Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How To: go to school

Important lesson to learn in kindergarten: let other people talk too. Sharing isn't just about toys, it's about talktime and teacher-attention. All of these things are finite and desireable THUS ought to be shared evenly around the classroom.
You'd think most people would learn this by the time they hit grad school -- no?

PEOPLE!

you know what, I'd make a great dictator of the world, if I could just tell everyone how to behave all the time. How about that, God?

Monday, November 24, 2008

paper-writing angst

Hopefully the angsty tone of this blog will recover shortly... but as it is I'm stuck in academia and I don't know how to get out.

I have to write a 15-page research paper on salvation in Matthew.
All my ideas are 45 pages long and have no relation to any scholars I could research.

THIS IS YOUR FAULT, GTU!!! because you taught me to think for myself. You taught me to look at texts and ask new questions that no one else answers - you taught me that I can find out answers - connect texts - comment - expand - dig - !!!
and then, what? you ask me to write a 15-page research paper?
Sorry, people. I'm like so totally beyond that.

(and the real problem is I don't have the time to write that 45 pager and condense it to 15. But in an ideal world that's what I'd do.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Church-going angst

I sat through church today thinking about how very, very, very differently I would have preached the sermon.
The double-weird aspect is that it was a guest preacher with whom i have zero relationship, and so I didn't feel like bringing up my issues with her. If it was My Pastor sure I would have just started discussing after.
Instead, I sat around bitter and thought about it.

The TEXT in QUESTION: Matthew 25: 31-46
The Theme: be a sheep, not a goat.
My Objection: Christians aren't the ones being judged here. We know we should be sheep. That's obvious - painfully obvious -- plain and simple. This text (and it's an apocalypse, not a parable) has more to say than "you need to be a better person, in all ways, at all times."
The Christians in this text are not the sheep, nor the goats. Those animals come from the "nations" (Gentiles) which in the holy gospel of St. Matthew get an identity that is distinct from the Christian community. The nations are, to summarize the matthean view crudely, the foreigners to whom the disciples ultimately will preach.

Where are the Christians in this text?
The Christians are the "least of these my brothers" (see 10:42).
They are the disciples, the missionaries sent out without bag or staff or sandals, who will be "hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison" I.E. THE ONES IN NEED! They are Christ's representatives who are cared for or rejected as Christ himself was welcomed, or rejected, in different places.
So the question here, in the original context as I imagine it, is "In the end, what happens to the people we encounter, who are not converted to Christianity?" which might be quite an important issue to a traveling missionary encountering disappointment as far as conversion goes.

How sad is it -- then --
if you're with me thus far --
how sad is it that we have taken a text that was about judging the non-Christian nations of the world,
and we Christians have become so complacent
that we have to direct it at ourselves?
We stopped being the "least of these, Christ's brothers [and sisters]" and over 2000 years transmuted to idly hoping we'll be sheep rather than goats.
WE COULD BE EVEN BETTER THAN THAT!
we could be Christ to others. Not the generous benefactor of the poor -- we could be the poor!

Maybe it's just me... but "try harder! be nicer! be a sheep!" just isn't attractive. it hurts. stop stabbing me with obvious commands. I know I need to be better.
while on the other hand... "you represent Christ to the world -- especially in your weakness" is FULL OF LIFE!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Worship

Hi, folks, I wrote something. I'm happy about it. I love school. I love the fact that my job (such as it is) is to answer questions like "what is worship?" I wrote about that. It did not feel like work. What joy, what joy... perhaps i'll be a professional academician when I grow up. Yes, academician is a word.

here 'tis.

What is worship?
Worship is our intentional participation in the work and the glory of God. To that end, anything we do to bring our lives under the direction of God can be worship, and any work that is not antithetical to the purposes of God in this world can be worship. God’s purposes are worked out in many ways, in concert with or in prophetic opposition to larger movements of politics or culture in which we participate. Any work in which we further God’s many purposes is the work of God. God’s glory is likewise all-pervasive and can be found in many guises. We participate in this in many ways: from confessing our sin that our worldview may come into closer alignment with God’s, to receiving Eucharist that God’s grace may be grown within us, to saying or singing words of joyful praise. God can be glorified in a whole range of ways.
Intentionality, however, makes the difference between worship and the rest of life. God’s purposes have been worked by nonbelievers ever since the days of Cyrus (Is. 45:1-5), but the intentions of the worker turn it from labor to worship. God is glorified in nature and the whole created realm without our help, but with our words of acknowledgment we become worshippers, as spectators become participants.
A worship service is a gathering of the faithful, at which hearts are tuned toward this intentional participation, and where the work and glory of God is rehearsed, encouraged, and strengthened. Intentionality begins in the simple action of attending corporate worship services. Our arrival together should demarcate a qualitatively different mindset from the other hours of the day or week. For some participants this may be the most intentional element of worship so far. The goal, however, is that the first step of “showing up” is but one of a long series of conversions, in which our whole selves are turned toward the work and the glory of God. We may experience these conversions through intellectual assent to elements of the service, through our mystical co-operation in the glorification of God, and through concrete decisions that are birthed in us through our time together.

My Theology of Worship:
The central purpose of worship, in my practice, is to strengthen us for mission. Here I draw from the Invitation To Expanding Partnership in God’s Mission which the PC(USA) adopted at the 218th General Assembly in 2008: “We recognize that God calls us to mission that is grounded in confession of our sins, grows out of a life of prayer and is sustained in worship.” Worship is our sustenance, that is, our food and drink, and our grounding in reality. Without worship we can scarcely “do” mission.
Mission is one of the primary functions of the church. If the church has no mission into the world, it turns into a group of navel-gazers – and we can scarcely blame those outside the walls of the church who complain about this. More tragic than that, though, is the missed opportunity for God to empower us, transform us, and work in the world through us. It is not just our mission field that suffers if we neglect mission, nor even the liveliness of our church, but our own lives that are impoverished by this neglect. Worship must move beyond the walls of the sanctuary in order for us to know and experience the fullness of God’s healing, empowerment, and gracious action in the world.
Just as mission has its roots in worship, corporate worship has roots in personal prayer. Worship is rich if it is full of pray-ers, people who are accustomed to focusing their attention on God. If the congregation is active beyond a pastor’s wildest dreams, with more programs than there are days in the week, yet does not pray, it is lacking. There is a danger of emptiness in its spiritual life, and a real risk of burnout.
Biblical stories instructive to this kind of worship are as varied as our mission practices. Prophetic texts instruct social justice; the Exodus instructs spiritual and physical freedom from bondage; many healing stories instruct medical mission as well as counseling practices; Matthew and James instruct charitable service; the kenosis hymn of Phillippians 2 checks our pride. All of these viewpoints come together to inspire, support, and correct our work. But we must also be fed for our work by the Eucharist, and by unrestricted praise of God. The deep and primal praise of God the creator, such as is found in the last five chapters of Psalms, can calm our striving and keep our feet on the ground to drink from the fountain of God’s goodness.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

St Andrew Presbyterian

Today at church... we began with the African-American National Anthem, and drumming, and no small bit of whooping and hollering at the line "let us march on 'til victory is won."

[what is victory? The question was asked also by the choir director who sang a passionate solo to the theme of "the Cross is my Statue of Liberty" which got the presidential seat off its pedestal]

We ended in a circle singing "We shall overcome" like it has been done in the past. Today we have some octogenarian african-american grandmothers, and some small mixed-race children with funny names, and more Asian folk than previously, and enough of us white people. When we sang the verse "black and white together" it didn't quite encompass us all in our various shades, but that's okay.

lift ev'ry voice and sing
'til earth and heaven ring
ring with the harmony of liberty
let our rejoicing rise
high as the list'ning skies
let it resound loud as the rolling sea

this is my favorite verse:
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might
led us into the light
keep us forever in the path, we pray.
lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
shadowed beneath Thy hand
may we forever stand
true to our God, true to our native land!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

actually...


It seems god DOES want me to go to an internship in podunk-ville, Oregon. Actually it's called Lostine, like a saltine that got lost, and the town is about two inches long. There is a church (est 1888), a general store (est 1907), and a tavern and a coffeeshop, and a few other things. No traffic light... in fact the entire Wallowa County lacks traffic lights completely.

So, I'll be blogging more often, and you will write me more, because I'm going to be very very far away from all of you. I'm really good at blogging when I'm a stranger somewhere. The Prague Blog in 2003 was a big hit, apparently... or at least my grandma SAID all her retirement home friends loved it when she read it aloud to them... The Uganda blog was well-read in 2005, and we even had a website hit counter to prove it by then. But I don't mean that popularity counts. What I mean is that when I don't have real live peers with whom I have long-standing connections living all around me, I use that energy to compose blog posts, and somehow it's satisfying.

Maybe I'll even start winding up now. Tell you about the preparations (I'll need a Serious Jacket, and a car, with snow tires and deer whistles on it) and otherwise distract myself from everyday life at seminary... we'll see.

Anyway, there are several attractions to this internship that really outweigh the risk factor of hitting deer on the road. It's a very flexible position, and I will be creating things most of the time. I will get to garden with developmentally disabled folks as part of a local mission project. Organic garden no less! I get half a dozen teenage girls to pastor at youth group, and they already starting spilling their hearts open to me. There is an apple tree outside and a wood stove inside my house (that's right, I get to stay in the parsonage -- the "real" pastor lives elsewhere). The congregation seems to enjoy a mixed bag of all kinds of musical/liturgical/improvisatory worship styles on Sunday morning, and they sing from their guts. There are cute children, too. And sheep nearby. And among the congregants, diversity of theological opinions with little tension and no fighting about it.
dude, i'm so there. And SO prepared for culture shock! The entire population of this town could probably fit on a small portion of my block back in NYC (which has four traffic lights if you count all the corners).

PS also a natural food store staffed by genuine bearded hippies! Never fear -- I will not have to eat deer all winter long -- I can buy tofu without driving a million miles!

Starting: January sometime. shiver me timbers.

Monday, October 13, 2008

oh discernment

So, God might want me to do an internship in a tiny town in the middle of noplace and i'm just a little bit rebellious/doubting/scared as shit.

Here's the interaction.
me: God, i'm all scared and stuff. what should i do?
god (in the form of the choir director): tomorrow our choir song will be "Lord, I'm Available to You" (Milton Brunson's arrangement).
[significant lyrics: i'll do what you say do... use me, Lord... blah blah BLAH, and the oh-so-poetic line "my storage is empty and i am available to you."]
me: arrrrggghhhh, i don't want to sing that in front of the whole congregation. oh well, okay God. I'll sing it, and even pretend I mean it.

next day:
me: So, okay, God, i'll be available and open, but make it clear what i'm actually supposed to do, okay?
God: [THIS IS WIERD, GOD IS USING A NOVEL??] allrighty then, here's a book that happens to be assigned for your theology class, wherein someone goes to that very town to which you don't want to go, and hangs out with the trinity in a cabin for a weekend.
me: what the *@#$*%, that's a little bit clear, and a little bit creepy, god.

etc. So, the roadtrip starts in a bit less than a week, and we'll see what this place is really about. Please, someone, tell the blessed lord to stop messing with my head.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I am going to miss my job

I learn so much behind a cash register. Who woulda thunk it? I'm quitting really soon, so I can study more Greek... but in the meantime I just love the job.

A customer taught me a lesson last week. He's one of these hippies that just exudes serenity... he's so centered that you couldn't knock him off center if you tried with a barrel of monkeys and silly string. So he walks calmly up to my register, calmly and accidentally knocks a whole bunch of stuff off a shelf with his backpack, calmly puts it back, buys his groceries, etc. Somehow in the course of our one-minute interaction I manage to apologize about a dozen times (sorry-empathy for the knocking stuff over, and then sorry-too-bad, and then sorry-i'm-awkward when I miscount his change, drop some pennies, etc.)
HE called me out on it and said DON'T APOLOGIZE. It's not your fault. Who would blame you? I don't blame you. In fact, I'm not upset at all -- i'm Mr. Unruffled, remember?

the moral of this story is: Preemptive apologies, and this business of trying to anticipate what someone else is feeling, is a whole bunch of NOTHING. Save your apologies for the tricky ones, the real wrongs, and for those people to whom you don't actually want to apologize, instead! =)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

considering -- a career in homewrecking?

Classes have started. I'm on week three. Annnnnnd my classes are awesome. The largest one has 15 students, because I've declared my geekdom now, and joined the world of interaction with doctoral students, and giving presentations, and writing major papers of general import.
But honestly, the issue at hand is not at all academic. The question is -- how do so many boys who couldn't possibly be much that older than I have wedding rings on their hands? The correspondence of attractive faces to bands on the left hand is basically direct, and some of them have babies. Babies?? what are you thinking??
I blame it on Christianity. Not that Jesus intended us all to settle down at an early age, but that Christians have somehow let it seep through... even if we went to a school that allowed us to read novels and dance... that we somehow end up repressed and so everyone looks around at the first opportunity for a nice safe Christian person and ties the knot -- bammo! Apparently the students at a certain seminary in New Jersey collectively celebrated 28 weddings this summer. Hello, isn't that excessive?
So, right, all this is to say my school does not offer the m.r.s. degree, and homewrecking is apparently not a recommended choice of action either. Plus, you'd run the risk of taking on a baby on the bargain!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

knowest thou?

Knowest thou that the internet containeth a multitude of Biblical audio options? Indeed it has come to pass that many persons have used the technology available to them for such purposes.

http://www.audiobibleonline.net/audiobible.aspx for the KJV. I have found that it makes it easy to blur the line between studying and relaxing... to have matthean community theories running through my head while some guy reads that holy gospel to me (archaically) while I knit.

Friday, August 8, 2008

WALL-E!

I owe my new favorite movie a quick shout-out.
WALL-E has IMPLICATIONS of turning OFF your TV and standing UPRIGHT (though you wobble) and PLANTING things in the ground!!!! Yes, it also has a cute robot love story, but don't forget, it's anticolonial and anticorporational and ecologically inspirational!
who wants to plant pizza seeds with me????

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Whose mission?

get on over to Presbyterian bloggers for something else i wrote.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

stewardship saturday


I just found a Presbyterian News Service pen in a pile on my floor and realized... i have not been a good steward of all the free junk I received at GA. And I meant to write this blog entry a month ago.

Pamphlets might be useful if I'd get around to reading them. The pens, i lose. The frisbee? haven't played with it. And I was on the strict side - I refused balloons, shirts, mugs, and whatever THESE things were supposed to be.

It's ironic that the church gets together and signs a handful of resolutions about simplicity and stewardship of the earth's resources, while in the next room people hand out meaningless bits of plastic all the day long. But don't worry, I'll think about the News Service whenever I happen across that pen... definitely a worthy cause, isn't it?

Okay, excuse my snarkiness... I'm on a sarcasm streak. Here is a more serious question that I started contemplating at GA, specifically in the "global marketplace" section where we buy crafts made by peasants worldwide. We import handmade goods from our mission partners worldwide, and we pay American prices for third-world items, thus raising a pretty penny for those we would support anyway. At first glance this looks awesome, especially for a tightwad like me. GUILT-FREE SHOPPING! I might even be able to get away with transfering some of my tithe money into the Christmas-shopping budget, because it's all for a noble cause. But upon further thought, I wonder... I guess my question is whether we can join the healing of the world while participating in its wounding.
parameters of this question:
I believe that a culture of consumption, of luxury, of entitlement and of materialism is WOUNDING our world more than we know. The poorest citizens of the poorest nations are the ones who bear the worst of it -- picture children in sweatshops, making clothing for American children.
I believe that there are worldwide economic structures that keep people and nations in poverty. The well-meaning rulers of these structures often hand out charity to the very ones that they impoverish. Charity is a mixed bag because sometimes it perpetuates the systems of oppression. I believe that helping the poor and needy is part of mission; I also believe that dismantling the systems of oppression is a Godly and missional action.

and... being a Calvinist... however loosely... i believe that I, a sinner, am complicit in all of the crimes the human race perpetuates against one another. I think I'm unwillingly learning materialism, over-consumption, and all the other world-endangering societal sins. I want to un-learn them. I want to develop Sallie McFague's "philosophy of enough-ness," learn to limit my desires, and live simply that others may simply live.

So when I see a $150 hand-carved chess set juxtaposed with an appeal to relieve the poverty of Indian peasants... I kind of freak out, because there are a million things going off in my head. Yes! relieve poverty! support fine art! do your necessary shopping here! Treat yourself guilt-free.
NO! I don't need it - I don't need it - I don't need it - it's a luxury - give that money away instead - invest it wisely - microfinance it - i'll play chess with the set i got as a kid because it is GOOD ENOUGH and does not need upgrading.

The question, again. Can we join the healing of the world while perpetuating its wounding?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Gather us In

here in this place new light is streaming
now is the darkness vanished away
see in this space our fears and our dreamings
brought here to you by the light of this day
gather us in, the lost and forsaken
gather us in, the blind and the lame
call to us now, and we shall awaken
we shall arise at the sound of our name

we are the young – our lives are a mystery
we are the old who yearn for your face
we have been sung throughout all of history
called to be light for the whole human race
gather us in, the rich and the haughty
gather us in, the proud and the strong
give us a heart so meek and so lowly
give us the courage to enter the song

HERE WE WILL TAKE THE WINE AND THE WATER
HERE WE WILL TAKE THE BREAD OF NEW BIRTH
HERE YOU SHALL CALL YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS
CALL US ANEW TO BE SALT FOR THE EARTH
GIVE US TO DRINK THE WINE OF COMPASSION
GIVE US TO EAT THE BREAD THAT IS YOU
NOURISH US WELL, AND TEACH US TO FASHION
HEARTS THAT ARE HOLY AND LIVES THAT ARE TRUE

not in the dark of buildings confining
not in some “heaven,” light-years away
but here in this place the new light is shining
now is the Kingdom, now is the day
gather us in and hold us forever
gather us in, and make us your own
gather us in, all peoples together
fire of love in our flesh and our bone




(THIS IS BY MARTY HAUGEN
NO I DIDN'T HAVE PERMISSION TO COPY)

Monday, July 28, 2008

some details on the short-term mission thing

When i was in Uganda, at an orphanage, in about my 7th month there or so, i was approached by one of the house mothers. "Auntie," she said [though she is my senior, the children call all of us auntie and sometimes we slip into it too], "can i ask you to teach the children something?"
"sure," i said, thinking about how to garden, or pronounce difficult words, or maybe even a sex talk... "what do you want me to teach them?"

"that it is important to behave yourself well, even in America."
We had just had a rowdy crowd of well-intentioned teenage visitors who painted the orphanage walls, distributed toys, and distracted the children from their chores for a week. Auntie B. told me that the children loved these visitors, and the attention they'd gotten from them, but that they were losing respect for the way things go in Uganda. The kids could run up to the Americans, jump on them, pull their hair, demand things from them... or alternately, whine to them and receive candy to "cheer them up." When these visitors left, the children were a bit petulant toward the regular home staff, who must always be addressed formally and respectfully, who don't deal in whining, and whose orders are obeyed. I was in the middle ground -- not a stranger, not one of them -- and had the power to reinforce the Americans' behavior, or the Aunties' rules. I went toward the side of local custom and formality, realizing that I could show the children love and affection without spoiling them.
So, this is just ONE of the times that I was ashamed to be identified with my "own" people, and for which I hope our mission programs can learn to be sensitive.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

YES someone notices!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/04/AR2008070402233_pf.html

someone touched the sacred cow and asked WHY we ship teenagers across the world to do shoddy paint jobs.
we do it because they get an unparalleled level of existential alertness and openness that we just can't replicate on our own boring turf. They get "touched" and "inspired" -- and how else can we do that?

Friday, July 25, 2008

virtuetarian

I am currently working in a natural food store as a cashier. The meditative practice of ringing up other people's food has sparked many reflections within me. As the stream of organic, natural, vegetarian, vegan, raw, whole, gluten-free, politically correct food flows past me on the conveyor belt, I contemplate what it is we're really doing when we eat.
I see a lot of neuroses. People buy food by the bite-sized chunk... they give me three grapes to ring up. They buy $6 energy bars because they're addicted to this particular brand... they buy bottles of herbal extracts made specially to cure your addictions. They buy bottled spring water by the case -- but they wouldn't DREAM of using a non-reusable grocery bag (it's so wasteful). If they happen to forget their canvas bags, I have to listen to their tirade of self-deprecating guilt, and for penance, they juggle armloads of food out to their car.
I'd hesitate to call it a national eating disorder, but maybe it's Northern-California-wide? In any case, it is more than a few people's quirks. It's some kind of movement -- the need to feel good about what we eat. It needs to satisfy a long list of virtues in order to justify the idiosyncratic pleasure we seek.

I want a simpler kind of ethics. I want to get rid of the deserving stuff, and the justifying stuff. If we, the rich, keep craving luxuries, no matter at what justification, the poor will never be free and the earth will never be healed. I want it to be okay that apples are not in season right now -- and so I won't eat them now. I really don't need a global tour of bite-size-tastes on my lunch plate. I need a plateful of the things we call carbs, proteins, fats, simple things made of the produce of the earth. But oh, we are too rich, and those addictions are too tempting. The physical craving for a salmon steak overpowers us. But we don't deserve it, so we have to generously support organic fishfarming to get in touch with our pescatarian nature. In fact, the more expensive it is, the better we'll feel about sacrificing our selfishness for a virtuous plate of fish.
People, this is just silly. Eat food, and stop dreaming about it all day long.
love,
me

PS -- EVEN IF YOU ARE RICH ENOUGH TO BUY CARBON OFFSETS [=indulgences], YOUR CAR STILL POLLUTES.
and the bumper sticker that advertises your carbon offsets was made in a factory in China.
nah nah nahnah -- you can't get away from your guilt. I see through you.

Monday, June 30, 2008

motherhood, apple pie, and fishing

Last January 68 people gathered, mission workers from all over our church and coming also from our global mission partners, and unanimously approved a document for presentation to the Presbyterian Church (USA). It came to us at the General Assembly in San Jose, under the disguise of just another overture -- numbered 08-20. An open hearing was set for those who agreed or disagreed to speak to it, and no one signed up. Quite quickly the overture was presented and advocated. There were only a few questions for the presenters, the clearest being "this is motherhood and apple pie! Who wouldn't want it?" Everyone wants to do better mission. Someone else asked "what are the financial implications?" and hearing "almost nil" the vote was unanimous to accept it. And, the entire discussion was over.

Here is an excerpt of the text:
...we realize that God is calling us to new patterns of mission. The world has changed, and the majority of the world’s Christians are now in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The great growth and mission faithfulness of the Church outside the West invite us into a new posture. We must listen and learn to receive. We must also be open to new patterns of collaboration. These new patterns involve new cooperation and partnerships within the PC(USA).
and it looks like: Doing mission in the way of Jesus who humbled himself, showing the way of self-giving and self-emptying. (Philippians 2) and Striving in our mission to be aware of the context out of which we come, to respect the persons with whom we labor, and to honor the context in which they live. In an era of massive global inequalities we commit ourselves to be sensitive to and address the issues of power that result from our differences.

My beloved 08-20 passed without notice because nobody wanted to talk about the back-story. Experienced mission workers know it, but it's secret, because telling this back-story is opening a box of hostility and counter-stories, positive outweighing negative, and defensiveness and emotion.
The back-story is: last year 3 separate mission groups from America came in short succession to the same village in Guatemala and painted the same church over and over again. And this is not unique. The top-down, donation-driven model of mission is ridiculously ineffective. The church collectively spends millions of dollars per year to fly teenagers to the Global South for a few weeks, where they do sloppy paint jobs, gawk at the perceived "happiness" of poor people, and return with souvenirs and some vague gratitude, compassion, and commitment to the Christian faith. Meanwhile, a village that needed a well now has another fresh paint of paint on their school, lots of T-shirts and candy, and less respect for themselves than they ever had. This is the horrendous truth that goes on in widespread Christian practice, that no one will mention. I realize that many will jump on me for mentioning this, and I think even two years ago I would have disagreed with myself. It's harsh, because we who participate in such "mission trips" really do value the difference it makes in our own hearts.

If the great growth of the Church outside the West (in the non-western "Global South" to confuse us all) is going to invite us to a new posture we must kneel down and be humbled enough to realize our mistakes (which hurts, ouch). We must put aside our authoritarian, colonial, condescending model of doing mission, and get down and dirty, and not just for two weeks of a virtuous vacation.

We could... give someone a fish, and they'd eat it, and we'd feel good about ourselves, and this would end our interaction.
we could... teach them how to fish, and leave -- they'd keep eating after we left.
we could send them a packet of information and a fishing pole, and they'd fish, eat, and pass the information on.
or WE COULD learn how to fish, move across the world, sit down and fish with them, stay with them, and eat the fish together -- and it would be harder, but all of us would be transformed.

Mister Moderator, i move that we consider the last of these options.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A challenge!

Generational divide: we speak in different media. An older gentleman brought an objection to the floor saying that no one knew about a certain creed we were about to vote to adopt. He wants us young folks to discuss it for a while. He threw up his hands saying we should "talk about it, blog about it, text about it..." and while I don't think I'm quite about to write text messages to all my friends commending them to the study of a creedal statement, I thought I'd take up the challenge and blog about it.

The Social Creed for the Twenty-First Century ( http://www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=1629&promoID=27 ) is a strong statement of what the church needs to be in this century. The PC(USA) adopted it today by a 5-to-1 majority. Several of the items simply listed here were also resolved in more detailed overtures, against immigration injustices, against torture, for simpler lifestyles, pursuing carbon-neutrality, and committing ourselves to peace. What does it do? "Is there a way to measure its effectiveness?" is a common question, and Rahhel counter-questioned "is there a way to measure the effectiveness of FOLLOWING JESUS?" thus effectively mooting the point. The creed is a declaration of our interpretation of what God calls us to do as Christians. I am proud to say that my church (in majority) agrees that these are not just lofty ideals but are theological imperatives, and necessary interpretations of the signs of the times in light of the Biblical imperative to "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God."

I BELIEVE that "love your neighbor" means "pay them well!"
that "Christ has set us free" means "abolish modern slavery!"
that "there is no longer jew or greek" means "fight racism!"
that "all may have life, and have it abundantly" means that we might have an abundant, organically overflowing earth full of biodiversity and beauty, love, harmony, health!
And I believe that "sell all you have and give it to the poor" means just what it says (gulp...)

did we just do that?

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) just, a few minutes ago, with NO riots and NO hubbub -- decently, and in order -- voted to delete the famous G-6.0106b from our book of order, thus removing an impediment to ordination for those who do not live "singly in chastity, or in fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman" and replacing it with some less-specific words about uprightness and about the authority of the local ordaining body to discern such matters.
End effect: it now is sent out to the nation-wide church by local presbytery, and if ratified, GLBTQ folk who have SEX (there's the elephant) outside of the traditional strictures of marriage are henceforth PERMITTED (or, not prohibited) to be ordained and to serve as ministers and elders in the church.

I was watching from the classroom, but as they voted to vote (procedural insanity) I jumped up and ran to the plenary hall. I stood in the back as the motion to end debate was passed, and as the advisory votes came in on the main motion, and as we clenched our hands and gritted our teeth and heard our hearts beating...
The vote was 380 to 325 in favor of deleting this clause. As Bruce declared it so a controlled shudder of celebration rippled through the room. Winners are not supposed to rub it in the face of losers, or else we are all losers -- so we don't clap or yell or dance immediately until the business is finished and we adjourn. But I saw an amazing surge of upward energy, especially in one rainbow-festooned row, energy expressed and stifled -- it rushed up in a couple of victory-type fists, and pulled down as people buried their heads in each others' shoulders and muffled their joy in rainbow scarves and hugged silently during the remaining 10 minutes of business.

Now I wish that I'd been wearing rainbow from the beginning... I would have felt more a part of the rejoicing group. But I also am glad about my anonymity. It is important to be able to have dinner with someone of a radically different view, and it helps that cause if you don't have the name of the lobby group you support on your name tag. It is an important discipline to offer yourself to others not as a collection of connections and bumper stickers, but as an integrated, interesting, unique person and Child of God.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have heard that there is an elephant in the room...

but outside the room there is a tiger.
In here we may be running in circles around sex... we are re-translating the Heidelberg Catechism and receiving Peace, Unity, and Purity reports, skirting carefully around the issue of homosexuality, using polite euphemisms, reviewing ordination standards, defining marriage, and closing loopholes... but outside you may run into a group of non-presbyterians who are telling us all that we are ALL going to hell, and we'll roast there. frizzle. fry.
The protesters hold signs saying "jesus saves us from hell," "warning! perverts, repent!" and "homo sex destroys national security" among others (i kid you not) and although I was not present for these remarks, one was reported to be singing "jesus hates you, this I know." Someone tried to engage me in conversation with the line "it's not LOVE to tell your homosexual brothers and sisters that everything is all right! it's not LOVE to just send them off to hell! All you presbyterians are going to be held accountable for them!" and I didn't bite the bullet.... when another tried the words "homosexual marriage is the reason that California is on fire right now" I couldn't leave that unanswered, and entered a ten-minute exercise in futility, trying to inquire if there were any OTHER sins that could be implicated. Entering the plenary hall, I heard the stated clerk formally request that we not engage in argument with the protesters, or allow the hostilities to escalate, and I was humbled by the realization that I had succumbed to that temptation -- and that my efforts had been useless.

Sex might be a big, scary elephant, but the room isn't that big, and we're all in it together. In fact, I think it'd be hard for the elephant to kick anyone, as we're crowding and constricting it from every side. Outside, on the plaza, there are no walls, and no limit, and no rules unless the police are standing by. The tiger is free to sink his teeth in with "do you pray like that when you have your gay sex? God doesn't listen to your prayers!" and to slash out at every rainbow-scarved target that walks by.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to be in plenary hall with you, and let's appreciate our elephant.

chit-chat

I'm at the PCUSA general assembly and there are lots of old people around.
Good old-people (and biblical geek) quotes:
"I was so mad, I could've spit nickels!"
"well, it basically depends on whose ox is being gored."
"thats really a sticky wicket."
"as the Bible says, where two are three are gathered, there will be 4 opinions."

new word: scuttlebutt. noun, informal: rumor, gossip. Good word, huh?!

"So, he can tell you what all the scuttlebutt is on the blogs and what-have-you..."

in session

Hi, people.
I decided to make a public blog, because I want my voice to be heard, but I'm kind of paranoid about publishing everything. So I'll try to keep things professional. This does not need to "out" anyone on any controversial issues they might not want outed. Most importantly, I will curb my sarcasm, so that we can discuss controversy kindly. Let's be online friends. Yay for the internets!
love, Talitha