Sunday, January 31, 2010

A New About Me

Both on my Blogspot, and on Facebook, I'm changing my bio/about me. I'm almost finished with This Far by Grace: A Bishop's Journey Through Questions About Homosexuality by the Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander. I started it last night and have ten or so pages to go, which I'll finish this afternoon (after I finish my children's sermon for tonight). However, last night I read part of a paragraph that I completely identified with, so I'm owning it (and giving credit). Here's the text for those of you who read neither on my blogspot nor on my Facebook.

I used to believe that the purpose of being a Christian was to learn to live a good and righteous life. I now believe that I am good and righteous, not of my own doing, but as a gift of grace by faith in Jesus Christ. I used to believe that if I said my prayers and lived an obedient life, when I died I would inherit eternal life. Now I believe that eternal life begins at the font and goes on forever. My experience of God has shifted from fear to love, from conditional to unconditional, from judgment to mercy. I used to believe that being a Christian was about me. That's idolatry. I've discovered, thanks to the witness of the Episcopal Church, that being a Christian is about God. That's grace.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Last night the President said the following in the State of the Union (in case you missed it)

"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do."

Don't ask, don't tell policies are not limited to the military, and they are more about the idea of coming out, which is far more than saying, "I'm gay!" to your friends and everyone you meet on the street. While there is certainly an aspect of that (or at least having that freedom to do, should you feel compelled), it's really about being a whole person to whole people all around you. DADT policies inhibit that room, certainly. There are those who say "You shouldn't let one aspect of your personality define you, and that's what coming out does." I disagree with that.

Our identities are multifaceted, but certainly as sexual people, our sexuality is a part of that. As loving people, our relationships are very much parts of our identity. By not being able to come out to one's peers -- in any group, not just the military -- one has to constantly walk on egg shells about what they do in their spare time, which establishments they frequent, what movies they see, and which artists they listen to. Some of that is certainly stereo-types, but in a DADT construct, if one appears to be gay, s/he may be asked (even in violation of the policy).

If a queerperson finds him/herself in a relationship with someone of the same sex, DADT precludes their ever mentioning that. If someone is in basic or deployed and gets a letter from his boyfriend or from her partner of however many years, those two people have to say it's from a friend. During time back from deployment, those people have to say they're going to spend time with a friend. Meanwhile, their heterosexual counterparts can talk about the stress that distance is putting on their relationships and be honest about them as romantic relationships, can get excited about having gotten a letter from their wife that talks about ______.

Coming out isn't about saying, "Look at me, this is my identity, and it's the only thing about me!" It's about being fully honest and giving full disclosure. It's about a gay man being able to say "I'm getting to see my boyfriend after six months away," versus being shamed into hiding the truth, so telling a half-truth and misleading others by his silence. Or if not being shamed, being exactly who he is with enough between the lines to see if they want to, but sometimes working himself into a frenzy for fear that others will find out and ask -- and he won't be comfortable telling an outright lie. DADT limits people who want to be supportive, too. People who can read between the lines might want to say, "I know someone else who's done the coming out thing. You're safe with me," but would violate DADT and could border on sexual harassment.

And don't ask, don't tell policies aren't just existent in the military (although I know innumerable LGTB people who are serving, know veterans who talk of their experience as heterosexuals knowing that there was a gay bar right of post at almost off of their assignments, know people serving now who either have an atmosphere where their gay colleagues can be open or can read between the lines and want to be supportive). They exist in schools, particularly in systems that have discriminatory hiring/work practices. There are gay teachers who can't say anything to anyone (again, not an announcement to students, but bitching about relationships in faculty lounges during lunch) for fear of losing their jobs. There are people in discernment to be clergy in many Christian denominations where being gay is okay until you become "self-avowed," or it's okay for you to live your life, but it can't be talked about.

Do you fall into any of these categories? Friend or colleague of a closeted queer person in a system with a don't ask, don't tell reality? Person living in don't ask don't tell? If you won't be directly adversely affected by it (or if you will and are comfortable with that), what are you doing to change the system? Calling bishops, standing committees, school boards and congress people? Or watching your friends hide parts of their lives that are important to them while you take what's afforded to you as a heterosexual for granted?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I ask your prayers this evening...

For the soul of Lucy Reaves, and her family.

Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful servant Lucy; and we pray that, having opened to her the gates of larger life, you will receive her more and more into your joyful service, that, with all who have faithfully served you in the past, she may share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, Mother of mercies and giver of comfort: Deal graciously, we pray, with all who mourn; that, casting all their care on you, they may know the consolation of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And for those who will undoubtedly ask,

Q. Why do we pray for the dead?
A. We pray for them, because we still hold them in our love, and because we trust that in God's presence those who have chosen to serve him will grow in his love, until they see him as he is.

What Praying Isn't...and How I pray

I unfriended someone on Facebook either Saturday or Sunday night. I suppose I could have hidden this person from my newsfeed, but we really weren't friends. This person and I did a two-week program together in high school and haven't seen each other since. The only real interaction this person and I have had since then was a discussion/debate on the difference between sex and gender, and how one is biologically structed and the other is socially constructed. That wasn't his perspective of course.

That aside, we haven't really talked, so neither of us (to my knowledge) had much investment in the other's Facebook friendship. However, he posted something the other day and I clicked on his page and I saw the following status updates that had imported from Twitter.

"Pray for Andrew, freshman at AU, who described himself as a 'relativistic Catholic.'
"Pray for Bart, Ph.D. student at AU, who is agnostic; knows the Bible but doesn't believe it.
"Pray for Zach, freshman at AU, who is tired of being enslaved to sin and wants to trust Christ and repent but is scared to do so.
"Pray for Evan, freshman at AU, who chose a chicken sandwich over trusting Christ and surrendering his life to him today.
" Pray for Nick who has the choice of continuing to live w/ his girlfriend or surrendering to the gospel and finding somewhere else to sleep."

I was incensed when I read it, and I decided that if there's potential for that to come up in my newsfeed, it's better (as Bishop Robinson said concerning protestors outside General Convention) for me to not have that kind of input in my life. As far as I'm concerned that twitterfeed is very far from prayer. When your requests or petitions are "Pray for ____________ because I don't like that they're doing ____________ or they disagree with me about __________________," I think that has fallen from prayer into something between gossiping and passing judgment, maybe both at the same time. I grew up in an environment (and am exposed to it some still) where this was part of prayer, but by no means the only part of praying for others!

I think that's what praying and prayer aren't. But if I'm going to say that, what is prayer?

"Q. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.
Q. What is Christian Prayer?
A. Christian prayer is response of God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit...
Q. What are intercession and petition?
A. Intercession brings before God the needs of others; in petition, we present our own needs, that God's will may be done." -BCP, 856-857

Prayer is responding to God. Intercession is bringing others' needs to God on their behalf. The tweets were, I suppose in themselves legitimate. Pray for these people. Okay. What're we praying though? I think the implication with some and the explicit statement of others is "pray that they will be like me" (i.e. "...who has the choice of continuing to live w/ his girlfriend or surrendering to the gospel and finding somewhere else to sleep."). I think that when we pray these kinds of things we are putting ourselves in a place higher than we should think of ourselves.

When I was in the seventh grade, I used to go through this kind of litany at night before bed for people who made decisions that I wouldn't agree with. "God, be with x and y, that they not be lustful and control their hands when they're alone and with other people. Be with z, that he will not listen to (name of band I don't remember that HomeLife had said was bad), and that he'll really love you." In the course of a conversation with a very wise young woman (now a beautiful married adult woman) quoted Mt. 7.1 to me. It was a slap in the face the weight of a ton of bricks that I needed.

And now I pray for a list of people, which certainly isn't the "right" way to pray, nor is it the only way. I keep my list personal and don't generally broadcast it on Twitter or Facebook, although I do sometimes share concerns or joys via those media or the OSL CyberChapter. Most of the time it's just names of people that I think about, many of whom I don't know all their situations or specific needs to be prayed for. But I pray for them. If they've asked me about something special or I know something going on I'll remember it specifically in prayer. I pray for Bishop Robinson then Archbishop Peter Akinola. This method of praying was lately heavily influenced by Bonhoeffer. Praying for people just by name most of the time puts me in a place of humility that "God, please make Peter Akinola accept me, and Bishop Robinshon and Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori" doesn't. Praying for people by name as people I care about and want God to guide puts God, not me, in the place of determining what guidance they need.

That doesn't even mean not praying for people to become Christians or preclude evangelistic praying. Examples: "For those who do not yet believe, and for those who have lost their faith, we that they may receive the light of the Gospel, we pray to you, O Lord" or "I ask your prayers for all who seek God, or a deeper knowledge of him.Pray that they may find and be found by him." What these do is still pray for people who have not come to Christianity. What they don't do is call people out by name as a way of intimidating, making fun, or casting stones or criticize people for having a different understanding of Christianity than you do (critique of personal label, critique of non-submission to the Gospel).

Show us your mercy, O Lord;
And grant us your salvation.
Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
Let your people sing with joy.
Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
For only in you can we live in safety.
Lord, keep this nation under your care;
And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
Let your way be known upon earth;
Your saving health among all nations.
Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Create in us clean hearts, O God;
And sustain us by your Holy Spirit.

Where Do You Get Your News?

Apparently Fox News [is] The Most Trusted Name In TV News. And that's based on polling data. From here
These numbers suggest quite a shift in what Americans want from their news. A generation ago Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in the country because of his neutrality. Now people trust Fox the most precisely because of its lack of neutrality. It says a lot about where journalism is headed.

There's a great documentary that I'd recommend that talks a lot about FoxNews and how it's cornered a lot of markets and gotten to be so popular, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism. FoxNews makes me mad because I don't think that it does endorse democracy or dialogue. It's about shouting down your opponent, no matter how ignorant you may be, and dominating the other side. There is no desire to work together, and they're critical of anything they disagree with and play the "un-Amercan" card.

I get my news from NPR, which from my perspective is balanced based on the facts that it gives. Now, there is certainly slant, but the way it slants is by what it chooses to cover, not by the words it says in that coverage. I remember that clicking in high school when they were doing a piece about New Jersey prison conditions. They weren't slamming the New Jersey government, they were raising an issue that was critical of the entirety of government and a systemic problem in government. I realized that I would probably never hear that on Sean Hannity's show (to which I listened every day). Somewhere between then and now I've decided that I want news to be left-leaning, and not because I'm left -leaning. If news is going to spout party line or official statements from the government and get all riled up when people (exercise constitutional right/duty to) petition the government and then call them "un-Amercan" for doing so, what's the point of having a free press? I don't think the founders wanted any people but official spokespeople serving as government/party mouthpieces, or we wouldn't have the freedom of the press in the First Amendment.

Additionally, I check out BBC for news. Contrary to what most Americans believe, we aren't the center of the universe, we operate as part of an international community, and what we do at home and abroad affects us at home and how we're treated abroad. Even our most left-leaning news organizations are horribly myopic when it comes to international coverage. I've also decided to start reading Le Monde both to work on my French and to get yet another perspective on what's happening around the world and in the United States. I've also started to take in a smattering of DemocracyNow! but (maybe because I'm so caught up in what Ethan calls "corporate news") despite how much I want to believe it, I have to take it with a grain of salt.

Where do you get your news?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotations

These are things that appeared on Facebook or e-mail today.
  • From Joe Mitchell (and The Episcopal Church):
    "Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for ALL your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
  • From Fr. Scott Russell:
    "The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • From Rachel Swan:
    "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • From Ashley Wright:
    "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom." -Martin Luther King, Jr
  • From Ingrid McIntyre:
    "Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." -Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • From Juan C. Huertas:
    "Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness" - Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • From David Meredith:
    "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • From Erin J. Warde:
    "Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • From IntegrityUSA:
    "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood. This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group." Coretta Scott King, beloved wife of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • From Bridget Cabrera:
    "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • E-mail from the Center for Constitutional Rights:
    "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." -Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • From Becca Cramer:
    "If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • From Joshua Marsh:
    "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.