Happy National Coming Out Day!

Thank you, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered folks, and all otherwise-queer people who are among my closest friends and parental figures, most awesome mentors and professors, and all those who’ve helped mold and nurture me into the queer-loving straight guy I am today!  Would that I might develop a similar courage and conviction to fully COME OUT in my own right, the born-again child of God I was created to be.

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Meeting Blago

I met Rod Blagojevich yesterday.

He was coming out of Medici, a Hyde Park restaurant, and me and my CTS buddies Shaun and Adam were heading into Edwardo’s, a pizzeria a couple doors down.  The first thing I noticed was his hair.

As we were telling one another that yes, it really was Rod Blagojevich in the flesh, he caught us staring and came over with a grin, hand outstretched:  “Hey guys, wanna meet an innocent ex-governor?”  We shook hands, as he gave a mini-version of the same spiel he gives everywhere these days: it’s been difficult, but I can’t wait until everything gets cleared up, and yes, it’s definitely going to be all cleared up.

BlagoHe asked if we attend the University (of Chicago).  No, says Adam, we go to Chicago Theological Seminary.  Now this seemed to strike a chord.  Eyes widening, he prattled on for a moment about how this experience has really brought him closer to God, you know?  He wants us to know that he’s not just saying that because we’re seminarians, but he really believes it’s true: this is all part of God’s plan.  Maybe so, I think to myself.

Then one of his companions whisked him away to snap a picture with some coeds.  We three seminarians walked into Edwardo’s, and I said, “I don’t think we did a very good job speaking truth to power just then.  Then again, he’s doesn’t exactly have much power these days…”

As a post-script, it has since occurred to me that I need to have some quick theology ready for the next time I run into a famous, influential person, fallen or otherwise.  No more getting caught speechless.  What would you say?  (Photo credit: Adam Yates)

Socialist Apostles

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.  They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

Barack Obama and certain Democrats want there to be a public option for health insurance, so that more people will have better access to health care.  For this they are called “Socialists.”

In a word:  hardly.  Now Acts 4 – this is what socialism looks like.

I wonder how Paul and the apostles would be received today by contemporary Christians?  They’re certainly far too radical for even most of us liberals, much less the conservatives, who would run these Reds out of town on a rail.  Pooling our resources so that everyone can have all that they need?  Reigning in unfettered corporate profits so that all may receive health care?  Whatever, hippies.

“…for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me…”  (Matthew 25:42-43)

Whatever, Jesus.

Swords to plowshares?

How shall we build God’s beloved community?  What shall God’s church look like?  This?

Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel, and Geometry.” And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it.

God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday as he sat in the small brick Assembly of God house of worship, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from the side walls. “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”

The bring-your-gun-to-church day, which will include a $1-raffle of a handgun, firearms safety lessons and a picnic, is another sign that the gun culture in the United States is thriving despite, or perhaps because of, President Obama’s election in November…

NYT

Or this?

He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

– Isaiah 2:4

How shall we build God’s beloved community?

…the fear remains that Mr. Obama, and his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., will crack down on guns sooner or later. That — along with the faltering economy, which gun sellers say has spurred purchases for self-defense — has fueled a record surge in gun sales…

NYT, cont.

While some preach the Gospel of More Swords, Another preached otherwise:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”

Matthew 5:38-42

And he didn’t only preach it:

…[T]hen they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword…”

Matthew 26:50-52

…When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him…

Luke 22:49-51

While some preach the Gospel of More Swords, a 9 year old girl was gunned down in Chicago’s backyard:

…[Chastity Turner] was shot in the neck and taken in extremely critical condition to the U. of C. Medical Center, said Larry Langford, a spokesman for the Fire Department. Her father and a 17-year-old boy were taken in critical condition to Stroger Hospital, he said…

– Chicago Tribune

How shall we build God’s beloved community?  How long must God’s people be cut down by the instruments of death and devastation?

Come, O Jesus, our healer.  Show us how to follow in Your way.  Help us to put our trust in You, as we lay down our swords and shields.

[1000 words]

Good things in small packages

I know I was touched by God Incarnate this morning.  It was awesome.

Today we had a special healing service after the two usual ones at church.  There was laying on of hands, anointing with oil and some good praying and music.  I played and sang a couple chants on piano.  It was free-flowing and simple, leisurely yet concise.  It was rather unlike our usual weekly white Protestant fare, in which church is a more individual endeavor (though not nearly as personal).

Since I was playing piano, I did not go forward to be anointed with oil during the healing service, but I wanted to be anointed afterward.  Those who had helped officiate (a pastor and a few ‘Ministers of Care’) were scattered about the room,  so I turned to the closest other person, a short, cute kid certainly no more than 4 years old.  I called him over and said, “I didn’t get any oil for my head during the service.  Would you help me?”  He nodded.

I picked up one of the bowls of oil and handed it to him, kneeling down to his level.  He dipped his left index finger into the oil and slowly, deliberately traced it down my forehead – then across, in order to complete the cross.

His mom then came over and helped him say a prayer for me.  She told me he really likes church.  I told her, maybe he’ll end up getting stuck here too.  I hope someday, particularly if he does end up going into ministry, I can find him and tell him this story.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”  I’ve been exploring the idea that Jesus is, among other things, an ongoing, at-any-moment manifestation of God Incarnate, one who shows up in others (and maybe even me? Whoa…) from time to time.  Today, I’m convinced that Jesus showed up personally to me and blessed me at the hands of this awesome little kid.  Thanks, Ethan!

God is genderqueer

I realized the other night that I don’t experience God as simply male or female.  With all due respect to my Lord and Savior, who, according to the Gospel writers, gave God a decidedly masculine ‘Father’ identity for God, I simply can’t make gendered pronouns for God fit my experience of God.  Neither “Father” this, “She” that, nor “God Hirself” quite seems to do it.

Not that my gender-confusion over God is a bad thing.  To the contrary, a singular notion of the image of God is so far beyond my comprehension that having no good pronouns actually works better than forcing inept ones.genderqueer

To me, God is combination of two or more elements: a stable, all-encompassing entity of spirit-force who is amorphous and certainly un-gendered in any conventional sense, juxtaposed with a hundred trillion images of all of the diversity of creation: animals, plants, earth, sky, and humans too.  In that sense, that of specific manifestations of God, characteristics like gender, sex, identity, race, ability, outward appearance, to name a few, may be in fact intricately connected to the fundamental nature of God.

Meanwhile, here’s what some of the internets say about genderqueerness, helpfully edited by me to be inclusive towards deities.

Wikipedia:

Genderqueer and intergender are catchall terms for gender identities other than man and woman. People [and/or deities] who identify as genderqueer may think of themselves as being both male and female, as being neither male nor female, or as falling completely outside the gender binary. Some wish to have certain features of the opposite sex and not all characteristics; others want it all.

Fact-index:

…There are different modes of being genderqueer, and it is an evolving concept. Some believe they are a little of both or feel they have no gender at all. Others believe that gender is a social construct, and choose not to adhere to that construct. Some genderqueers do fit into the stereotypical gender roles expected of their sex [and/or divinity], but still reject gender as a social construct. Still other people [and/or deities] identify as genderqueer since…they do not fit many of society’s expectations for the gender in which they identify…

A God who falls completely outside the gender-binary?  Who transcends the expectations and limitations of society?  Who manifests certain features of masculinity and femininity at once?  Now that makes sense to me.  God is genderqueer!