Archives for December 2012

Christmas Courage

Today is Christmas. It’s the day when christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the one who came into the world to welcome the marginalized, overthrow the empire, and bring us all to wholeness.

 

This year I am spending Christmas with my family for the first time in several years. I love my family dearly but this trip is always fraught with tension and stress. My mom has refused to tell my siblings about my transition and so everyone uses the wrong pronouns for me. There is an undercurrent of shame throughout some of our interactions and I have trouble not internalizing that shame. I’ve been taking time in the evening to jump on twitter and reconnect with people who understand and to remind myself of who I am. But it has been hard to feel like I can only bring part of myself to the table. I can’t talk about my ordination, I can’t talk about the work that is dearest to my heart, I can’t even talk about my love of Catholicism because that’s not the “right” kind of Christianity.I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day_thumb[4]

 

Today I need to hear the following and I offer it to all of the people who might be in the same boat. Know I stand in solidarity with you and offer you love and support and these words:

 

You are amazing. You are a beloved child of God. You are worthy of love and respect. You are fabulous. Your queerness and/or trans*ness is NOTHING to be ashamed of, in fact, it is something to be celebrated and treasured.

 

Your spiritual path is your own and if you find meaning in it, that is enough. Even if your family says you are a heretic or sinful, those words don’t apply to you. If you can, let them roll off your back and embrace your journey. Know that your path is wonderful and blessed.

 

You have nothing to be ashamed about. Your families’ unwillingness (or willingness) to accept your identity or spirituality has nothing to do with you. Their shame is their own; don’t let it make you feel ashamed of yourself. Hold your head high, be proud of who you are. Look in the mirror and call yourself beautiful or handsome or whatever word feels right to you.

 

Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Tweet at the dinner table, sneak off to connect with chosen family on Facebook, send a text message or make a phone call. Be kind to yourself. Don’t let the ugly thoughts in your mind make you feel badly about yourself.

 

I love you.

 

 

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Weekly Bookshelf

When I go into someone’s house or apartment for the first time, I find myself especially drawn to their bookshelves. I want to see the books that they read and the ones they have on display. I like to know which ones have mattered enough to keep, which ones are dogeared and worn, and which are on the stack to be read next.

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This week I read G-Dog and the Homeboys: Father Greg Boyle and the Gangs of East Los Angeles by Celeste Fremon. It’s the story of a young Jesuit priest who, in the 90’s, was sent to East Los Angeles and started working with the young men in the city who were in gangs. Fremon was a reporter who followed Father Greg around for two years reporting on his work and eventually joining him in it for a time.

 

There was a lot about this book that I liked. Fremon’s narrative is compelling and since this is the third printing of the book you get a long range view of Father Greg’s work and the change that has happened in the lives of many of the young men he worked with.

 

There is some “white saviour” to the narrative, but I appreciated that Fremon named that (and her place in it) throughout the book. I also wish there would have been more about Father Greg, more about what drives him and his interior life.

 

Overall, though, I appreciated this story and appreciated the way the book is bookended with highlights about where the people are now and how their lives have changed.

 

What are you reading these days?

*All links go to my Amazon affiliate page. If you purchase something I get like a buck.*

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It’s a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.

Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

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Rituals for Resistance: Cells

This is part of a series: Rituals for Resistance. If we take seriously the idea that churches are to be base communities for resistance then our rituals as communities should strengthen us for the work of resisting the dominant narratives of the United States. I want to think through some of the things a lot of church communities already do and reframe them as tools for resistance. If you’ve missed any, you can catch up!

 

When I was in high school, small groups were the big thing in our youth group. You were assigned to a small group based on your gender. We met weekly to talk about the Bible and pray for one another. Each week I knew there was going to be a group of people that would pray for me, would check in with me to see how I was doing, and would be committed to following in the way of Jesus with me. It was a powerful time. cells

 

As I started thinking about the model for House of the Transfiguration I started thinking about the programming that would be necessary to live out our vision and I came back to the idea of the house groups. I miss having a group of people that cares about me, that encourages me to do better, and that holds me accountable. I think it’s important to have that kind of community in place, especially if one wants to follow in the way of Jesus in the empire of the United States.

 

In our model people will join in groups based on the neighborhood they live in. It’s important that you be able to gather with people who live in proximity to you. It needs to be easy to get to your group. But it also means that if someone in your group needs something, there are people close by who can step in to help. These groups will gather in someone’s house around a meal. Groups will be for community, accountability, and encouragement.

 

I think the accountability part is really key here: we need to have people in our lives who really know us and who can help us to see things about ourselves that we can’t see. And we need people to walk with us to help us achieve the goals we set for ourselves. Sometimes I need someone to ask me if I have been spending time in prayer, or making sure that I journal, or whatever it is that I need to do to make sure that I am working on my spiritual life. But even more than that, I think it’s helpful to have people to walk along side of who share your values and who can encourage you. Maybe everyone in the group wants to make a commitment to shop locally, or to volunteer at a local organization, or to pick up trash in the neighborhood. Having a cell group that is all centered in one neighborhood means you can encourage one another to do these things.

 

This is also more than just gathering with a group of friends for social time. It’s a group that is focused on meeting regularly and caring for one another. Friends can get busy and before you know it it’s been a month since you’ve seen each other. Or maybe you’ll hang out but the stuff you’re thinking through or struggling with won’t come up. It helps to be intentional about the reason that you’re meeting and make sure that it’s regular and consistent.

 

Maybe you don’t have a church that you feel comfortable in, or maybe your church doesn’t have house groups or hold different values when it comes to social issues. Can you gather a group of friends that will commit to eating together and supporting one another in a more intentional way?

 

We can’t do this alone.

 

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? We’ve only got 11 days left to raise the rest of the amount!

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Collars and Queers

The other day, at the request of one of the Fathers in the Old Catholic church, I put the following on our Facebook page: “Please pray for our Seminarians, as they take the next step in their preparation for the Priesthood. Pray that the Lord will continue to send workers for the vineyard.” It seems like a simple request and lots of people “liked” the post and a couple commented. But then someone wrote “And pray that they don’t become child molesters”.  I was caught off guard by the comment.

collar1

 

When I came out to my mom she told me that my being queer was the same thing as my step-father having an affair. I have been told that my “choices” have “consequences” with the insinuation being that my queerness hurts other people.

 

Tony Perkins basically claimed that the sexual abuse scandal in the Boy Scouts was because of gay men and many people have made the same claim about the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic church.

 

As I began to be perceived correctly as male I quickly realized that when I smiled at a child in a store what was once seen as innocuous now carried a hint of threat. My talking to small children was no longer welcomed.

 

I have struggled with all of this. I work with youth, I have small siblings that I adore, I love little kids. I like to smile and wave at little kids on the bus, make funny faces and place peek-a-boo with babies in strollers, coo and grin, and I feel like I can no longer do those things; or I have to be incredibly cautious when I do them lest I be seen as threatening. It makes me angry. And sad.

 

I am pissed (and pissed isn’t even a strong enough word) at the priests who have violated the trust of children and families, pissed at them for taking advantage. I am pissed at the priests who have dishonored the collar and pissed at the Bishops who covered it up and created a space that allowed it to happen to more children.

 

I am angry at the people who use the abusers to blame and scapegoat queer people. I am angry at all of the people who think that queer people are sexual deviants, sinners, or predators. I am angry that instead of figuring out who the actual abusers are and getting them the help they need that we instead scapegoat queer people.

 

I am angry that as a queer priest I will always been seen as a double threat, both for being a priest and also for my queerness. It makes me sad that I have to worry about greeting children, that I can’t be myself.

 

I have wondered whether or not I should even wear the collar. Maybe the symbol is too tarnished, maybe too much evil has been done by people who wear the collar to ever reclaim it. I often feel the same about Christianity in general. With so much harmful history and so many people continuing to say harmful things in the name of the church and Christ, I sometimes wonder if we’d be better off just packing it all in. But there is something within me, and within this tradition, that doesn’t allow me to give up so easily.

 

I want to reclaim the priesthood. I want to reclaim the image of the Priest as the person who shows up when you are in need, who helps to craft rituals that bring life meaning, who walks with people in their lives and spiritual journeys. I want to take back the collar as a sign of hope and blessing.

 

I want to reclaim the idea that priests are people who can be trusted; I want to earn the trust of people. I want people to begin to see the collar as something trustworthy again, as a symbol of something good.

 

It means, though, that I have to work twice as hard to be above reproach. Things that would be seen as innocent with other people will be seen as threatening when coming from me. I have to make sure that I am always aware of how I am coming across to people. Most days I am able to be pragmatic about it, realizing that it is simple the way the world is; other days I find it frustrating and hurtful.

 

I try to look for the empowering in all of it. It matters that a queer person is wearing the clergy collar. It matters that a queer person will be ordained as a priest. It matters that queer people know that these symbols, this church, this religion is for us as well. We queer people are priests. We are ministers of the Word and Sacrament. No matter what you say about us or how you try to pin your sin upon us we know that we are worthy and we have a place in this church.

 

I will wear the collar and I will earn the trust of people. I will work to reclaim both the symbol and the church and work to make it a place that is safe for all people.

 

The church and these symbols don’t solely belong to the people in power. They don’t only belong to the people who get the press, who get on tv or who get published. They belong to you and me as well. They belong to the queer people who have been silenced or kicked out, they belong to those of us who have clung to the faith even though we have had every reason to toss it away. This is our church, our faith.

 

It’s time we claim it.

 
There is only 14 days left! Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It’s a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.

Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

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Weekly Bookshelf

When I go into someone’s house or apartment for the first time, I find myself especially drawn to their bookshelves. I want to see the books that they read and the ones they have on display. I like to know which ones have mattered enough to keep, which ones are dogeared and worn, and which are on the stack to be read next.

IMG_1140

 

* I finally finished reading Patrick: Son of Ireland by Stephen R. Lawhead. This book has been sitting on my shelf for years and I just never got around to reading it. It’s an historical novel about the early life of St. Patrick. Not much is known about him and so this is definitely a work of fiction. Lawhead invents quite a backstory and his writing is, once again, wonderful.

 

I honestly don’t know much about St. Patrick and this book didn’t really help with that. It pretty much ends right as he converts which I was a bit disappointed with. I wanted to know more about his life as a priest and his mission to Ireland. However, that fault is with my expectations and not with the book itself. It’s definitely a wonderfully written book even if it wasn’t what I was expecting.

 

* I finished reading the Bible! I read the CEB Common English Compact Thin Bible Bonded EcoLeather Black. I started in January and read Genesis through Revelation. I had a great iphone app that kept track for me and it came out to about three chapters a day. I had never read the Bible straight through before and it was the first time I had spent a lot of time in the Bible since leaving the fundy church of my childhood. I found it to be a very helpful exercise. While I know the Bible quite well because of my upbringing I was able to engage it with new eyes.

 

I appreciated the CEB for it’s readability and for the most part I really enjoyed the translation. Some of the translations of the passages about sexuality (particularly the one in 1 Timothy) were really bad which was frustrating, but overall I would recommend this version for someone who wants readability without a right wing bias (like the New International Version).

 

One of the things that really stuck out to me on this read through was how interested God is in the marginalized and the oppressed. It isn’t just in the Newer Testament or in the words of Jesus; it is through the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation. The idea that God will overthrow the powerful, the mighty, and the wealthy cannot be avoided. It makes me wonder where we got the “nice” Gospel that we keep teaching in our mainline (and other) churches that say grace is free and wonderful and you don’t have to change a bit (except maybe to be more holy). I don’t really see that message much in Scripture. And you have to ignore a WHOLE LOT of other stuff in order to make that the main message of the Bible. Lots to think about.

 

I think in the New Year I am going to work through the Newer Testament in the order it was written. I picked up Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written by Marcus Borg and I am excited to read that. I also want to check out A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts when it comes out in March. One of my seminary professors was the editor and it looks great.

 

What are you reading these days? Any particular books you are hoping to get under the Christmas tree this year?

*All links go to my Amazon affiliate page. If you purchase something I get like a buck.*

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It’s a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.

Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Check out Desire Map:

Rituals For Resistance: Eucharist (part three)

This is part of a series: Rituals for Resistance. If we take seriously the idea that churches are to be base communities for resistance then our rituals as communities should strengthen us for the work of resisting the dominant narratives of the United States. I want to think through some of the things a lot of church communities already do and reframe them as tools for resistance. If you’ve missed any, you can catch up!

 

I think one of the most interesting/vital rituals that the church has is the Eucharist. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been looking at the Eucharist and the ways in which it can become a ritual for resistance. In week one I shared some of my experiences with the eucharist while I was growing up. I shared how the way we did communion always made me feel anxious and unworthy and not at all part of the community. Last week I talked about the idea of the “open table” and how claiming our place at the table as queer people can be an act of resistance. I ended the post by asking the question:

 

What happens when we are asked to eat with our oppressors?

 

Sometimes, when I think about going to the Eucharist table, I don’t want to eat with my oppressors. I don’t want to have to pretend that everything is all right so that we can all have a nice spiritual moment together. This isn’t about personal injury; a singular insult or wronging, but about systemic and ongoing oppressive behaviour. I don’t want to be in fellowship with people who have abused (and continue to) abuse me. Often we make church (and therefore the Eucharist as well) into a place where vague notions of “love” and “community” override justice. We make “forgiveness” the word of the day without also requiring change on the part of the person who has done the injuring. We put the onus of making things right on the oppressed and we guilt trip people who have been hurt when they say they are not ready to be in communion yet. We’ve turned forgiveness into an easy apology that requires nothing of the person saying it, but that requires everything of the person receiving it. It should be the other way around. This reconciliation shouldn’t be about making the person who has done the bad thing feel better; it should be about making amends and making a change so that the injury doesn’t happen again. broken_table_image

 

So what about that open table? Should I be required to eat with my oppressors? Should I be forced to break bread with Fred Phelps or with people who have called me horrific names? Should I eat with people who deny my humanity? Who say that I don’t belong in the church? People who would do violence to me if given the chance?

 

In William T. Cavanuagh’s book Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ (Challenges in Contemporary Theology) he talks about the situation in Chile where the government tortured and disappeared thousands of people. Many of the people who were doing the torturing (or who were commanding it be done) were Catholic and belonged to the church. In his book he describes the act of torture as an “anti-liturgy”. It is designed to capture both the imagination of people and the soul of people; designed to make them feel powerless before the state. In Chile people knew that torture was happening, but since the people being tortured were then being disappeared people were kept in a state of suspense. He says about those disappearances, “The effect on rival bodies such as the church is to disappear them by breaking them up into individual units easily subjected to the state’s discipline and written into its performance. In this contest over bodies, both individual and social, Christian resistance will depend on having a visible body, that is, a counter-discipline and counter-performance.” (page 58) The state, when disappearing people, “work(s) to refuse a visible body to the church by denying it the possibility of martyrs, those who keep alive the subversive memory of Christ through their public witness, and thus make the body of Christ visible.(page 58)

 

He then goes on to say that when the liturgy of the church is performed it is a “re-membering” of the body of Christ. The act of participating in the Eucharist is a way to overcome the power of torture. “Torture creates fearful and isolated bodies, bodies docile to the purposes of the regime; the Eucharist effects the body of Christ, a body marked by resistance to worldly power. Torture creates victims; Eucharist creates witnesses, martyrs. Isolation is overcome in the Eucharist by the building of a communal body which resists the state’s attempts to disappear it.” (pg 206)

 

He says that one of the ways the church was able to resist the power of the regime was to deny the Eucharist to people who were doing the torturing and everyone who had knowledge of it or commanded it. In this way the church made visible the broken body.

 

Certainly there are ways that this denial of Eucharist (or other sacraments) can be used to control people. There have been the stories of young people denied confirmation because of their support of gay marriage and people who have been denied the Eucharist because they are queer or support their queer children. Cavanaugh makes it very clear in his book that the act of denying people the Eucharist should never be over political causes, but should be only when one part of the body of Christ is being harmed.

 

He says the when one part of the body is harming another part they have already separated themselves from the body of Christ by their actions. Denying them a place at the Eucharistic table until they have made amends is a way of making visible the separation that is already present. “Excommunication, therefore, is not the expulsion of the sinner from the church, but a recognition that the sinner has already excluded himself from communion in the body of Christ by his own actions.” (pg 243) This isn’t about shaming or punitive action, it is about bringing sin and destruction to light so that reconciliation and restoration can happen.

 

I am a universalist. I believe, with all of my soul, that one day God will bring all people to Godself. I believe that we will all be one body and all will be restored. But I also believe that for that restoration to happen there needs to be reconciliation between people. Reconciliation requires action. I believe that teaching a “feel good” faith is cheap and does everyone a disservice. Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” is often quoted on the idea of “cheap grace”. He says, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” It’s the idea that you can come to the table without making things right with your siblings in Christ. It’s the idea that a tossed off apology, without any real change in attitude or behavior makes everything okay again. Cavanaugh again, “This false unity becomes a way of glossing over the real conflict between oppressors and oppressed.” (pg 261)

 

When we claim that certain people, because of their own actions and the harm they have done to others in the community, don’t have a place at the table, we are trying to live into the ideals of the Kingdom of God; a kingdom where people cannot hurt other people and not have it matter. “The imitation of Christ is not reducible to some principle such as “love,” but is rather a highly skilled performance learned in a disciplined community of virtue by careful attention to the concrete contours of the Christian life and death as borne out by Jesus and the saints.” (page 62) We realize that to be community we must take care of one another and sacrifice for one another, but that doesn’t mean we allow violence (and spiritual violence is violence) to continue unchecked.

 

The church is a witness to the world. A witness to a new way of being and living. Part of that new way of being is the recognition that we are all accountable to (and responsible for) one another. We are one body and we have to take care of our body, making sure that all parts are cared for. It is an act of resistance to say that one part of the body cannot do harm to another part. It is an act of resistance to make visible abusive and hurtful behaviour. It is an act of resistance to refuse to be silenced or injured any longer. An open table that allows abuse to occur unchecked is making a mockery of the body of Christ.

 

If we believe that all will one day be reconciled and restored we must begin to live into that restoration now by holding one another accountable. We cannot allow cheap grace to replace the hard work of reconciliation. (And reconciliation must happen on the timeline and terms of the oppressed.)

 

I do believe that one day I will break bread with Fred Phelps, in fact, I cannot imagine the kingdom of God without Fred at the table.

 

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It’s a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

*links go to my Amazon affiliate page. If you purchase something I get a small commission which helps to fund my ministry.

A Glimpse Inside

I was working on a post for today and I’m just not quite ready to share it yet. Instead I thought I would just share some miscellaneous thoughts and reflections (some frivolous and some more serious).

it is currently very, very cold in Minnesota. We are snuggling for warmth. This is Winifred (but I call her Fred).

it is currently very, very cold in Minnesota. We are snuggling for warmth. This is Winifred (but I call her Fred).

 

* I’m getting ready for my ordination to the Priesthood. It happens in one month and one week. Things are coming together, but there are lot of details still to put into place. The process of planning is teaching me to be more and more comfortable with asking for help. That’s been a theme of my year this year, I think. It’s a good lesson, even when it’s hard.

 

*I am once again shocked at how expensive vestments are. Oof.

 

*In planning events like this, I am reminded of my introversion. I have some wonderful friendships. They are deep and strong. Because of my introversion, though, I have a smaller number of friends. Which means that when some of them can’t come to an event (which I totally get; flying to Minnesota isn’t cheap) it makes it hard to fill a room. I don’t mean this to sound self-pitying, it’s just something I am noticing. There are people who can sneeze and fill a 200 person party; I will never be that person. I have to learn to be okay with that.

 

*Someone shared the following idea on Facebook the other day and I really love it: Start January 1st with an empty jar. As good things happen throughout the year write them on a slip of paper and put them in the jar. On New Year’s Eve read all of the wonderful things that happened. I think I’m going to give this a try this next year.

 

*I am three books away from hitting my 100 books this year goal. It’s been fun. I’m going to share my top ten books later this month. If anyone wants to write a guest post for January with their favorite books of the year, let me know!

 

*Music I am loving these days: Frightened Rabbit, Wakey!Wakey!, Fun., and Matisyahu.

 

*Been thinking a lot about gendered space, the way I move through the world and am perceived, the ways in which men are expected to be and the ways I differ from that. I am very, very thankful for my queerness which has made me think through all of these things and learn how to navigate them. It has also freed me up to be who I am and to worry less about other people’s expectations surrounding gendered behaviour.
*I have been watching “The O.C” and “Supernatural” and really enjoying both.

 

*Been thinking about guest posts. I’d like to host more people here and I’d like to write in other people’s spaces. If you are interested in either, let me know!

 

*I’m heading back east in a little over a week to see my family. I haven’t been with my family on Christmas for the past three years. It will be wonderful to not be alone and to get to see my siblings open their presents.

 

*I got this really awesome calendar and I’m quite excited about it. It lays out the year in the liturgical seasons, including the liturgical colors. Wonderful.

 

What’s been on your mind lately?

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It’s a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Weekly Bookshelf

When I go into someone’s house or apartment for the first time, I find myself especially drawn to their bookshelves. I want to see the books that they read and the ones they have on display. I like to know which ones have mattered enough to keep, which ones are dogeared and worn, and which are on the stack to be read next.

 

* This week I was able to finish In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance edited by Richard A. Horsley. It’s a collection of scholars writing about the ways both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures talk about resistance to Empire. I really enjoyed this book, both for the various authors included and for the wide scope. It was especially helpful for me to read the sections on Hebrew Scripture and the sections on Paul. I found the book to be really accessible. This would be a good primer for someone who was just starting to explore the literature about imperial influence on the Scriptures. If you’ve read a lot of stuff in that vein this might be a bit repetitive, however I still appreciated the way the book moved through the Scriptures chronologically.

 

* Still working my way through the Bible. I’m into the shorter letters now. Still struggling to read Paul. Even as I read essays about Paul in context (like several from the book mentioned above) it is really difficult to strip away years of theology and teaching that was centered on Paul. It’s amazing to me how much of the christianity I grew up with wasn’t really about Jesus, it was about how people were understanding Paul’s view of Jesus. This reclamation is going to take some time.

 

I was struck, however, by the following passage. Something about it really resonated with me and I found it moving and beautiful. I’m still marinating on why I found it so moving, but there is something here for me, in the language of bodies and death, of holding things in our bodies, of being embodied. I’ll have to write more about this sometime in the near future, but for now I’ll share it without further comment.

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (Common English Bible)

7 But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. 8 We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. 9 We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out. 10 We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies. 11 We who are alive are always being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies that are dying. 12 So death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 13 We have the same faithful spirit as what is written in scripture: I had faith, and so I spoke. We also have faith, and so we also speak. 14 We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us into his presence along with you. 15 All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory. 16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. 17 Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison. 18 We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.

What’re you currently reading? Anything on your list that you are just itching to get to? Share any current reads or recommendations in the comments! (I love hearing what other people are reading.)

 

*All links go to my Amazon affiliate page. If you purchase something I get like a buck.*

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It’s a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.

Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Rituals for Resistance: Eucharist (part two)

This is part of a series: Rituals for Resistance. If we take seriously the idea that churches are to be base communities for resistance then our rituals as communities should strengthen us for the work of resisting the dominant narratives of the United States. I want to think through some of the things a lot of church communities already do and reframe them as tools for resistance. If you’ve missed any, you can catch up!

 

I think one of the most interesting/vital rituals that the church has is the Eucharist I want to spend the next several Fridays looking at the Eucharist and the ways in which it can become a ritual for resistance. Last week I shared some of my experiences with the eucharist while I was growing up. I shared how the way we did communion always made me feel anxious and unworthy and not at all part of the community.

 

One of the books that has really impacted my thoughts on the Eucharist is Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality by Richard Beck. Honestly, an amazing book. I’m going to talk about it a little in this post, but really I think you just need to read it.

 

Beck is a psychologist and writes about the psychology of purity and how it affects the way that we do church. His first section talks about how the mind makes things unclean, how, say, if there is even a drop of urine in a swimming pool of red wine, we will think of the entire pool as contaminated. He sees that sin works in much the same way, especially sins that our culture has added a lot of moral weight to (see: all sexual “sins” ever), so that if someone participates in one of those “sins” (I’m using quotes because I don’t think thing like being queer or having queer sex is a sin) then they are forever tainted and become not worthy to be full participants in the life of the church and (in some churches) to partake in the Eucharist.

 

The amazing thing about Beck’s book is how he sees the life of Jesus, particularly in his acts of table fellowship and the Eucharist, to be directly confronting this psychology of disgust. Beck makes the case that Eucharist can be one of the most profound rituals for resistance that the church has by arguing for a completely open table.

 

“What is striking about the gospel accounts is how Jesus reverses negativity dominance. Jesus is, to coin a term, positivity dominant. Contact with Jesus purifies. A missional church embraces this reversal, following Jesus into the world without fears of contamination. But it is important to note that this is a deeply counterintuitive position to take. Nothing in our experience suggests that this should be the case. The missional church will always be swimming against the tide of disgust psychology, always tempted to separate, withdraw, and quarantine.” (page 30)

 

I was first introduced to the idea of an open table when I worked at a United Methodist church and it made me profoundly uncomfortable as I had been son ingrained to think of eating and drinking “unworthily” as being a crime punishable by death (I am not even exaggerating a little). But the Pastor was clear in his invitation, God loved you before you could even love yourself. And God forgave you before you even asked for it. That kind of radical grace was vital to me as a queer young adult who was feeling pushed out of my church and therefore also pushed out of communion with God.

 

The other person who has spoken eloquently about the open table is Sara Miles. She speaks in Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion about walking into a church as an adult and being profoundly affected by taking communion. The church she went to, St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco, preached that the table belongs to God and not the church and therefore it was God’s gift to give away.

 

For queer people it can be a radical act to say that we belong at the table. It can be an act of resistance to go forward and take part in the mystery. And it can be a radical act to open the table to all people, even the ones that society says are “unworthy”. At the Eucharist table we preach a God who welcomes all and when we eat the bread and wine we say that we all belong to the body of God and therefore we are worthy. It is a beautiful thing.

 

But there can be a dark side to the open table; what happens when we are asked to eat with our oppressors? We’ll talk about that next Friday.

Have you had any experiences with the Eucharist that were transformative for you? Please share them in the comments or send me an email!

 

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Radical Living: Sharing

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking out loud and asking questions about what it means to live a radical life. I’m becoming more and more convinced that this life is impossible to live in isolation. As I’ve tried to craft a life that fits with my values I am often unsure how to proceed. As I’ve worked on this new church start I’m often unsure of the strategy. As I think about how to live into a new reality I am often in the dark about where to start. But each time I have managed to find someone else who is a little further along the path.

 

I am convinced of the blessing that happens when we share not only our material things, but also our knowledge, our experiences, our gifts. I appreciate being able to reach out to people who are figuring out how to come out, who are just beginning their transitions, who are trying to reframe their experience with God. I am happy to pass on what I have learned from other people about church planting, finding community on social media, and getting stuff up and going.

 

And yet, I am also convinced that queers, and creatives often allow ourselves to get taken advantage of. We think that we have to give away all of our knowledge, our passion, and our time for free in order to save the world. As a trans* person I have prepared for and given countless trans* 101 workshops, I have responded to emails, I have written letters, all in an effort to educate people. I have answered invasive questions and told my story over and over. While I think that education is important it has often left me feeling like I have been taken advantage of and that I haven’t changed anything. But then I think that it isn’t fair for me to charge for my services, that knowledge should be free, that people should be trained. As I have been working on this new church start I have been learning to become more comfortable with asking people for financial support for the work. I want to give people an opportunity to buy in to what I am doing and to support it. I don’t get offended or hurt if someone says no; I think it’s more important to give them the opportunity. Not only that it is a way of saying to myself that I believe enough in the work I am doing to ask for support to do it.

 

Here’s the thing; I can run myself ragged trying to help everyone. I can give my time and my story away to people. I can show up for free to events and provide eduction while other people get paid to speak. I can answer questions that don’t feel good in an attempt to be helpful. And sometimes that leaves me feeling bitter and resentful. So how do I strike a balance? I figure out who can afford to pay and who can’t. I figure out which work nourishes my soul and which work leaves me feeling depleted. I’m more willing to offer the soul nourishing work for free. We give away what we can without allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of. And sometimes we break our own rules. I do a lot of talking and sharing with people one on one to simply be a resource and to give them someone to walk the path with; and I offer my skills as a paid professional to groups and organizations. I am also learning when to say no. When to bow out of battles. When to refuse to give away my story and my life. This is a way that I tell myself that I am worthy.

 

Maybe the radical thing for you to do is to stop doing shit for free. Maybe the radical thing is to say no. Maybe you need to stop giving away your story. Maybe the best thing you can do for someone is to tell them to do some research on their own. Or to ask them to hire you to do the education they need. Maybe the radical thing is to realize that the gift you are giving to the world needs to be sustained and supported.

 

One of the things that has helped me in this is Danielle LaPorte’s question: “How do you want to feel?” At first it maybe sounds selfish. As Christians, especially, we have often been taught to not care about how we feel, but I think most of us, at our very core, want to be and feel kind and loving. What if we acted out of that deepest feeling instead of out of obligation? What if we gave when it feels right? What if we learn to listen to the voice that says, “nope, this group is taking advantage of you”? What if we really followed our deepest desires? Maybe I’m an idealist, but I believe that if we did that we would be sharing more, being more creative, and building a better world. I know I would rather live out of that place. I also know that when I have been doing work that nourishes me I am able to be more generous. When I haven’t allowed myself to get walked all over I am more able to be kind and thoughtful.

 

In light of all of this, I want to let you know about an amazing new thing releasing today: Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. It’s her new guide to walk you through answering that question “How do I want to feel?” She says, “The Desire Map is a holistic approach to planning your life. It guides you to identify your core desired feelings, and to use those feelings as the drivers of what you want to do, have and experience in your life. It turns goal-setting inside out.

 

The Desire Map is a multimedia program. It comes with a PRINTED book (it’s embossed, even!) a downloadable book, audio book, a series of audio contemplations; a private, online Desire Map space; an app, and 12 weeks of weekly inspiration to help people make desire-mapping a true practice.” If you want to check it out you can click on the banner below. I believe in this work and so I am an affiliate. I have found her way of thinking to be immensely helpful as I try to figure out how to live. I hope it helps you as well:

 

 

Can you chip in to support House of the Transfiguration? It’s a new, radical, Old Catholic community starting in Minneapolis.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?