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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Guilt and Shame and Jet lag

Well, it's like the prostitute once said: It's not the work. It's the stairs.

It's not the travel. It's the jet lag.

I'm pretty much on the other side of it this morning. I think. That is, I think I'm over the worst of it and I think it's this morning.

I got home on Thursday afternoon and felt pretty good, actually. I had planned to spend another night in DC, if necessary, rather than get off the plane and hop in the car and drive three hours home. I whizzed through immigration and customs, waited about 15 minutes for my luggage, and was feeling just fine. So, I got in my car and headed for home.

Ms. Conroy had told me that the renovation on the house had begun which made me even more excited to get home. I can tell you, now, that it looks great, but the banging and clanging Thursday through Friday, while clearly necessary, were not exactly conducive to recovery from jet lag.

The Rev'd Dr. Patrick Cheng
Still, I pressed on. Got up at my usual 6:30 AM on Friday and plunged right back into the day.

I took a wee bit of a lie down in the afternoon - amidst the banging and hammering and drilling - then headed over to All Saints, Rehoboth Beach for the weekend retreat sponsored by IntegrityDE.

It was led by the most amazing Rev'd Dr. Patrick Cheng using his wonderful new book, "From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ".

If you've not read the book - or, Patrick's first one: "Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology" - do yourself a favor, click on either of the links and order a copy for yourself.

The progressive Christian community, in it's reaction to the "hellfire and brimstone" of those Christians who consider themselves conservative/orthodox, have remained pretty much silent about the issues of sin and grace.

Patrick gives us a new way of thinking about this ancient subject.  I found especially helpful his distinction between guilt (what you feel when you've done something bad) and shame (what you feel when you've been told you are bad).

Guilt is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be an important internal marker and spiritual guidepost of morality. Shame is never helpful, especially as a vehicle of transformation.

I also found Patrick's chart of Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Amazing Graces, which compel with Seven Images of Christ especially helpful.

The language may trip you up, but I think we progressives are, in a way, just learning to rethink and talk about sin and grace in non-traditional ways, so of course our language is going to be non-traditional.

There were twenty-six people who registered for and attended the retreat. The DE chapter of Integrity is only three years old and this was their very first event like this. We had hoped for thirty people, thinking we'd start small and grow. What we learned is that 25-30 is just about right. Next year, we'll limit it to no more than thirty participants.

We also learned - I think it was right after lunch - that the Anglican Covenant had been soundly defeated in the Church of England. It felt a bit disjointed and yet, at the same time, perfectly normal, to hear someone read from his Blackberry Smart Phone the Reuter's news flash about the defeat of the Anglican Covenant in the midst of a retreat on Sin and Grace.

The Anglican Covenant was, from its inception, a pernicious scheme to bring shame upon the American and Canadian branches of the Anglican Communion, for the heinous crime of thinking for ourselves and treating Queer people as fully baptized members of the Body of Christ. 

Oh, it was also a desperate attempt to centralize the governing structures of the Anglican Communion, using various forms of emotional manipulation and legal mumbo-jumbo to convince the masses to vote for the thing, but, thankfully, it failed.

One of the unintended consequences of this loss is that it held up for all the world to see just how out of touch most bishops are with the folks in the pew as well as their own clergy. About 80% of the bishops were in favor of the Covenant. The clergy and laity were about 50-50 opposed, but it was a combination of clergy and laity who defeated it..

Yes, we are seeing this phenomenon of centralization of power in the episcopacy most clearly in the Church of England right now but this is true pretty much across all denominational lines. Not every bishop in every diocese, of course, but, well....if the reports about conversations concerning restructuring the church from the recent meeting of the House of Bishops are correct and any indication.....well, as the prostitute's not the work, it's the stairs. And, we've got a lot to climb in order to save the church from herself.

I think, in the end, shame-based attempts at controlling or changing human behavior will always fail. Shame does not allow any room, much less possibility, for God's grace. 

I think 'twas grace most amazing that led me through Friday and Saturday but this Sunday morning, I've crashed. I went to bed at 9 PM last night and didn't awaken until 9 AM this morning.

Yup, I've missed church.  Well, I said me prayers whilst I attended "St. Llangollen Between-the-Sheets".  I feel neither guilt nor shame.

Jet lag, I'm discovering, is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Even so, I would have done the whole thing over again. Well, not tomorrow, exactly, but soon.

Indeed, I intend to, one day in the not so distant future. Perhaps, in two years. I'll go back to Thailand on my way to Nepal and Katmandu and Machu picchu.  I'm already planning the trip in my head. It's one way to cut through the fog and disorientation that are the remains of the jet lag.

Of course, the rain and fog that have Rehoboth Bay socked in are not helping dispel the fog that's in my head. I think I'm just going to stay in my jammies today, sip lots of hot tea and eat several small meals and be easy on my tummy.

I think the only thing more powerful than guilt and shame is jet lag.

The major difference is that time will cure jet lag.  It takes a lot more than that to deal with the aftereffects of guilt and shame.

That requires amazing grace - which has more to do with the work and less to do with the stairs.


David@Montreal said...

'The language may trip you up, but I think we progressives are, in a way, just learning to rethink and talk about sin and grace in non-traditional ways, so of course our language is going to be non-traditional.'

Elizabeth, it has been my sense for some time that this is essentially core to the vocation and witness of LGBT folk within faith communities at this time: to pry open the death-grip of partirarchal shame and guilt, so that Ruach might finally get us living into the living Body of Christ.

If we LGBT folk, with all the shame/guilt/violence/misogyny and homophobia can step forward with love and gratitude for the gifts of the living Body of Christ, then there literally has to be room for everyone at the table:in the Kingdom.

In a way particular to these muddled times within the Church we are the most vivid embodiment of that 'Love beyond our wildest imagining'; of Tutu's great 'ALL'

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

David - I couldn't agree with you more. I think our particular gift to the church has been to think about some of the words we use so glibly - guilt, shame, pride, blessing, marriage - and recapture their original meaning.

Thanks, David.

susankay said...

Elizabeth -- thank you again for another post. I do hope you plan to take in Macchu Pichu on your way BACK from Nepal etc -- it being in South America and all.

whiteycat said...

Elizabeth, I am so glad that you are safely home. I cannot tell you how good it was to read your Tales of Thailand! They were a special blessing.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Susankay - Of course. Damn jet lag.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Whitecat.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks for a first-hand account of Patrick's seminar. I'm reading his new book now and finding liberation there.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kit - Arrange for him to come to your area and do his presentation. I promise you not only won't be disappointed, you'll have energized a whole group of people. He's FABULOUS.