Archives for February 2013

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 read “Songs for the New Depression” by Kergan Edwards-Stout. I had heard this book totally raved about. On Amazon it has 26 five star ratings and 1 one star rating. After slogging through the entire book, I’m with the one star reviewer (and I’m not even going to link to the book it was that bad).

 

The book tells the story (in his own voice) of Gabe Travers, a gay man who has HIV. The book starts with the end portion of Gabe’s life, then the next section is the middle of his life, then the last section of the book covers when Gabe is a teenager. We’re made to believe that the reason Gabe is the way he is is because of the things that happened to him in high school. The problem is that Gabe is an entirely unlikeable character from start to finish. He is selfish and arrogant and mean. He is the worst stereotype of what it is to be a gay man.

 

The book, while not terribly written, also isn’t great. And Gabe is so, so unlikeable. I didn’t care what happened to him; honestly I was rooting against him. The book was filled with sexist stuff, saying that gay men are terrified of vaginas, there was abelist language, transphobic language, and multiple times he spoke as if he could do anything he wanted simply because he had a big penis (there are multiple mentions of the size of his penis).

Such an awful book.
I also read Pandemonium (Delirium) by Lauren Oliver. This book is the second in the “Delirium” trilogy. I read the first book without realizing it was going to be a trilogy and that definitely colored my perceptions of that first book. Overall, though, this second book is much better. It’s a dystopian young adult novel set in a world where love has been declared a disease and outlawed. Instead, when people reach a certain age, they are given a medical cure that renders them passionless. book-pandemonium

 

I don’t want to give too much away, but this is a really interesting world. The characters are complicated and fascinating, the religious overtones throughout are thought provoking, and the story moves at a really great pace. I am excited to see how she finishes out the series.

 

 

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Mainline, We Have A Problem

I’ve seen an article passed around a lot this week called “What if gay kids had a church that loved them?” and it has generated a lot of comments and shares. There is nothing wrong with the piece; in fact it’s a nice call for churches to be more welcoming. The issue is there are LOTS of churches that love gay kids! In fact, churches like the United Church of Christ, Metropolitan Community Churches, and the Old Catholic church (along with a couple of others) have not only been welcoming queer folks for about 40 years, they’ve been affirming their calls to ministry as well! The problem is, no one knows these churches exist.

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Mainline churches (UCC, ELCA, Episcopal, the DOC churches that are affirming, Presbyterians, etc) we have a problem. No one knows we exist and no one cares. And you know why? Because we suck at public relations. We often suck at social media. Our websites are ugly and hard to navigate, our twitter accounts are only links to our sermons and don’t include any interaction, we use terms that no one outside of our denominations can understand. We say things like “we’re a reconciling congregation”, “we’re open and affirming”, “we’re a more light congregation” and expect people to know what those things mean.

 

It’s not that we’re not doing good work! Mainline churches are often doing amazing social justice projects in the community, they are organizing on political issues, they are sheltering people and fighting for their rights. But our messaging sucks! We’re not trained to be on camera, we don’t know how to give a good soundbite, and so when something happens and the press look for someone to call, they don’t call us.

 

If it were only about getting press for whatever our new project is it wouldn’t matter, but like the article above says, kids are dying because they don’t know we exist.

 

When I was gearing up for my ordination I contacted the press. In one of the articles someone left a comment that said, “Our Catholic community ordained a transgender [side note problematic language was the commenter's] in 19XX but we didn’t go out looking for press over it.” And I thought, that’s the problem! It doesn’t matter if you do it if no one knows about it! This isn’t about attention grabbing it’s about sharing a message that can save lives! If a news story about my ordination means that one trans* kid knows that there is a church that welcomes them, then that, to me, is worth it.

 

Do we believe we have good news to share? Then let’s get out there and share it! Learn how to use social media, learn how to write a press release, call your local newspapers and television stations, learn news people’s names, start a media list. Write blog posts that are easy to share, craft some really good soundbites, learn how to speak in front of a camera. Show up and make statements. Be visible!

 

We have allowed the conservative, evangelical church to control the conversation about Christianity in this country. We have allowed them to get all of the soundbites. We have allowed them to shape the dialogue. Up until now we have been constantly responding. It’s time to go on the offensive. It’s time to reshape the conversation. To do that we need to shift how we interact with the world. Look at the websites of popular (and growing) evangelical churches. Look how they do their social media presence. Look at how they have branded their churches. This stuff works and we need to be using it! I have been in so many meetings in mainline churches where they do one of two things: roll their eyes at an idea because the evangelicals use it OR come up with an idea that the evangelical church has been using for a decade and act like it’s new. We need to be students of what works. This isn’t about being something that we’re not, it’s about figuring out how to tell people who we are in ways that are accessible and meaningful. The old idea of “if you build it, they will come” doesn’t work anymore.

 

We’ve been building it for years and no one is coming. Don’t you think it’s time for a change?

 

 


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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

 

First up this week I read Zero to 80: Innovative Ideas for Planting and Accelerating Church Growth by Olu Brown. It’s a book with 80 suggestions about church planting/growth. Some of the ideas are really good, others were kind of eh. This book also needed an editor. There was a lot of repeating comments and suggestions that could have been cleaned up. Overall, though, this book was helpful and one I would recommend if only to give me some different ideas for church stuff.

 

Next up was The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America by James Schwartz. This is a small volume of poetry and essays about growing up gay and amish. It’s a very interesting look into a world that is pretty unknown to most folks.

 

I also spent some time with the Canons of the North American Old Catholic Church. It’s an interesting look into the governance of the NAOCC. (Yes, I’m a big dork and read church documents for fun on the regular.)

 

 

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Lenten Failure

I have generally been a lenten failure. It’s not that I set a goal and then fail on it, it’s that I never quite get started. Oh, I have grand plans! “I am going to observe lent!” I say with a spring in my step. Then the next thing I know it’s Palm Sunday and I have no idea where the time has gone and I haven’t done anything to prepare.

HolyLent

 

This has always been my struggle with devotional practices. When I was an evangelical I was always making grand plans to have a “quiet time” and then failing miserably. And then feeling guilty for failing. And then making new grand plans. And then…You can see where this is heading. Who says that Catholics have the corner on guilt?

 

It’s not that I don’t think about God; I think about God a lot. I read lots and lots of books on theology and church issues. I think and write about what it means to be the church and what it means to be a Christian. But this element of personal spiritual practice has always been a struggle for me. It’s not even that I don’t want to do it because I desperately do. I want to be one of those people who can spend hours in prayer, who has a mystical connection with God, who is invested in Scripture reading and prayer. But for some reason I always fail. I set my alarm so I can pray the hours and then I have a meeting at work and miss one of them, or I oversleep, or I feel like I have to be in the right mindset to pray and then I am never in that mindset and so I don’t pray.

 

So as I’ve been thinking about Lent this year I’ve been stressing about what my practice should be. Giving something up has never felt right or helpful for me personally. The idea of giving up Facebook or chocolate would be perfunctory. The idea of adding something in seems more helpful and so I’ve been thinking about what to add. Of course, my mind has a list of about 40 things that would be great but then I worry about overdoing it and feeling guilty and here it is…Ash Wednesday…and I’m still trying to figure out what makes sense.

 

Here’s my plan: I’m putting it out there so it’s public and so that folks can hold me accountable. Feel free to ask how things are going and to share what you’re doing in the comments. We can be Lenten buddies.

 

*I want to pray at least the morning and evening office. Maybe more, but at the very least two. (I also want to try to keep a list of things to pray about throughout this time so I can be intentional. If you’d like prayer for something, feel free to send me an email, tweet at me, or leave a comment.)

*I’m going to read at least one book on the priesthood. I have one by Archbishop Sheen on dock.

*I want to try Eucharistic adoration at least once during Lent. I’ve never done it before and I want to have that experience.

*I want to go to Mass at least twice. This is a hard one because I work on Sundays and I still don’t have a parish locally that I feel comfortable in as a queer person. But I’m going to try to find a place to go because I need the experience.

 

That’s my plan. It feels mostly doable and I don’t think it’s taking on too much.

 

What about you? What has your experience been with Lent? What are you doing this year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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 read two books (still slightly behind on where I should be to read 100 books this year, but I’m catching up)!

 

First up was The Key by Simon Toyne. 13092142 It’s the second book in a trilogy. This is another of what I could call a “religious thriller”. I don’t want to say too much, since this is a series and there would be a lot of spoilers, but the basic gist is as follows: There is a mountain citadel in Turkey that no one has left for centuries. The first book begins with a monk climbing to the top of the mountain and throwing himself off, thus setting into motion an ancient prophecy. This book picks up almost immediately where the first book ends. It’s pretty much non-stop action.

 

I appreciate the mythology behind the prophecy in these books. It’s interesting, and so far, it’s pretty well done. This isn’t high literature by any means, but it’s definitely a fun read.
Next up was Homeland by Cory Doctorow. This is the sequel to his book Little Brother. homeland A book that is part new activist, part hacker manifesto, and mixed with good old teenage angst. I really enjoyed this book. It gave nods to the Occupy movement, the student debt crisis, Burning Man, and more, and kept the story interesting and moving. I appreciate having a young adult novel tackle this stuff in a really honest and interesting way. I will say that I was disappointed by some abilist and homophobic language at various parts in the book; completely unnecessary and distracting. In spite of that I feel like it’s still a book worth reading. The afterwords were by folks involved with wikileaks and by Aaron Swartz, the co-founder of Reddit (who tragically killed himself after being harassed by the government for trying to make knowledge more accessible). The inclusion of the essay by Aaron is a stark reminder about how high the stakes are in challenging the system.
What are you reading these days?

 

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Megan Phelps-Roper, Forgiveness, and the Past

The other day I read that Megan Phelps-Roper and her sister Grace, grandchildren of Fred Phelps, had left Westboro Baptist Church. Megan was well known for being the twitter voice of Westboro. In this interview she talks about the first moment that things started to not make sense, and the moments that followed. She released a statement expressing her sorrow at the people she had hurt through her actions of being a part of Westboro. tumblr_m8rcuijcZS1qaobbko1_500

 

When I read her interview I was shocked by my own response. I felt overwhelmed with love for this young woman. I simply wanted to hug her and offer her a quiet place to land. And then, throughout the evening, I found myself in tears thinking about it. What was going on?

 

I remember the first moment when what I had been taught stopped making sense. I remember the terror, how I couldn’t tell anyone what I was thinking. I remember feeling like I was going to go to Hell, that God hated me now. I remember feeling like everything was broken and could never be put back together.

 

And then I remember feeling free. I remember crawling until suddenly my broken wings were flying. And my shattered heart was pieced back together with jagged cracks still showing.

 

My situation isn’t the same as Megan’s. My church wasn’t the same as Megan’s. And yet I hear my story in her story. I hear my words in her words. I understand some of the tension that comes from leaving the only home you have ever known, from continuing to love people who think you are damned and damaged. There is complexity and there is grief.

 

So many of my friends no longer talk to me, or if they do their words are cold and stay on the surface. There are places I feel like I can’t return to. There are chapters of my life that I am no longer welcome in. I feel like I have lived at least three lives and I am disconnected from all of those past experiences and that is incredibly painful and confusing. People I once loved (and still do) don’t want me in their lives. They believe that I am going to Hell, that I am sick and disordered, and that hurts.

 

There is sorrow. I, too, once held signs and marched. I, too, once told anyone who would listen how much God loved them, but they had to change first. I, too, once preached things that I thought were true and helpful but that were actually incredibly hateful. I carry so much grief over those actions and those years. But like Megan I desperately wanted to be doing going; I thought I was doing good.

 

If I can forgive Megan, maybe I can also forgive myself.

 

I believe in restoration. I believe in eternal salvation and this is what I mean. I feel like because Megan put down the signs and walked away that she and I can now sit at the table as brother and sister. I am overwhelmed with how easy it was to forgive her. And I honestly have no bitterness toward her. I believe she was doing the best she could at all of those moments. And I believe that she’ll do better now. Repentance means that you put down the sign and you change your actions. That’s how restoration happens.

 

Megan, you will probably never read this, but I am thinking about you and praying for you. I am praying you find peace and a community of people who will love you and support you. I pray that you will be able to feel forgiven and that you will be able to forgive yourself. I pray that you will continue to read and to search because I know that God will bless that searching. And should you ever need anything, I hope you’ll reach out. Know that I will embrace you and do whatever I can to support you through this. Thank you for putting down your sign and walking away.

 

 


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Beyond 101

So much of the conversation around queer spirituality, especially in Christian circles, continues to revolve around the “is it sin?” question. Books have been written about a deeper queer theology, but many of them are still inaccessible to folks whether because they are too academic, or too expensive, or just not well enough known. Popular conversation remains at the 101 level.

 

While I believe that 101 level is important, I also know that many of us are longing for more. We want to be in a place where we don’t have to answer the “how do you know it’s not a sin” question. We want to be in a place where we can talk about how our queerness and/or trans*ness has deepened our spirituality. We want to talk about where we see queerness in the Bible, how our faith has changed our lives, and how we want to work for change in our communities. We want to share our stories and find community with one another.

 

Here’s what I know: Before I came out I was unable to have an authentic spiritual life. I was disconnected from my body and my spirituality was disconnected as well. I found God distant. Once I was able to accept myself as queer and trans* my experience of God shifted. I started to understand the power of resurrection, to experience my spirituality in bodily ways, and to feel like God wasn’t so distant. I want to be in community with other people to talk about these experiences.

 

Some of us have managed to find communities online to begin to have those conversations, but long for something in person. I’ve written before about my work with Camp Osiris and I want to talk about it again today.

Thanks to Rebecca Dallin for the graphic design.

Thanks to Rebecca Dallin for the graphic design.

 

We have just opened up registration for our May retreat. Camp this year is open to everyone ages 18 and up. We expanded our age range because so many people were asking to come who were older than our original limits. This retreat is called “Beyond 101″. We’ll spend time exploring queer stories in the Bible and seeing how the Bible speaks to queer liberation. We’ll share our stories, laugh a lot, worship together, and dream up ways to bring change to our communities. You can read more about what to expect on the camp blog. We are also accepting volunteer staff applications.

 

If enough people are interested, we’ll be having an ally track during the weekend so folks can better learn to work in solidarity with the queer community. This track will be especially helpful for clergy and other folks in the helping professions (although it is open to everyone). There will be combined times of fellowship as well as some separate workshop experiences.

 

We are relying on word of mouth, so I would love it if you would share about this experience with others. If you are interested in hanging up flyers, send me an email (anarchistreverend at gmail) and I can send you a pdf. If you are in Minneapolis and would like me to come do a workshop at your church or community, I would be happy to do that.

 

If your church would like to offer a scholarship or add the Camp into your mission budget, please let me know.

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.

 

I read two books this week and really enjoyed them both. First up was The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church–The Story of John XXIII and Vatican II by Greg Tobin. It’s a book that is part biography of Pope John XXIII and part reflection on what Vatican II means 50 years later. The-Good-Pope As someone who has heard a lot of things about how amazing Vatican II was, but who didn’t know much about the people behind it this book was really interesting. It reads less like history and more like fiction. I enjoyed reading about the situations that influenced Pope John as a young man that led him to want to change things in the church he so loved. Reading the history around Vatican II and all of the different players was fascinating as well. I am definitely going to check out some more in depth history of the council because this book was only able to cover so much.

 

The other thing that I really appreciated about this book were the glimpses it offered of the man behind the vestments. I am always interested in reading about the ways in which people follow Jesus and I appreciated the excerpts from his diary that were included in this book. (I am also really interested in reading his compiled diary as it looks fascinating!)
The next book is one that falls into the category of “guilty pleasure”. The-Blood-Gospel It’s one of what I call a “religious thriller”. Here’s the thing: If I pick up a book in the bookstore and it contains a combination of the following; a mysterious gospel, a vatican conspiracy, a secret uncovered, an archaeological dig, etc. I can guarantee you that I will be purchasing said book and devouring it in one sitting. The Blood Gospel: The Order of the Sanguines Series by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell fits the bill perfectly. An earthquake at Masada uncovers a secret long hidden. I don’t want to give anything away, but this book was awesome. It was fun and interesting. It included fantasy elements that didn’t seem out of place. The mystery was interesting and there was just enough history to keep the whole thing from going off the rails. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you like this kind of thing I highly recommend it. It’s one of the better in this genre that I’ve read (and trust me when I say that I have read A LOT of them). Apparently this one is also part of a series which is pretty awesome because I liked the characters a lot and they are building an interesting world. I appreciate the combinations of fantasy with religious overtones. Just a really fun book.

 

What are you reading these days?

 

*All links go to my Amazon affiliate page. If you purchase something I get a cut which helps to support this website.*

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

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Another Milestone

In all of the lead up to (and excitement around) my ordination, another milestone in my life happened that I didn’t really take the time to reflect on. On January 18 I marked the fifth anniversary of my first shot of testosterone. That was the day when I really began to live my life. BB-Bubble-Gum1

 

It was both a stressful and wonderful day. My (now ex) wife and I went into the city early to hang out before the doctor’s appointment. I was stressed out all day because I kept expecting something to go wrong. The clinic that I went to had a history of miscommunication and/or wrong scheduling. When it finally came time for my appointment the doctor was running late. We waited over an hour before I could even be seen. The clinic was closing, but a very nice nurse hung around while we went to get the prescription filled.

 

After I got the shot, we went to one of my favorite restaurants in the city and met up with friends for a celebration. We gave everyone blue “it’s a boy” bubblegum cigars. The next morning I woke up feeling more refreshed and energized than I had in months.

 

I can’t believe it’s been five years. When I was first starting out on my transition I envied the guys who had hit five years. They all looked so comfortable in their skin, so happy, so male. I thought that I would never get there. And now here I am.

 

I had no idea that my life would take the twists and turns it has. When I started my transition I was married, still in graduate school, living on the east coast. I had no idea what I would do with my life, no idea what church would ordain me. I was struggling to make it through each day. I was terrified about losing my family and my friends. I was miserable.

 

I look at my life now and I am so incredibly happy. I am thankful for everything that has happened (even the difficult things) and I experience a peace now that I didn’t even know was possible before.

 

My transition has been one of the biggest blessings of my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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