Apropos of our earlier post on whether there are gays in the SEALs and special forces generally, TPM Reader MT sends in the following …
My wife had a friend in college who was ex-Navy, but was generally pretty vague about what he did in the service. He was also pretty vague about the circumstances of his leaving the service (was he just done, or was he kicked out?), but he was gay and out. Well, as out as a fairly private person in 1990s Mississippi would be. Anyway, their town had just one gay bar, and there was a rash of gay bashings happening. The gang was making plans one Friday night, and he demurred, saying “I think I’m going to go downtown tonight.”
The next day, campus was buzzing about the six frat guys that had ended up in the hospital after a “fight” outside the gay bar. The lone assailant was not named or charged. When asked what he did that night, my wife’s friend just said, “Walked a few friends home.”
That’s all just to say that, yes, there are and have been gay SEALs.
“You see, there is no shame in unbelief. In fact, if you are struggling with your faith it’s probably just your turn. The Western individualism in our culture has really done a number on us convincing us that faith is something we must possess in sufficient quantity as individuals, when in fact faith has always been a team sport. When Jesus Said “Where two or more are gathered I am with you” I don’t think it meant that like a diva Jesus needs a guaranteed minimum audience before showing up. I think it means that we bear Christ to one another. That we hold the faith on one another’s behalf. That faith is never given in sufficient quantity to individuals it’s given in sufficient quantity to the community. This is what being a people of The Book, people of The Story is all about.”—Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, sermon for Advent 3.
“For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.”—C. S. Lewis, in “A Lost Chapter from Herodotus”
“Many of those people would be in their late-forties to late-sixties (as are Pastor N’s children) now and, since those generations are largely absent from our congregation, I’m dying to ask the question, “Where are they now?” I have asked it a few times, only to experience folks avoiding any real answer. Based on what I’ve pieced together, he was good at what his son calls “evangelism,” in that he brought people to the font. The congregation, however, was not so good at providing ongoing care for them as they became teenagers, young adults, and young families.”—From a blog post suggested by my Google Reader, written by Beth, an ELCA pastor. The post addresses the demands and critiques by a certain member in her congregation, and the changing meaning of “evangelism”
“God did not wait till we as the human race got our collective crap together before joining us in the difficult reality of being human. God didn’t just plop God’s self down into a Nostalgic Norman Rockwell painting but entered a world as violent and dangerous as our own. And the weird thing is that God did this heart breaking thing to be with us. Even those who will crucify him. Even Herod. Because the fact is that God is continually breaking our hearts so that the true nature of God can be known – so that in breaking our hearts God can replace them with God’s own.”—Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber’s sermon on the Slaughter of the Innocents.
People keep asking me this question: “So, are you ready for Christmas?”. What does this mean exactly? It could mean:
So, have you exchanged bits of paper and metal and plastic for other bits of paper and metal and plastic and then wrapped the new paper and metal and plastic in colored paper, marked them with the names of your family members and put them under a tree which has been cut down from where it grows but now stands in your home (or is also comprised of metal and plastic and lives the rest of the year in a box in a room under which it now stands)? And have you also combined food stuffs so that they have no nutritional value but make those who eat them magically become bigger each day that they are ‘getting ready for Christmas’?
Or does the question “So, are you ready for Christmas?” mean,
So, are you fully prepared to receive the one who brings God to humans and humans to God by being both human and God?
“We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustices that occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our message, in our entire way of configuring the Christian being, that allowed such a thing to occur. We must find a new determination in faith and goodness.”—Pope Benedict, on the sexual abuse scandal.
I have always argued that churches are best to not be goal-oriented, that they should be free of vision. In my opinion, this is the healthiest church.
If a church has vision and is goal-oriented, then it has deviated from its healthiest self and will impose burdens on its members. It will have become something else… like a lobbying group, an activist group, a missional group, or something other than just a church. It can still call itself a church. But it should admit it has opted for a utilitarian identity rather than just accepting its identity. A church will have to choose to be utilitarian or just be. It can’t be both.
In other words, churches should be pointless. Pointless like my family is pointless. My family is not without its problems and issues, but it is a vibrant, rich, joyful and dynamic community. But it is completely pointless. It doesn’t mean things don’t happen or that we haven’t had an affect on others or the world. But we are pointless. We’re not even intentionally pointless. We are just pointless. And I love it for that. That’s why I love to go home every day and just be, just relax, just love and be loved.
We burned our old tapes (which is what we listened to back in those days) and went to the Christian albums. We were often sadly disappointed. They just didn’t sound like Metallica. As a friend of mine quipped: “All these Christian artists say, ‘God gave me this song,’ and then you listen to it and know why God gave it away.”
I later learned that Christian art doesn’t have to be a mediocre counterfeit of the original. And, I learned that Christianity is not about conforming to the world, but about being transformed by a God who is crazy about the poor, fond of toppling the powerful, and raising the lowly.
1. Practice noticing who’s in the room at meetings – how many men, how many women, how many white people, how many people of color, is it majority heterosexual, are there out queers, what are people’s class backgrounds. Don’t assume to know people, but also work at being more aware.
2a. Count how many times you speak and keep track of how long you speak.
2b. Count how many times other people speak and keep track of how long they speak.
3. Be conscious of how often you are actively listening to what other people are saying as opposed to just waiting your turn and/or thinking about what you’ll say next.
4. Practice going to meetings focused on listening and learning; go to some meetings and do not speak at all.
5a. Count how many times you put ideas out to the group.
5b. Count how many times you support other people’s ideas for the group.
6. Practice supporting people by asking them to expand on ideas and get more in-depth, before you decide to support the idea or not.
7a. Think about whose work and contribution to the group gets recognized.
7b. Practice recognizing more people for the work they do and try to do it more often.
8. Practice asking more people what they think about meetings, ideas, actions, strategy and vision. White guys tend to talk amongst themselves and develop strong bonds that manifest in organizing. This creates an internal organizing culture that is alienating for most people. Developing respect and solidarity across race, class, gender and sexuality is complex and difficult, but absolutely critical – and liberating.
9. Be aware of how often you ask people to do something as opposed to asking other people “what needs to be done”.
10. Think about and struggle with the saying, “you will be needed in the movement when you realize that you are not needed in the movement”.
11. Struggle with and work with the model of group leadership that says that the responsibility of leaders is to help develop more leaders, and think about what this means to you.
12. Remember that social change is a process, and that our individual transformation and individual liberation is intimately interconnected with social transformation and social liberation. Life is profoundly complex and there are many contradictions. Remember that the path we travel is guided by love, dignity and respect – even when it is bumpy and difficult to navigate.
13. This list is not limited to white guys, nor is it intended to reduce all white guys into one category. This list is intended to disrupt patterns of domination which hurt our movement and hurt each other. White guys have a lot of work to do, but it is the kind of work that makes life worth living.
14. Day-to-day patterns of domination are the glue that maintain systems of domination. The struggle against capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism and the state, is also the struggle towards collective liberation.
“There are many of you in this congregation who think to yourselves: “If only I had been there! How quick I would have been to help the Baby!” … You say that because you know how great Christ is, but if you had been there at that time you would have done no better than the people of Bethlehem. Why don’t you do it now? You have Christ in your neighbor. You ought to serve him, for what you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord Christ himself.”—
Kings in purple curtains
with crowns from last years crackers
Proud kings, shy kings,
loud and quiet kings
with packages wrapped
in velvet or shiny paper
or tossed about
to be presented
to a mother
whose head dress has come adrift
and who holds her baby upside down
while her husband smiles mischievously
distracted by the angelic throng
of tutu-clad nursery children
with sparkling wands
bringing Good News to all.
The scuffle between the camel and the sheep
is soon forgotten
as these angel voices strike up
“Away in a manger”.
And the adults, with a tear in their eye
think they have truly seen portrayed
the Christmas story.
Is it any wonder
we think of this baby God
as benign and ineffective
born in such cloying sentimentality?
Divorced from the reality
of crushing poverty
and oppressive regime.
Ignoring the fears of a pregnant teenager
giving birth and then taking to the road
with her partner
not much older.
The angels that visited them
were scary, not cute.
And the kings - well meaning
but almost got them killed.
No wonder baby Jesus
grew up tough
and still hangs out
with the poor and exiled
in our communities
and cries at what we have done
to the Christmas story.
Kristi’s choir had a gig at the Guthrie, singing carols in the lobby before A Christmas Carol and 39 Steps started. Afterwards we went out to Spill the Wine, and I met her director and his wife. His wife’s an Ole, a music education major, and an Ole Choir graduate. It was pretty much impossible for us not to get along. We did a little reminiscing about choir, and Dr. Armstrong, and such. It was cute in a music nerdy way.
Then suddenly the conversation shifted, and I found myself in a middle of a methodological explanation (on three glasses of wine…hurrr) of my call and what it means for me, for Kristi, for us, and for the church.
Herein lies an interesting filter through which to pass every status update/post/tweet/submission: “If I was sitting and having coffee with these friends right now, would we actually bother talking about this? Does it matter?” If it doesn’t matter enough to warrant thoughtful, reflective conversation, then what value does it hold, exactly?
Typically wonderful insight from James.
I think most of my various online stuff actually passes this criterion, but maybe that’s more commentary on the quality of my coffee shop talk. Not every conversation is deep, though, and they don’t all need to be.
“With no marketing, no push, and no fanfare, somehow hundreds of willing donors have come forward to send 650 gift cards to people in need. Many people who wanted to contribute a $30 card came back and told me that instead they gave $50 or $100 or $200. As of right now over $22,000 has been sent out in small electronic chunks all over the world to make Christmas a small bit brighter for a complete stranger. People have contributed in (and have been helped in) America, Canada, England, Germany, Australia, Asia…and they continue to help. Every time we get down to our last donor someone else steps forward. I wish I could share all the emails from people who felt that this gave them the hope to get through the next year and the strength to keep looking for a job or a place to work because they now had faith that people cared. There were even some who admitted later that they were considering suicide until this gave them hope. Some of those people considering suicide? Were the donors. Some felt isolated and depressed in the holiday season and being able to have someone somewhere count on them made them feel connected and less alone. I know just how they feel.”—Check it out. It is beyond words.
Hebrew final cancelled. Paper on ministry with queer youth submitted. Mark final emailed. Systematic theology essay sitting on my hard drive, to be printed and turned in tomorrow.
And suddenly my first semester of seminary is over.
It’s a little anticlimactic; I finished the very final paper alone in my apartment, with Kristi at work and Oliver asleep in his cat cube. I’ll drive to campus tomorrow to turn it in, but I don’t know if I’ll see anyone.
I feel extraordinarily ambivalent.
It is fitting, I think, for me to feel torn at this moment. Life back in school has been a total subversion of all my unconscious expectations about school.
I had, to begin with, no idea what I was going to learn this year, and not even an inkling of how much.
I had no idea how many heart would swell and ache in daily worship with excitement and joy.
I had no idea (although I might have guessed) how great a support Kristi would be to me, how accommodating and loving and compassionate in my times of overwork, undersleep, and stress.
I had no idea when I finally turned that application in last March that I was going to have moments where I felt totally alone.
I had completely forgotten how hard it was that first semester at Olaf, when I was eighteen and completely redefining myself after spending so many years as a sick girl. If I loved my Olaf friends four months ago, I love them so much more now - for simply being the amazing people they are, and radically allowing me to participate in that and to grow and celebrate and laugh and cry and dance with them.
Now I have begun to add new friends to this community that I rely on for strength, joy, and celebration.
I had no idea how many amazing people I would meet this semester. Perhaps abstractly I knew that G-d sometimes calls incredible, gifted, wondrous individuals to serve the church. But I had no real concrete expectations for how amazing and diverse the student body at Luther Seminary would be.
If I have any confidence in my call, I have so much more in theirs.
If I am excited to be a part of the church, so much more now am I to be when I see the leaders that G-d has called.
I have loved this semester because it is absolutely where I should be right now. And I am very pleased to be done with finals and to know that the next two weeks are at my leisure (well…except for the Christmas pageant, the December 26th sermon, the confirmation retreat, and the Peace With Justice Congregations project…)
But part of me is not eager for one-sixth (yes, even just one-sixth) of my seminary education to be over.
And part of me is so terrified to even think about going into the world and living out what I am learning.
Yet so much of me is so excited, and so amazed, by the blessing of the other students around me. I believe that Christ is coming and G-d’s kingdom is about to break in solely because of their dedication, their compassion, and their brilliance.
Here is a list of what Fox News viewers believe that just ain’t so:
91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)
The conclusion is inescapable. Fox News is deliberately misinforming its viewers and it is doing so for a reason. Every issue above is one in which the Republican Party had a vested interest. The GOP benefited from the ignorance that Fox News helped to proliferate. The results were apparent in the election last month as voters based their decisions on demonstrably false information fed to them by Fox News.
This would be funny except it’s MONKEY-FIGHTING TRAGIC.
“We work and goof off, we love and dream, we have wonderful times and awful times, are cruelly hurt and hurt others cruelly, get mad and bored and scared stiff and ache with desire, do all such human things as these, and if our faith is not mainly just window dressing or a rabbit’s foot or fire insurance, it is because it grows out of precisely this kind of rich human compost. The [G-d] of biblical faith is the [G-d] who meets us at those moments in which for better or for worse we are being most human, most ourselves…”—
First off, this post should be automatically reblogged by followers. I don’t care if you read it before you reblog it or after you do so, just start off by reblogging it. I also encourage you to suggest to your followers to reblog this post also.
The UN vote to take sexual orientation off of the list of discriminatory grounds for execution has passed. You want a translation? Countries within the UN, which for the past 10 years couldn’t, now can execute someone just because of their sexual orientation.
Thankfully (and somewhat amazingly) the US stepped up to say “Oh no you didn’t.” Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, introduced an amendment on Friday, saying:
“Around the world, laws that criminalize gay relationships don’t just violate human rights. They hinder social cohesion, economic development, and public health. They reduce trust and cooperation among nations,” Rice said in her speech.
“So the United States will work together with our fellow Core Group members to urge countries that still have such laws to repeal them. And I hope we will all work together to develop a sustained, serious plan of action to decriminalize homosexuality around this world that we share.”
“Above all we must turn our eyes to the image of Jesus Christ’s own body - the one who became human, was crucified, and is risen. In the body of Christ, God is united with humankind, all humanity is accepted by God, and the world is reconciled to God… THERE IS NO PART OF THE WORLD, NO MATTER HOW LOST, NO MATTER HOW GODLESS, THAT HAS NOT BEEN ACCEPTED BY GOD IN JESUS CHRIST AND RECONCILED TO GOD. Whoever perceives the body of Jesus Christ in faith can no longer speak of the world as if it were lost, as if it were separated from God; they can no longer separate themselves in clerical pride from the world… It is nothing but unbelief to give the world… less than Christ. It means denying the body of Christ.”—
“It’s OK if it’s impossible; it’s OK! Now I’m going to speak to you as organizers. Listen carefully. The object is not to win. That’s not the objective. The object is to do the right and good thing. If you decide not to do anything, because it’s too hard or too impossible, then nothing will be done, and when you’re on your death bed, you’re gonna say, “I wish I had done something. But if you go and do the right thing NOW, and you do it long enough “good things will happen—something’s gonna happen.”—Bill Moyers, quoting Baldema Valesquez, in his speech delivered October 29, 2010 as part of the Howard Zinn Lecture Series at Boston University.
“One time on Hollywood Boulevard I saw a young girl with a baby. It was a crisp winter morning & her hair shone dark purple in the sun. She was panhandling outside the Holiday Inn & the door clerk came out & told her to be on her way & I wondered if anyone would recognize the Christ child if they happened to meet. I remember thinking it’s not like there are any published pictures & purple seemed like a good color for a Madonna so I gave her a dollar just in case.”—
My theological foundations statement on queer youth ministry - so far.
“God’s kind of a jerk, isn’t he? I mean, he makes me gay,
then has his followers going around telling me it’s something I chose,
as if someone would choose to be mocked every single day of their life.”
- Kurt Hummel, “Grilled Cheesus,” Glee
Justin Aaberg, age 15.1 Billy Lucas, age 15.2 Cody Barker, age 17.3 Tyler Clementi, age 18.4Asher Brown, age13.5 Seth Walsh, age 13.6Raymond Chase, age 19.7 Zach Harrington, age 19.8
They are all dead. And they were all gay.
For a few short weeks in the fall of 2010, the torment of being young and queer9 in America pierced the general cognizance of the nation. The suicides of six gay youth within twenty days of each other rocketed queer-related bullying to the top of news sources and social media. Dan Savage, author of the syndicated relationship and sex advice column Savage Love, launched a website called the It Gets Better Project, dedicated to providing a space for “openly gay adults and mentors” to tell LGBT youth that “yes, it does indeed get better.”10 Other organizations dedicated to suicide prevention, social justice advocacy, and ally empowerment sprang up – including the Give a Damn Project11, the Make It Better Project12, and the slightly angry FCKH813. The storyline for Glee, a FOX musical comedy-drama television show about a high school show choir, began featuring Kurt Hummel’s coming out and experiences of bullying more prominently. The Trevor Project, which since 1998 has sponsored a twenty-four hour crisis intervention hotline and online communities for LGBTQ youth, saw a fifty percent rise in calls to its crisis line.14 On October 20th, across the nation, allies wore purple for Spirit Day, in memory of those who had committed suicide and in solidarity with those who continued to suffer.
Secular response to the crisis was clear and decisive: this cannot continue. Religious response, however, was mixed. Some Christian public leaders recorded videos for It Gets Better (including Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA, and Oral Roberts’ gay grandson Randy Roberts Potts), along with some individual churches. Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine, along with other staff members, wrote articles against bullying and in support and welcome of the queer community.15 Yet other public voices denied any church culpability. Tony Perkin’s guest piece in the Washington Post insisted that “few, if any, such bullies are people who regularly attend church” and used the suicides as support for the view of homosexuality as “a behavior that is harmful to the people who engage in it and to society at large”.16 When Exodus International, the world’s largest ex-gay ministry, chose not to sponsor the National Day of Truth in 2010 (in large part due to the recent suicides), Focus on the Family stepped in as the new sponsor, renaming it the Day of Dialogue and naming their hope of “ensur[ing] that Christian students feel comfortable having the opportunity to bring their view of [G-d]’s design for sexuality.”17
“Queer people know what it’s like to be slaves in Egypt. We know what it’s like to hear of the promise of freedom in the Promised Land; we know how scary it is to step out and leave Egypt [by] leaving the closet; and we know what it’s like to wander in the wilderness for forty years and wonder why it’s taking so long.”—
Bishop Gene Robinson, October 11, 2004, in “Gay Bishop Dismisses Anglican Report,” Washington Times. Quoted in Ministry Among [G-d]’s Queer Folk: LGBT Pastoral Care, by David Kundtz and Bernard Schlager, from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry. The authors add:
"Long a favorite of queer Jews and Christians who identify with this profound example of divine deliverance from human oppression, the Exodus reminds us of the power of faithful risk-taking in the face of overwhelming odds."
“The Republican minority on Thursday prevented a vote to allow gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly in the military of the United States. … And in an unrelated but no less callous move, they blocked consideration of help for tens of thousands of emergency workers and volunteers who became ill from the ground zero cleanup after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. …The defense bill would also have raised pay for soldiers, improved their medical care and provided troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with additional equipment and support. It would be the first time in 48 years that Congress did not approve such a bill — all because of an irrational prejudice against gay men and lesbians.”—
“CORE gave birth to its own denomination, the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) in August. Since then, over half the posts on the CORE blog continue to be harsh criticisms of the ELCA. One would think that the business of starting a new denomination would be their core focus going forward, but it seems CORE just can’t break their habit of ELCA bashing. Is antipathy toward another Lutheran and Christian denomination their core reason for existence?”—