes of Queer Christians.

Jesus as He is seen through the eyes of Women.

Jesus as He is seen through the eyes of those who are 'differently abled'.

Jesus as He is seen in the global context of diversity, pluralism and interfaith realities of a world filled with pluraform truths.

I keep reading a chapter here in one book, then flipping over to a chapter there in another, and all well before the progression of reading I'm supposed to follow in the syllabus.

I simply can't wait for this class to begin on Wednesday so the class discussions can begin. I'm really looking forward to engaging with other students who are seeking Christ so we may better serve God's people.

Last night, I read an assigned "additional" chapter from Dorothee Solle's "Thinking About God" which was entitled, "Who is Jesus Christ for us today?"

Solle, of course, is a post-Reformation theologian who was deeply influenced by Martin Buber's "I and Thou". She was also writing contextually, as a feminist, and a post-Holocaust Christian and thus is seen as a major contributing influence to the development of liberation theology.

Her theological work on suffering as touched me for many, many years.

Solle's critique is against the assumption that God is all-powerful and the cause of suffering; humans thus suffer for some greater purpose. Instead, God suffers and is powerless alongside us. In Solle's theological approach, humans are to struggle together against oppression, sexism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of authoritarianism.

She made this one point which I'm still ruminating about this morning, and invite you to share some of your thoughts.

She writes that
"Liberalism produced a self-confident union of Christianity and culture, the "Christ of culture" of which Richard Niebuhr speaks. History appeared as a gradual progress. . . . that the human race is slowly being 'educated' by God to a greater humanity . . . is at the heart of liberal Cultural Protestantism. This optimistic perspective collapsed with the outbreak of the first World War. .... Behind the facade of industrial and scientific culture there suddenly appeared the barbarism of imperialism, of militarism, of contempt of the foreigner."
Solle then writes about Karl Barth, who, in August, 1914 was shaken by the fact that all of the pastors and theologians he admired were jubilantly supportive of the First World War. Solle continues:
"Barth had been a young pastor when he experienced between the workers and cultural-liberal Christianity in Safenwil. He had come to experience the class struggle and in this helpless situation, he had to ask himself, 'What shall I preach? Where do I belong? What side am I on?' He understood that this culture was not a harmonious progress but stood under a judgment, a crisis. Judgment and crisis are important terms for this new theology: we are subject to God's judgment not to an increasingly refined divine education. History is not a history of progress, but a history of catastrophes and judgment."
I don't know about that.

I mean, I don't think I agree. But, that may be because my image of God is very different from Solle - because, well, for one, I am a woman in a different culture and of a different time. Certainly, the Holocaust continues to challenge my understandings of God and humanity, but not as I imagine it would as a German Christian woman who had lived through two world wars and the Holocaust.

I think I have a decidedly post-modern perspective that is probably more influenced by immoral wars like Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as the threat of Nuclear Arms. My theology has also been shaped and formed in the crucible of the AIDS pandemic, which has opened my thinking to the interconnection of global trade routes, imperialism, militarism and disease.

This just may be me being Anglican, but I'm not sure it's a "either / or" as Barth or Solle want me to believe. I suspect that catastrophes are part of the ways God teaches us about the mystery of the Divine nature as well as the enterprise of being human.

I suppose I have the luxury of taking a longer view. Sometimes, that "progress" is harmonious. Sometimes, it's catastrophic. Either way, I think it comes down to this: The awe-full gift of Free Will.

What do you think?

What do you know of God through your knowledge and experience of Jesus from your own 'social location' of things like your gender, race, ethnicity, and social/class status?

I'd love to hear from you and promise to take some of your perspectives into class with me, which I trust will make important contributions to the discussion.

I promise not to do this every day, but I might be a little heavy handed at first. You'll understand and forgive me, I trust.

So, what do you think: Is history a history of progress or catastrophe and evidence of God's judgment? Is it either/or or both/and?

And, as you consider this question, also consider the following two:

If you were in the midst of Mark's Gospel (8:27), and Jesus asked you, "Who do men say that I am?", how would you answer?

If Jesus then pushed you a bit further and said, "But who do YOU say that I am?" how would you answer?

I'm so looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

This Train Bound for Justice

Sometimes, the lessons from the lectionary seem to have been written as the headline for today's events.

There are two pieces of good news from The Episcopal Church this week.

The first came from the Diocese of Virginia. This just in from Margaret+, over at "leave it lay where Jesus flang it", who writes that not only is bishop Johnston calling for a Bishop Suffragan by April, 2012, and, and, AND. . .
". . . the internalized oppression of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers has begun to break apart -- we have a year to work on the details... and then in 2012 the blessing of these Christian unions--households--families that endure such wicked discrimination may begin.
Bishop Johnston's Pastoral Address put it this way:
You may remember that I have always affirmed that committed, monogamous same-gender relationships can indeed be faithful in the Christian life. Therefore, I plan also to begin working immediately with those congregations that want to establish the parameters for the “generous pastoral response” that the 2009 General Convention called for with respect to same-gender couples in Episcopal churches.

Personally, it is my hope that the 2012 General Convention will authorize the formal blessing of same-gender unions for those clergy in places that want to celebrate them. Until then, we might not be able to do all that we would want to do but, in my judgment, it is right to do something and it is time to do what we can.
I don't need to tell you that this is HUGE. Humongous!

Virginia has long seen itself - and has been seen by others - as claiming the "Middle Ground" between the "Progressives" on either coast and the so-called "Orthodox".

Yes, yes. The cynics among us may tut-tut and tsk-tsk and say, "The train had already left the station. Nice to have them on board."

Well, here's my response to that: Justice delayed may well be justice denied, but when justice finally comes, it's always Good News. Even if, in Bishop Johnson's words, ". . . we might not be able to do all that we would want to do but, in my judgment, it is right to do something and it is time to do what we can."

All aboard the train bound for Justice! We're not there yet, but we're headed in the right direction.

As if that weren't enough, yesterday came the news of victory in the Diocese of Fort Worth, TX.

Here's the money quote from ENS:
"A Texas judge on Jan. 21 ordered a dissident group to return "all property, as well as control of the diocesan corporation" within 60 days to the Episcopalian leaders in Fort Worth who have remained loyal to the Episcopal Church.
That means that by Easter, all those who have remained faithful to The Episcopal Church, who did not follow former Episcopal Bishop Jack Iker to the Southern Cone in the Anglican Communion, will be able to celebrate a most joyful Feast of the Resurrection in their own "home" churches.

And, if any of the ones who DID transfer over to the Southern Cone want to return, well, there's always time to jump on board the train bound for Justice.

So, back to the lessons from the lectionary. Just listen to the opening words from Isaiah for Epiphany III:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness--
on them light has shined.
To this, the Psalmist (27)joyfully sings a response:
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom then shall I fear? *
the LORD is the strength of my life;
of whom then shall I be afraid?

One thing have I asked of the LORD;
one thing I seek; *
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days
of my life;

To behold the fair beauty of the LORD *
and to seek him in his temple.
St. Paul, in his letter to the ancient church in Corinth, appeals to them that. . .
". . .all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose."
See what I mean?

It's as if the lectionary lessons were written for this week in the life of The Episcopal Church.

Stop quarreling. You are all united in Christ.

Insight will come and it will shine almost as brightly as the end of the darkness will for those who have been oppressed. It won't be the whole enchilada, but as Susan Russell once said about another step forward in justice, there's enough guacamole in there to make it work.

For God is our Light and our salvation. Happy are those who seek God - not their own glory or possessions - in God's temple.

But it is Jesus who calls us to the central message in the midst of all of we have been given to rejoice:
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
Don't like the path you've been on? Repent! Turn around. Change your direction. Start making the journey toward the Realm of God.

As you go, take a few friends with you. Help them to become disciples of Christ.

Then all of you keep yourselves busy, teaching, preaching and healing and, next time you look up, you'll find that the Realm of God has come even nearer.

All aboard the Justice Train, making stops through Virginia and Fort Worth, and bound for glory!

Isn't this just an amazing time to be a Christian who is an Episcopalian?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January 22, 1973

Thirty-eight years ago today, the Supreme Court overruled all state laws that prohibit or restrict a woman's right to obtain an abortion during her first three months of pregnancy. The vote was 7 to 2.

Justice Harry A. Blackmun wrote the majority opinion in which Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justices William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan Jr., Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall and Lewis F. Powell Jr. joined.

Dissenting were Justices Byron R. White and William H. Rehnquist.

The majority rejected the idea that a fetus becomes a "person" upon conception and is thus entitled to the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Constitution. This view was pressed by opponents of liberalized abortion, including the Roman Catholic Church.

Justice Blackmun concluded that "the word 'person,' as used in the 14th Amendment, does not include the unborn," although states may acquire, "at some point in time" of pregnancy, an interest in the "potential human life" that the fetus represents, to permit regulation.

The justices, therefore, established an unusually detailed timetable for the relative legal rights of pregnant women and the states that would control their acts:
For the first three months of pregnancy the decision to have an abortion lies with the woman and her doctor; and the state's interest in her welfare is not "compelling" enough to warrant any interference.

For the next six months of pregnancy a state may "regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health," such as licensing and regulating the persons and facilities involved.

For the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, the period during which the fetus is judged to be capable of surviving if born, any state may prohibit abortions if it wishes, except where they may be necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
With the new Republican, anti-abortion majority in the House and among state governors, a new level of anxiety has returned to the abortion debate.

In Florida and Kansas, legislators plan to reintroduce measures that were vetoed by previous governors but have the support of the new chief executives - like requiring a woman to view an ultrasound of the fetus before consenting to the abortion, curbing insurance coverage, and more stringent regulation of late-term abortions.

Although social issues were often played down in the campaigns, many of the newly elected governors and legislators are also solidly anti-abortion, causing advocates of abortion rights to brace for a year of even tougher battles than usual.

The biggest shift is in the state capitols, with 29 governors now considered to be solidly anti-abortion, compared with 21 last year. A spokesman for Naral Pro-Choice America said, “This is worrisome because the governors have been the firewall, they’ve vetoed a lot of bad anti-choice legislation.”

To my mind, pressing women to view ultrasounds before consenting to abortion is, perhaps, the worst of bad anti-choice legislation.

While several states encourage women seeking abortions to view an ultrasound, Oklahoma last year adopted what is, in my mind, a heinous, emotionally - manipulative requirement that doctors or technicians perform the procedure with the screen visible to the woman, and explain in detail what she is seeing.

The measure is under court challenge, but the Kentucky Senate has passed a similar bill, and variants are expected to come up in states including Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

Can you imagine requiring a technician or doctor who is performing a vasectomy to do so with a screen visible to the man, and explain in detail what he is seeing?

Or, requiring any person to view any surgical procedure while it is happening?

No, I can't either. And, why is that, you ask? Why require a woman to view an abortion on a screen in "real time" with a "play by play" of all the action?

Because, for many people, just as the Supreme Court in 1973 based its decision, this is all about the definition of 'person hood'. It's just not about the person hood of the pregnant woman, but only, singularly that of the "unborn child".

For some citizens, it would seem that the "potential for life" has more value than the actual life of the pregnant woman.

Centuries of biblically-sanctioned sexism and misogyny - to my mind, "the original sin in The Garden" - have roots and branches in the pro-choice / anit-abortion debate.

This is the social aspect of this legal issue that will, no doubt, get worse over the next two years, as conservatives seem more interested in "symbolic victories" like reading the Constitution on the Floor of the House and defeating the Health Care Reform Bill.

They are flexing their muscles, pumping up the testosterone and "sending a message" about who is really in control.

If they can't overturn Roe v. Wade, why, they'll just make the "little woman" have to watch the procedure on a screen while it's happening so she'll change her little mind - which, of course, is her prerogative. We'll just help her with her "pro choice" stance and help her choose the "right thing".

On one level, it's a pathetic display of machismo which should only be met with the ridicule and scorn it deserves.

On the other hand, we'd be very wise to brace ourselves for more attacks on women's rights in general and reproductive rights in particular.

The Guttmacher Institute reports that the abortion rate in the United States, which had declined steadily since a 1981 peak of more than 29 abortions per 1,000 women, stalled between 2005 and 2008, at slightly under 20 abortions per 1,000 women.

This is due, in part, to an increase in the use of early medication abortion, which uses a combination of two drugs in lieu of surgery. Early medication abortion has become an integral part of abortion care; 59% of all known abortion providers now offer this service.

I suspect that the medically-induced abortion rate will continue to increase sharply, which allows the new, heinous, emotionally manipulative requirements of surgical abortion to become a moot point.

Oh, of course, the attack will come from other venues - curbing insurance regulations so that the abortion medicine will be available but not compensated until health insurance policies. Meanwhile, Viagra and other medications for ED (Erectile Disfunction) will continue to be covered under most insurance policies.

Anybody else see a disconnect here?

Abortions have been with us since antiquity. They have only been legal in this country since 1973. Please God, they will continue to be safe and legal while we continue to work on the reasons women feel compelled to have an abortion in the first place:
Access to affordable, competent health care, including contraception services for women to prevent unintended pregnancies.

Working to end poverty, hunger and homelessness, which has an even more profound effect on women and children, making them easier 'prey' for abusive, manipulative men who do not provide health care or child support for their dependent children.

Stricter enforcement on requiring child support by absent parents.

Providing education for young girls and access to opportunities for advanced learning, trades and higher education.
Instead of putting our energies into ending abortion, doesn't it make more sense to work together to end the situations wherein women feel compelled to have an abortion?

I know. I know. Mrs. Palin says that society is not responsible for the actions of one person. She was, of course, reciting the Reagan mantra as she saw it applied to the tragedy in Tuscon.

She has a right to that opinion. However, the reverse of that is also true. In other words, if a woman chooses to have an abortion, society does not have the right to judge her and the law has no right to restrict that choice.

Of geese and gander, and all that . . . .

I thank God that women have the choice - the legal option - about what happens with their bodies. I grieve when that choice includes terminating a pregnancy. I pray that all those who want to see a significant decrease in the abortion rate will work with me on decreasing the reasons women have abortions.

Jesus trusted women. So does the highest law of the land.

After 38 years, it's high time we all did.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Snow begins 'The Great Cambridge Adventure"

I'm sitting in my apartment on #15 St. John's Road, intermittently watching the heavy flakes of snow falling outside my window and the slow scroll on the bottom of my television screen of school/college/universities that are closed in Massachusetts.

The prediction is for 3-6 inches more of snow before this all ends at around 3 PM - but I think we've already gotten close to 6 inches. One forecaster predicted as much as 8 inches. I would tend to agree with that last amount.

This would be in addition to the two feet of snow that just got dumped here. I don't know where or how it will be piled once they plow it.

Really. There are some BIG piles of snow around here!

I'm just a little off my game this morning. The heat in my apartment had been turned off in December and no one remembered to have it turned back on. I was so busy getting settled that I really didn't notice how cold it was in here until it was time to join my housemates in the two apartments below for dinner.

It was 58 degrees.

We did get security to come - a lovely man named "Eddie" - who got the Buildings and Grounds guy on call - a real character named "Mo". Well, with a name like "Mo" of course you're going to be a character.

He got the radiators to work around 9:30 but it didn't get above 60 degrees in here until 2:30 AM. It finally got comfortable around 5:30 this morning.

So, I begin my first morning just a little blurry-eyed and not so bushy-tailed, but the snow has brought everything to a halt anyway, so there's no need to rush off anywhere, anyway.

My new coffee pot works brilliantly, making a great pot of coffee, and I had some left over dessert for breakfast.

My housemates are warm and caring and perfectly lovely people. I'm so very blessed.

The television and cable work just fine, keeping me informed of the snow predictions and school closing and traffic patterns.

I don't yet have Wifi (the router will come sometime on Monday or Tuesday) so I'm tethered to the modum for now. Which is fine. At least I can get email and blog.

Ever notice how these things have a way of balancing and working themselves out?

This is the view from one of my windows.

You can see the snow is coming down in a windy flurry of white fluffy stuff. It seems to be clinging to the branches but since it's not a heavy wet snow, there won't be as much damage to the trees as the last storm brought with it.

The forecast is calling for FRIGID temps this weekend which will not be pleasant, but thankfully, I did pack lots of warm sweaters and my new boots keep my feet nice and toasty warm.

I will be attempting to head out to Harvard Square later this morning, after my appointment with my adviser. I do need to get a few "provisions" - beyond coffee and diet coke, bread and butter.

A little protein would be good, methinks. Maybe a piece of fruit.

I hope I'm able to get some of the books for some of my courses. It would be grand to spend this frigid weekend snuggled up under some comforters and reading, in anticipation of some wonderful class discussion.

If not, I'm sure I'll find a way to keep myself busy.

This is Cambridge, MA, after all. And, I have just begun a whole new adventure.

It's just off to a fairly slow start. Which, actually, fills me with a sense of gratitude.

Having just begun the journey, I already don't want it to end.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Patience and Passion

Patience is not exactly my strong suit.

Never has been. Probably never will be.

It's not that I can't wait for something. Life has taught me many lessons about that. Sometimes I've learned them with a sense of grace and style. And then at other times . . .well. . . .not so much.

I'm patiently waiting to start this new chapter of my life at Episcopal Divinity School. I'm excited to begin and, I suppose, there's a wee bit of "let's get started" that could find itself in the column labeled "Impatience".

I think, rather, I'm "patiently waiting." Big difference.

I want to savor each step of this journey because, before I know it, it will be over.

My three pregnancies each taught me something about patience. I feel much the same way now. "Pregnant" with possibilities. Longing to give birth to what is about to happen, but knowing that there's still time. Indeed, it can be unhealthy to what is being created to be born prematurely.

At this point, Ms. Conroy wants you to know that I was at least a week early with each of my pregnancies.

And I should like you to know that our last child was born 2.5 weeks ahead of schedule, mostly because Ms. Conroy would whisper into my belly, "C'mon! Hurry up!"

That's not where I have the problem with patience.

I do not suffer fools gladly. I have no patience with incompetence - especially when said incompetent person is being paid well for what s/he is doing.

I have no patience with injustice - especially when the church, The Body of Christ, cooperates with injustice or is, herself, the vehicle of injustice.

I have no patience with prejudice and bigotry - individually or corporately - and, again, when the church is not part of the solution but part of the problem. Especially when She does so whilst quoting scripture.

I have no patience with mediocrity - especially when excellence is the only effective response. Again, the church as institution often talks a standard of excellence but clings to the safe reach of mediocrity.

I can not imagine being a Christian and being in a long-term relationship with mediocrity, bigotry, prejudice, injustice and incompetence.

As you might be able to tell, I'm pretty passionate about this.

I think Jesus was, too.

As I've been 'patiently waiting' today, I rediscovered this wonderful poem by Maya Angelou
Seek patience
and passion
in equal amounts.

Patience alone
will not build the temple.

Passion alone
will destroy its walls.
I understand what she's saying, but I don't want to accept it as truth, even though I know it is.

There's a word for that: Stubborn. Here's another: Willful.

The trick, I've found, is not getting stuck in the middle of seeking "equal amounts" of patience and passion.

It's not an easy balancing act. Sometimes, you get perilously close to one end or the other. I know I've sometimes had to crawl back along the plank to get closer to the fulcrum, lest I fall off completely.

In the 'last minute packing' for Cambridge - coffee pot, coffee, power bars, just a few things to get me through the first few mornings until I can find a local market with good produce and moderate prices - I've been packing away little bits and pieces of wisdom like this one from Maya Angelou.

Intellect and wisdom may not share opposite ends of the fulcrum - like patience and passion. I know that I've done some very smart things in the past which were not necessarily wise. I'm betting some of you know exactly what I am talking about.

To quote from the wisdom of Piglet, "I didn't know I was being brave. It just happened after I panicked."

A word came to me in the midst of this morning's meditation. It was this: "Open."

I heard it as an invitation as well as a directive.

I think that's the only way to seek patience and passion 'in equal amounts'.

My intellect understands that. It's a wise person who can actually live it.

Pray for me and I'll pray for you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Two Day Forecast: High Winds of Excitement With Occasional Blogging

I am leaving in a few hours for "The Big Cambridge Adventure."

If there are, perchance, one or two of you who may not know what I'm talking about, here's the 'skinny'. I'm going to be Proctor Fellow (Scholar) at The Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA for the Spring Semester, 2011.

I have an appointment with my allergist in Dover, DE later this morning, then it's onto NJ to spend some time with Ms. Conroy and tending to some last minute chores.

I leave bright-eyed and bushy-tailed early Thursday morning for MA, hoping to arrive in Cambridge around noonish, depending on the traffic. The cable guy arrives sometime between 2-5 so I can have WiFi and local TV (I know! What will I do without HBO, right? I think I'll manage.) I hope to have time to get my keys and ID and lug my stuff up three flights of stairs so I can begin to settle in.

I'll sign up for classes and get my books on Friday and finish unpacking. I hope to visit friends and relatives on Saturday.

On Sunday (oh, be still my heart), I will be worshiping with the congregation at St. John's, Bowdoin Street, Boston, where I spent an absolutely glorious 2.5 years as seminary intern and the first few months of my diaconal ministry. I'm simply thrilled to be returning to one of the places that nurtured and nourished me and my spirit and helped to shape and form my understanding of priesthood.

After church, I'll be joining my dear friends of 34 years (!!!), Sheri and Lois, for a late lunch / early dinner.

Classes begin on Monday.

Did I mention that I'm excited?

The faculty with whom I'll be living have been gracious and generous in their hospitality. It's been delightful and heartening to be so warmly welcomed with a spirit that embodies everything Jesus could ask for or imagine from those who profess to follow His Way.

You can be certain that I'll keep you posted about what and how I'm doing. I did receive the course syllabus for one of the courses I know I'm going to take.

I'm still deciding about two courses, but I'm very excited to be taking "Contemporary Christologies" with the most brilliant Dr. Patrick Cheng. Here's the list of the course requirements and required reading.
Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Christology: A Global Introduction (hereinafter “Christology”), ISBN 978-0801026218, $21.84

Kelly Brown Douglas, The Black Christ, ISBN 978-0883449394, $11.66

Robert E. Goss, Queering Christ: Beyond Jesus Acted Up, ISBN: 978-1556351617, $25.20

Kwok Pui-lan, ed., Hope Abundant: Third World and Indigenous Women’s Theology (hereinafter “Hope Abundant”), ISBN 978-1570758805, $22.44

Robert J. Schreiter, ed., Faces of Jesus in Africa, ISBN 978-0883447680, $18.09

R.S. Sugirtharajah, ed., Asian Faces of Jesus (hereinafter “Asian Faces of Jesus”), ISBN 978- 0883448335, $22.70

Optional texts include:

Virginia Fabella and R.S. Sugirtharajah, eds., Dictionary of Third World Theologies, ISBN 978-1570754050, $35.00.

Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas and Anthony B. Pinn, eds., Liberation Theologies in the United States: An Introduction, ISBN 978-0814727652, $23.00.

Course Requirements:

1. Weekly Posts on Blackboard

No later than 11:59 p.m. on each Tuesday prior to a class session, post on Blackboard one paragraph for each of the following three questions:

1. What in the readings surprised and/or excited you the most and why?
2. What in the readings troubled and/or upset you the most and why?
3. What in the readings would you like to see covered in class for clarification or further discussion and why?

2. In-Class “Creative” Presentation

Each student will make a presentation to the class of no more than five minutes about a given week’s readings. Creativity is highly encouraged, whether it is the use of handouts, liturgy, art, music, video, dance, and/or other forms of media.

3. Constructive Christological Paper

For your constructive christological paper, you are asked to write a 10-12 page essay in response to Jesus Christ’s question in Mark 8:29 (“Who do you say I am?”). That is, construct a christology from your own social location and enter into dialogue with at least two of the theologians assigned for this term. You will present a shortened version of your paper (2-3 pages) at the last class on April 27, 2011. For graduating students, the final paper is due via email by Monday, May 2, 2011, at 5:00 p.m. ET. For all other students, the final paper is due via email by Monday, May 16, 2011, at 5:00 p.m. ET.
Pretty impressive, eh? I'm hoping you'll join me in this journey by reading some of the assignments with me and engaging me in conversation about what you've read.

This way, I'll be able to take some of you along with me in this "Big Cambridge Adventure". I think that might be just the kind of thing some of you may enjoy.

I'll post the other readings and requirements of the other courses as soon as I make that decision and get the syllabus for each course.

So, off I go then, to stuff all this stuff into my wee VW Beetle, Lucy Tru Bug. She is so very generous and hospitable, always figuring out a way to squeeze in one more bag of stuff, even when I have my doubts.

Pray for me, and I'll pray for you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK, Jr: Revolutionary love

I can not reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. without reflecting on the book, "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration," by Isabel Wilkerson.

It is a compelling book which brilliantly weaves the 'facts on the ground' about the 55 year-long Great Migration with the personal stories of three 'migrant' people - one who settled in New York City, one in Chicago and one in Los Angeles.

Social scientists have long documented the statistics, historians have recorded newspaper accounts, and writers like James Baldwin and entertainers like Ray Charles and sports heroes like Bill Russell have told their personal family histories.

What makes this book compelling and, indeed, "epic" is that Wilkerson has woven all of these pieces of the story together with the personal accounts of three people - who were, themselves, "migrants" - into one design that looks very much like all the symbols woven into the quilts which were used on The Underground Railroad.

Wilkerson argues that people who left the South only to create hometown-based communities in new places are more like refugees than migrants. They are more closely tied to their old friends and families, more apt to form tight expatriate groups, more attached by strings of endearment to the areas they left behind.

She argues that these people were better educated and more closely tied to their families than other scholars have assumed. She works on a grand, panoramic scale but also on a very intimate one, since this work of living history boils down to the tenderly told stories of three rural Southerners who immigrated to big cities from their hometowns.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,200 people whose lives had followed the same basic pattern: early years in the South followed by relocation in either the North or the West. She winnowed this group down to three, each of whom had left home during a different decade.

The oldest, Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, was a Mississippi sharecropper’s wife who moved to Chicago in 1937. Next is George Swanson Starling, who relocated to New York in 1945 from the Florida citrus groves after his efforts to organize fellow workers earned his employer’s ire and threatened his life.

Finally, and unforgettably, there is Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, a 1953 transplant to Los Angeles, CA from Monroe, LA. Called 'Pershing' in his early years and then morphing into 'Bob', the West Coast bon vivant, Dr. Foster’s most famous patient, Ray Charles, would record a song about Dr. Foster’s way of running off with Mr. Charles’s women (not true).

The irony is that most of the "second wave" of migrants on the road to freedom was carried out on the actual railroads that connected the South to the North. These railways had been established to carry goods to make great profits which had been gathered from the cotton and sugar cane fields by the hands and on the backs of African Americans who were as bound in poverty by Jim Crow laws as they had been bound by the chains of slavery.

In each of the stories about the train ride to the North (Dr. Foster drove his car from Louisiana to Los Angeles), there is made mention that the migrants would always travel light and pack a box of food for the journey. The train ride was long, with occasional stops along the way to move the Black passengers into a segregated car while traveling through those states that still made that requirement - only to have to wait at yet another stop while the train unhitched the cars so the Black passengers could move again freely into the segregated cars.

It was a cruel portent of what was to await them in the North and West.

Indeed, Dr. Foster's story of traveling alone in his car from Louisiana to California is one where he often drove straight through the night, suffering along the way the indignities of being turned away from motels that wouldn't accept a person of color in their lodging.

He discovered that he had come from the clarity of the laws that required signs which said, "Coloreds Only" to the confounding invisibility of the version of "Jim Crow, North".

There were no guarantees of any comforts on the train - including food. If the children were going to be fed, it was going to be from the food they had packed for the trip.

I remember conversations I've had with a dear friend who is African American. He was born in South Carolina but went to school in Chicago, with relatives in Philadelphia, DC, and Delaware. Whenever he takes the train to visit his family, he always packs light but always, always with a box lunch.

In the past, I've gently teased him about that, the way friends do. "Oh, come on," I say. "The food on Amtrak isn't THAT bad. The cheeseburgers are actually not half bad and I love to treat myself to the cheese tray with a glass of white wine."

"Well, I know," he says, gently, with a peculiar sort of hesitancy

So, I tease him about being able to afford the admittedly high-priced fare.

"Yes, I know," he says, an unmistakable sadness creeping into his voice.

"Then, why not save yourself some time and fuss and just get something on the train?" I laugh, busting his chops. "It's part of the fun of a train ride!"

He sighs and says, "It's just what my people do. When you go on the train, you pack light and you pack some food. We've just always done it that way."

I have always heard that comment as a statement about family quirkiness. You know, the little family habits and traditions that don't make much sense, but life somehow doesn't make sense without them.

Now, I understand. Having read, "The Warmth of Other Suns," now, I hear the sadness in his voice in a different way.

The sadness is laced with the bitter poison of the stories he has no doubt heard from relatives who were 'migrants' to the North and refugees from the Jim Crow laws of the South.

It is also a sadness heavy with the knowledge that, even if he told me those stories, I probably wouldn't really 'get it'.

He's right. I haven't understood. Until now. And even then, I can't get my mind completely wrapped around the whole of it.

It takes enough energy to pack for a trip. It takes even more psychic energy to have to relive the stories of the past to tell it to a friend who probably wouldn't understand, anyway, that stories like that, combined with the racism that in some ways is more prevalent and virulent now, with a Black man in the White House, tend to make you live your life waiting for the rug of equality to be pulled out from your feet at any given time.

I won't be teasing him about that, any more.

A year before he was killed, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached a sermon entitled, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence." In that sermon, King called for revolutionary love, the urgency of change, and for ecumenical world community.

He wrote,
"When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:
Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.
"Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to the ultimate reality . . . that God is love. . . and that . . if we love one another God dwells in us and God's love is perfected in us."

That 'perfected love' is far from perfect, but it is revolutionary.

It begins in the heart and stirs the soul. If one is open, it then moves to the intellect and causes thinking people - loving people - to make a choice to bring about change - even if only the small revolution of changing behavior.

Dr. King was right. Revolutionary love can - and will - change the world.

That won't happen in some far off, longed-for day. The Realm of God is within us. It begins with me and it begins with you - in the crevices and nooks and crannies of our hearts and souls where love is waiting, longing to be perfected.

In that 1976 sermon, Dr. King spoke of "the urgency of now." He ended that sermon with these words which are as pertinent and important now as they were then:
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
Longing. Hope. Solidarity. Commitment. Choice.

Let the revolution begin.

And, let the people - especially those who follow the revolutionary love of Jesus - say, "Amen."