Posts Tagged ‘writing

07
May
09

The Hero’s Journey – or, Ministry Suicide

When the word “myth” is used to describe foundational social or faith stories, the result is oftentimes a reaction of insult and anger. For most, that word conjures up images of fictional or embellished stories, perhaps compiled from many disparate sources – in short, myths are not considered to be truth. The word “myth”, however, is value neutral on the criteria of truth. Myths are society’s fundamental stories, usually involving heroes or major events and based on reality, fiction or some combination of the two that explain or validate traditional practices or belief patterns. Myths are the foundations of culture – every culture has them – the bedrock upon which social values, mores and norms are built.

There is, then, a tendency to romanticize myths beyond the level of ideology, adventure and chivalrous displays that already exist. Entirely common is the process of day-dreaming ourselves in the role of the mythical hero – to become so enamored with the myth, that our ability to see ourselves apart from it becomes blurred. Generally, this very act circumvents the intended message of the story, and creates a compound myth that is now approaching fantasy. Most times, this is quite harmless, but when a pastor crosses this line, faith can become a casualty. Continue reading ‘The Hero’s Journey – or, Ministry Suicide’

03
May
09

Dignity For All Students

I have been asked repeatedly why I am a straight ally of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) sisters and brothers. Whether it is because of things I write, things I say (for instance on the floor of my presbytery) or where I choose to be activist, the fact that I am straight and a minister seem to stand out significantly. There is, at the same time, suspicion and excitement that a straight minister would care enough to be visible in support of LGBT.

Jenna and I ran directly into this while present and active at the Equality and Justice Day put on by Empire State Pride Agenda. No less that a dozen times we were asked if we would allow our picture to be taken and placed on websites or blogs. We also entered into numerous conversations, all concerning the role of the church in oppression and anti-GLBT equality.

One specific effort of Pride Agenda is Dignity For All Students, a bill in New York that seeks to address bullying for any reason including sexuality and gender expression. When asked, I responded that my interest in this is very personal. I was on the receiving end of homophobic bullying in grade and high school simply because I was slightly built (hard to imagine now) and a little effeminate. My young life in school, along with some friends, was hell that left me contemplating suicide many times during my high school years.

While meeting with an aide of Senator Farley to make the case for Dignity, I stated the reasons for my interest and followed up by saying, “We have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable, and no-one is more vulnerable than our children.” As an expression of our concern in this issue and the dangers faced by those deemed by peers to be different, Jenna and I will be attending “train the trainers” classes for the Trevor Project, a nationwide hot-line for children and youth at risk and contenplating suicide.

To end of bringing as much attention to the issue as I can, I am reprinting the NY Times commentary by Charles Blow. Continue reading ‘Dignity For All Students’

02
May
09

Trying to See the Next Step

Since returning to my faith many years ago, I have to fight the same recurring problem – I desperately want to see the destination of any particular leg of my journey with God. A dear friend, Ginny, used a very simple exercise to try to teach me that there is a reason that God does not reveal the ultimate goal – that we will lose sight of the joy to be found along the way.

On a night with no moon, she led me out to a spot on the farm she and her husband owned. The grass was tall in this particular spot. She gave me a flashlight and told me my destination was the barn about 100 feet away. “Shine the light on the barn,” she said, “and walk towards it.” I did and within 10 feet I tripped over something. I picked myself up and started again, this time getting about 6 feet. Then she called me back and said, “Okay! You know the general direction, go there but shine the light on the ground in front of you so you can see the next step you will take.” I, of course, made it to the barn safely and vertically. “Keep your eye on the next step, and let God guide you to the destination,” she said as she wisely ended the conversation.

My problem is that, right now, I can see the next step and it’s dark and uninviting – in fact, it’s downright scary. Continue reading ‘Trying to See the Next Step’

22
Apr
09

Calvin’s Spirituality – Not an Oxymoron

Within the first few pages of Elsie Anne McKee’s John Calvin – Writings on Pastoral Piety, I was stricken with disbelief. Incredibly, McKee used ‘piety’ and ‘spirituality’ interchangeably.[1]  “Now I know piety and it’s not spirituality,” I said in no uncertain terms as I looked it up in my dictionary and read “having or exhibiting religious reverence; earnestly compliant in the observance of religion; devout.”[2]  Hmmm. I then thumbed to spirituality and found “the quality or state of being spiritual; pious; heavenly-mindedness.”[3]  It appeared my negative understanding of piety as rigid, dogmatic and judgmental belief was based far too much on my early experiences with the somewhat puritanical Christian Reformed Church in Australia. Continue reading ‘Calvin’s Spirituality – Not an Oxymoron’

21
Apr
09

Recovery – A Poem of Survival

RECOVERY

Children survive.
They seem to be built to survive almost anything.
The pain of loneliness, war, crime, rejection,
being ignored, being abused,
being smothered, being used,
predation, exposure,
abandonment, over-protection;
these are just some of the things kids endure.
Continue reading ‘Recovery – A Poem of Survival’

21
Apr
09

“Heterosexual with Issues”

I am stealing this link, unabashedly, from my good friend Daniel at Soulforce.org, who brought this to our attention. Of course, his post title, “Amen Brother – Rudnick on Haggard”, was just too much of a double entendre and too funny to copy. This piece is subtle at times, at others bordering on hilariously vulgar, but at all times funny and thought provoking. Thank you Daniel.

Just to whet your appetite, some excerpts:

“I became determined to change, to lead a wholly Christian life. In college, I began to date. At first, I took things slow, and I went out with only the most pious, virginal girls, who luckily often had strong, masculine jawlines.”

“But I knew that what Brad and I were doing was wrong, especially after the fifty-eighth time. That was when I told Brad, quite firmly, ‘Brad, our being together is sinful and will only impede our development as responsible Christian adults. And your mustache tickles.’ ”

“So, yes, I was flawed, but my commitment to my parishioners, my wife, and my family remained my primary focus, until finally I was caught on tape, attempting to buy crystal meth, sexual services, and a plus-size tube top from a male prostitute.” Continue reading ‘“Heterosexual with Issues”’

26
Mar
09

Critical Life Incidents – Entering Seminary

In August 2001, I began my seminary education as a “special” student. The special classification was because I had no undergraduate degree. I was allowed to take three courses for each of two semesters, after which the admissions committee would decide if an exception to the undergraduate degree requirement would be granted.

Two seminary professors I had met in different circumstances had originally told me of the exception. Each had been aware of my interaction with students who were experiencing difficulties – some while on an immersion trip in Mexico, and another while doing her internship at a church where I worked. In each case the exception was used as a trump card when I played my “I can’t go to seminary – I don’t have a degree” card. Continue reading ‘Critical Life Incidents – Entering Seminary’

14
Mar
09

Christology – Borg vs Wright

If I can be allowed a brief introduction, I have a comment about the perceived theological location of each of the authors. During 2003/2004, while attending Westminster College, Cambridge, I heard three out of four lectures given by N.T. Wright about “New Perspectives on Paul”. More interesting than the lectures was the diatribe from the various seminaries regarding Wright. The Evangelical Anglicans, conservative as opposed to traditional (self-description), denounced him as “apostasy on two legs”, while the Anglican Catholic half of the Church of England considered him a defender, albeit somewhat radical, of traditional theology in the current age. The United Reformed Church (Westminster), a mixture of very traditional (reformed) to very conservative, generally considered him to be a liberal Catholic. (All that being said, the lecture hall was packed to the rafters.) Overall, the book we’re now reading was described in Cambridge seminaries as a conversation between liberal (Wright) and very liberal (Borg). The book’s cover, claiming representation from liberal and conservative camps, seems to be heavily dependent on one’s point of view. Very few conservatives in Wright’s home country view him as anything but liberal. Still, overall it appears that both authors fit somewhere in the less-than-extreme centrist majority of the imaginary liberal-conservative spectrum and, as such, posit stands most Christians should be able to get their heads around.

Continue reading ‘Christology – Borg vs Wright’

12
Mar
09

Book Review – Between Vengeance and Forgiveness

How do nations or societies respond after periods of mass violence, indescribable episodes of systematic torture, rape and slaughter of minority or marginalized populations, or even ethnic cleansing and genocide?  Historically, of course, the most common response of populations freed from such oppression has been retaliation in at least equal measure, if not more profoundly violent and obscene in character. Despite the world, in the twentieth century, experiencing atrocities of more magnitude and frequency than ever before, Martha Minow somewhat optimistically details several societal responses aimed at seeking collective healing and reconciliation. After discussing the poles of vengeance and forgiveness, Minow expounds on the strengths and limitations of legal remedies, truth commissions and efforts at reparation, before finishing with other possible efforts for reconciliation. Continue reading ‘Book Review – Between Vengeance and Forgiveness’

04
Mar
09

The Scandal of Jesus Christ – Three Perspectives

For much of the last two thousand years there have been scandals associated with, or hindrances to, belief in Jesus Christ as savior. What is so outrageous about the claim of salvation in Jesus that offends the moral or rational sensibilities of at least certain segments of society? In examining this question, three authors – Jan Milic Lochman, Elizabeth A. Johnson and Justo L. González – discussed the traditional orthodox views of salvation through faith in Christ in light of modern interests. The authors had particular agendas, openly declared in each of their works, around which they developed their arguments. These various arguments were in close agreement at some points and in discord at others but, when viewed collectively, created an interesting sampling of some of the opinions that make up modern Christian thought. Continue reading ‘The Scandal of Jesus Christ – Three Perspectives’

28
Feb
09

No, Please! Tell Us What You Really Think

If you are looking for the perfect example from which to learn to write a “quirky, snide, and very thoughtless comment” to someone with whom you disagree – look no further. Sen Paul Koering’s aid seems to have the technique down to a fine science, and will gladly send you an example should you want to disagree with the senator on anything.

 News from the Minnesota Independent: Gay Republican responds to criticism: Same-sex marriage is a ‘pointless issue’

The office of state Sen. Paul Koering, a gay Republican representing a district near Brainerd, Minn., is responding by e-mail to criticisms over his decision not to vote for the Marriage and Family Protection Act. The gist? Legislators can’t “waste their time” with “pointless legislation.”

The mass e-mail, penned by an impassioned Ken Swecker, Koering’s legislative assistant, concludes with a punchline that shows someone’s got their knickers in a wad over something. Swecker wrote: Continue reading ‘No, Please! Tell Us What You Really Think’

25
Feb
09

Swimming Upstream – an Autobiography (Part 4)

Continued from LEARNING TO THRIVE. Or return to INDEX.

LEARNING TO SWIM – I was in the big pool now.

In the week prior to starting at seminary, I had moved into an apartment on campus – completely furnished and outfitted from the generosity of my Liberty Church supporters – and I had finished up a six-month, 10-hour per week consulting gig at Sterling Commerce, a division of the telecom giant, SBC. I had hated the thought of returning to the business world, but the opportunity had cropped up within hours of deciding to go back to school. Continue reading ‘Swimming Upstream – an Autobiography (Part 4)’

23
Feb
09

Swimming Upstream – an Autobiography (Part 3)

“I remember picking up my sharpest tool, a drawknife, and resolutely deciding I wasn’t going into that hole. I was ready to die.” Continued from: Learning to Live.    Or go to INDEX.

LEARNING TO THRIVE

The rest of the memory seems more like the recollection of a hallucination, except with much more clarity. I remember, with no sense of time, being aware of all of the times I had hurt others, even in the smallest way. I was fully aware of all my sins, a concept with which I was totally unfamiliar. I had an overwhelming sense of sorrow and remorse while, at the same time, experienced the peace, calm and security of knowing I was all right. I knew, for the first time in my life, the feeling that came with a sense of forgiveness. It seemed as though the thickest, softest comforter imaginable had swallowed me. Accepting that unconditional forgiveness has continued to be a difficulty. Continue reading ‘Swimming Upstream – an Autobiography (Part 3)’

23
Feb
09

Swimming Upstream – an Autobiography (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1 – Learning to Learn. Or go to INDEX.

LEARNING TO LIVE

The first few years in Ohio were emotionally devastating for my mother. We lived in abject poverty even by our standards, my mother’s family proved to be more dysfunctional than our own, and work, except for the lowest paid positions, was tough for her to find. I began working before and after school to help out, lying about my age to avoid problems. I also found my missing childhood. My ‘toys’ were different than anyone had hoped, but they succeeded in dulling the pain. By sixteen I drank constantly, was addicted to speed, and had forced my mother to seek a community more conducive to a normal childhood. We moved to Newark, Ohio during my junior year. The school administrators were a little worried about my record, but seemed encouraged by my high grade point average. I graduated in possession of a full scholarship from OSU, twenty-five credits when seventeen were needed, damage from a heart attack I suffered during a speed overdose, and a new addiction to qualudes, which the doctor prescribed for “sleeping problems”. I also held the school record for drinking the most beers in a single sitting. Life was good. Continue reading ‘Swimming Upstream – an Autobiography (Part 2)’

23
Feb
09

Swimming Upstream – an Autobiography (Part 1)

I was tempted to call this “Nobody’s Autobiography”, but thought that may be just too self-deprecating. I love autobiographies – not of famous people – just of ordinary people with ordinary lives. They reveal details about the individual to which most people can relate – rather than the larger-than-life situations of the rich or famous that, if digested, lead to hero worship and fantasy. A good autobiography, it seems to me, is less concerned with fact and more concerned with perception. It is entirely plausible, then, that an autobiography may not be factual down to the last jot and tiddle, but reveals truly how an individual perceives themselves and the memories of their lives. In that respect, it is a more accurate portrayal of someone’s life than an encyclopedia entry would be.

There is an ego trip involved in posting an autobiography, I suppose. I mean, why would I think anyone would care? Well, I am supposing there are others out there like me, who find the famous boring and the mundane interesting. I also think that, while we are each individual, there are commonalities to people’s stories that give cause for community building and empathy. Anyway, as egomaniacal as it may or may not seem, the following portions are the snippets of my life thus far that I consider integral to who and what I am at this moment in time. Continue reading ‘Swimming Upstream – an Autobiography (Part 1)’




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That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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