Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 - Best Albums by Women (According to Andrew)

I had some free time and spent a lot of time listening over the past week or so, to solidify my opinions. Very difficult to rank these of course, so a grain of salt would be a good idea!

Including some representative videos when I can here...

1. PJ Harvey and John Parish - A Woman a Man Walked By





2. Karen O and the Kids - Where the Wild Things Are



3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!



4. Shakira - She Wolf



5. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone



6. Brandi Carlile - Give Up the Ghost



7. Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away



8. Faun - Buch der Balladen



9. Ruthie Foster - The Truth According to Ruthie Foster



10. Cucu Diamantes - Cuculand



11. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career



12. Mary J. Blige - Stronger With Each Tear



13. Imogen Heap - Ellipse



14. Angie Stone - Unexpected



15. St. Vincent - St. Vincent



16. Marilyn Roxie - New Limerent Project



17. Florence & the Machine - Lungs



18. Amadou & Mariam - Welcome to Mali



19. Shemekia Copeland - Never Going Back



20. India.Arie - Testimony: Volume 2, Love and Politics



21. Eluveitie - Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion



22. Tegan & Sara - Sainthood



23. Indigo Girls - Poseidon and the Bitter Bug



24. Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster



25. The xx -xx



26. Alicia Keys - The Element of Freedom



27. Elis - Catharsis



28. Carla Bley - Carla's Christmas Carols

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJkdOT_xvIg

Good review of this album here.

29. Kittie - In the Black



30. Fiona Boyes - Blues Woman

Check it out here: Fiona Boyes Website

21. Whitney Houston - I Look to You



32. Patti Loveless - Mountain Soul II

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Adolescence Decodified

Last night's dream. I visited a former high school teacher of mine, a literature teacher who I liked very much. I don't fully remember the reasons for my being there, and at times during the visit I mixed her up with another very teacher of mine, a history teacher very influential to me in ways I'm just beginning to understand.

Weirdness: the teacher recognized me and was happy to see me.

Weirdness: I was digging through her clutter in her classroom and found one of her old notebooks. She was excited about this too.

Evidence of a power-dream: As I bid farewell to her we embraced and she was crying.

I awoke under the spell of those emotions, but it's hard to wake up sobbing with a CPAP mask on your face.

I recall hearing at one point that this teacher (in real life) had passed away too young, sometime after I graduated.

There are teachers who do not know how much I appreciate them, because I never told them. This should be a fairly obvious new year's activity on my part.

As I look back at various influential adults during my adolescence, the ones I hate the most are the ones who stepped on me. Emphasized what I was doing wrong. Punished me verbally (and occasionally physically) for not matching their vision of...something. Obviously something I did at age 12 or 13 was a mirror for something in their adult selves they couldn't stomach.

But the ones to whom I am most grateful are those who allowed us teens to grow without unnecessary critique, judgment, slam-downs. Interestingly, the best teachers kept things slightly impersonal.

As I look more deeply into the teaching field, initially in an effort to add some meaning to my own meandering, self-focused adulthood, I am seeing so much value there. I want to be a support without trying to be a parent. Adolescence is a time when people who aren't your parents become important. It would be so easy to blow it as a middle school or high school teacher. Such a tightrope. Loving intentions are what fuel all truly successful people. I don't mean capitalist or career/ambition successes. I mean what I've always meant by success: making a difference.

These are new, early morning, post-dream thoughts, but I think I'm onto something.

One more odd thing about the dream. At the end of it, there were students gathering around to bid be farewell, along with the teacher. At the back of the classroom were a bunch of art projects (for some reason.) One of the kids picked up his clay monkey baby, which came to life, jumped on this teacher, and tried to suck her breast. Of course, at this point, my sister appeared in the dream and started laughing. It's the sort of thing she'd laugh about. Me too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A more humane Christianity, via Paul!

(I know it's been awhile since I've posted anything here. There's been some turmoil and my focus has been elsewhere.)

This article briefly describes a compelling interpretation of the Pauline letters of the Bible as NOT anti-Jewish, but actually pluralistic. This is definitely a gentler, more reasonable and humane message. If it is embraced in popular Christianity, we may see that the religion itself also becomes more gentle, reasonable, and humane.

The teaser: "Saint Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, set the theological foundation for centuries of Christian thinking about faith and redemption—and for as many hundreds of years of implicit (and explicit) anti-Semitism. But what if Paul has been misread?"

Article is called Paul the Pluralist: Jesus’ Number Two Was Not a Christian, and it's by Pamela Eisenbaum. Religion Dispatches, 12-09-2009.

Link:

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/religionandtheology/2067/paul_the_pluralist:_jesus%E2%80%99_number_two_was_not_a_christian

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Spiritual Experience: Doug's Forgiveness

This isn't the first time I've written about this, and it won't be the last. It is probably the central event of my life.

Most of my spiritual have been visions and dreams.

At age 11 my friend was crossing a street, was hit by a drunk driver,
and his body flew a block away. He went into a week-long coma that
ended in death. As that week progressed I started hoping he would
die. I wanted to know what it would be like for him to die. I am
also impatient in general and dislike uncertainty. (I'm working to
get past that these days...have been for some time). Of course, when
he did die, it was a relief and I also felt guilty that I had hoped
for it.

I didn't understand it this way, but when I first met Doug, at age 8
or so, it was love at first sight, at least for me. It was my first
experience of being physically and emotionally attracted to someone.
I remember the feeling when I first met him as if it was yesterday.
He was a personal friend in many ways. He would confront me if he was
angry with me. I cannot say WE were best friends necessarily, because
that has always been a somewhat artificial construct to me, but
HE was extremely important to me, possibly the most important friend I
had at the time.

I used to pray to him after he died. Confessed to him how I had felt
when he was in the coma, and how I had wanted him to just go ahead and
die. At some point later, I had a dream in which I was sitting at the
foot of a hill at night, and a light came over that hill, and he appeared and forgave me.

To this day, more than 25 years later, I still miss him and my heart
is still broken, but at the same time, I feel a certain peace from
that dream.

Do I know if that was more than just a psychological need that my
subconscious created for me? I don't know. And in some way, it
probably doesn't matter.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Movies!

Movies!
Category: Movies, TV, Celebrities
I watched a ton of movies this weekend.

The Bubble (aka Ha-Buah). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0476643/
Israeli film from 2006. An Israeli soldier meets his future boyfriend at a Palestinian checkpoint. It shows the good and the bad on both sides of that phenomenon, if too simplistically in my opinion. Well-acted, lovely film with a frustrating ending and the unfortunate inclusion of the typical "funny gay roommate" and "funny straight woman roommate" which is just done waaaay too much in gay flicks. But I did enjoy watching it in spite of all of that and nudged my vote up a bit due to the experience of it. (4/5)

Hellraiser. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093177/
Finally saw this. An extra point for creativity. But really very badly acted and incredibly pointless. (2/5)

Criminal. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0362526/
Yep, pretty much just another heist movie. FANTASTIC cast with great performances all around. John C. Reilly, Diego Luna (probably my biggest movie star crush right now), and Maggie Gyllenhaal. So yeah, totally worth watching for the pure enjoyment. Reilly is great as a bad guy (not evil, just bad). (3/5)

Manhunter. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091474/
I liked this very much. Tom Noonan is a fantastic creepy serial killer actor...he almost reprised this by playing John La Roche in the freaky X-Files episodes "Paper Hearts." And after the big finale, I simply have to love Inna Gada De Vida again.

Walk on Water. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0352994/
A joint Israeli-Swedish film that takes place in both Israel and in Germany. Young gay German man comes to visit his sister in Israel. Israeli intelligence agent doubles as the gay guy's tour guide because it turns out that the German's grandfather was a particularly horrible Nazi leader back during the third reich, and has been hiding out in Argentina. Different reasons to really love this: it's not a movie about gayness--it's a movie about friendship; the acting is fantastic all the way around; it's got a nice untidy plotline; the actors get to go from speaking Hebrew to English to German -- which I find very impressive. Really great film. (5/5)

Time to Leave (aka Le temps qui reste). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0417189/
Of course I had to watch a French film! Especially with a gay lead character. Rather snotty gay fashion photographer finds out he has terminal cancer with a couple months to live. So he reacts by being nasty to people, then mellows out. I won't give too much away...no point anyway, as it's more a character film than a big ole plot film. Really nice, and I loved the ending. (4.5/5)

Metroland. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119665/
Late 90s film starring Christian Bale and Emily Watson with lots of nudity. But it's fun too. Film about entering your thirties wondering if you've made the right choices so far. Is it too late to give up the typical adult lifestyle and be a kid again? It's a Spanish/French movie but the primary language is English. In fact, there were no subtitles for the brief scenes that were spoken in French, but it was pretty easy to guss what they were saying. A bit universal in theme. Lovely scenery. Good acting. (4/5)

Indigo Girls - Live at the Roxy. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1206480/
I had recorded this off of Logo. They cut off the encore so they could fill up space with commercials and teasers for other shows...actually this is very common for Logo. It's a cable channel but they censor the heck out of the films they play. And waaaay too many commercials. But some good programming now and then, particularly the music-oriented shows (why bother watching Queer as Folk or The L Word on a gay channel that won't show nudity?). This concert was from a year or two ago, and they had some other musical guests on there, including Brandi Carlile, who fits right in, and is really into the music. And yep, I danced around during "Closer to Fine." (5/5)


Started to watch, but gave up pretty quickly:

The Embalmer (aka L'imbalsamatore). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0322725/
Italian. A middle-aged gay man (I believe he is a dwarf actually), a taxidermist, strikes a conversation with a fashion-model type young guy who expresses interest in learning the trade. Reading the synopsis, it's about a guy with an unrequited obsession over the young man, who is not gay. It looked good, but I had trouble with all the dead stuffed animals. Too much for me at a gut level.

An American Tail. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090633/
That cartoon from the mid-80s. I hadn't seen it. I think I'm not in the right frame-of-mind for these kinds of films. I need an adult element. Maybe this had it, but the way it started was a bit sickly sweet for me, and then of course the cats are totally pure evil. Yeah, wasn't in the mood. Zzzzzz. You know how it goes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The absurdity of third-party salvation

Playing with some thoughts here...

I've long been bugged by the teaching that Jesus "died for our sins." I hope this blog entry is not too scattered.

First, a bunch of ground questions:

1. We need to be saved?
--- From what? Damnation? Why? Why are we damned? Why is damnation bad?

2. Why is THIS the way we are to be saved?
--- A couple of possibilities come to mind:

2a. God had to become a person so God would know what it is like to be human and then die in order to have empathy with us. Otherwise, God would not be of the right mind to do so. (This certainly seems to limit God to an absurd, if somewhat poetic, predicament.)

2b. God has always required sacrifice for salvation. Hence, the murder of animals on altars throughout history were necessary until Jesus took their place (Seems to put God in an even more absurd position)

3. A non-literalist approach could be something like this:
---We are saved in the sense that we are taught by an avatar (God as man, i.e.: Jesus) how to be in the Kingdom of Heaven here and now, where we stand, in what we stand, and no longer in need of such an avatar once we learn from Jesus' example. Death was necessary; otherwise, we could easily assume that Jesus was not a man, and therefore not accept that we ourselves could reach salvation.
-----Jesus' resurrection was to show us that death was an illusion. Because we are to follow Jesus' example, we too are immortal, and are beyond the bounds of mortality.

#3 is the only one that makes sense to me.

The literal notion that Jesus' death, spilling his blood all over our sins (and all of that imagery), really was a physical necessity to keep us from damnation.

This in turn implies that we need a third party (God) to actually save us.

And I find all of that absurd.

It makes more sense to me that we are who we are and can move at our own pace, of our own free will, into enlightenment / salvation.

I think of it like this:

You live in a house in which everyone drinks too much alcohol, eats too many Twinkies, and always seems to be on crack.

You decide that you would like to be healthy, so you do not participate in the same habits.

You did this. It wasn't, "I chose to refrain from these activities and suddenly a bunch of Jesus' blood poured all over me and I was miraculously prevented from having liver disease, diabetes, and whatever happens to people when they use crack."

It was something purely natural: you did this and as a result you -- YOU -- avoided those side effects.

It's the same thing with salvation. Sure, I could say the sinner's prayer and claim to be saved (whatever that might mean) by God and do, basically, nothing else and remain in a cloudy place of doing whatever the rest of the people in my (hypothetical) church are doing. Dum-dee-dum. Twiddling my thumbs here.

Or I could follow Jesus into the Kingdom of Heaven right now, experience salvation now, because it's already there, and I can do what it takes to wake up to it. You know, the whole letting go of everything and following. More than words, more than faith. Action.

Caveat: I have no idea what that action looks like.

But: I think perhaps I will be able to find out when I stop asking permission from people who claim to know more than I do about God, about spirituality, about that which is invisible, about that which is difficult to explain.

I keep on giving my power away. By doing so, it seems like I'm giving my salvation away too.

Peace and all good,
Andrew

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why the word "Christian" doesn't really work for me

The Bible, as a source of spiritual truth, I find to be pretty much useless, outside of the gospels, which I don't find to be containing the fullness of said truth.

How truth is discerned is a personal matter. I go with my intuition and my heart. Others go with the Bible itself, but I see no reason for it personally. Still others go with a churchly authority, which I've tried time and again and I just can't fit in that box.

Most define Christianity in some way in relation to the Bible. Me, I'll take the four Gospels, but I won't take them 100% literally, because I don't believe Jesus tossed demons into pigs (for example). I'll also consider the non-canonical gospels. And Tarot cards. And the Qu'ran. And the Tao te Ching. And and and ...

The church is the candle before me, the books beside me, the heart within me, and you, and me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rambling about the media and Sarah Palin, and the interactions between them

A friend online stated that he thought the attacks on Sarah Palin have been over-the-top. I'm not sure, but he may be right. She has certainly said some outrageous things, and her constant associating of Obama with Ayers was also over the top (not to mention part of a larger tendency among the members of the right wing to associate Obama with anti-Americanism, which I do consider a dangerous set of accusations). If she wasn't such a spotlight monger, she certainly wouldn't be receiving so much negative attention.

The problem I really see is that both sides are too eager to turn off their brains and feed on these media hogs. Because I am more familiar with what I see on the left, there are tons of stories on shows such as Keith Olbermann's which focus on the outrageous antics of Glenn Beck, Palin, Rush Limbaugh, with little attention paid to whether or not these people are actually influential in the way things turn out.

In the end, the attention is warranted, but it's too circusy. Rather than have a field day with every silly rant that Beck makes on TV, the serious matter is that not only to thousands of people take his word as solid truth, but our national, state, and local lawmakers often use similar arguments in their decision making. It affects politics, which means it affects us.

I have yet to hear a truly unreasonable negative comment aimed at Sarah Palin. However, I think such things are sucking up too much energy, both in terms of those who really wish to make change in the state of things, and probably the national ethos in general. To extend that to its inevitable conclusion, it affects the whole world.

The people with the power to change public policy and foreign affairs activities are the ones we should be concerned with. Media clowns didn't start the war on Iraq or cause 9/11. People with weapons or people with governmental powers did. That's where the focus should be.

Animal Rights Activism and "Terrorism"

I'll come out first by saying I'm not willing to endorse bombing or destroying animal testing facilities or the automobiles or homes of those who commit animal testing.

Aside #1: Yes, I used the word "commit."
Aside #2: Let's not forget the probable irrelevance of Andrew Werling's endorsement or lack thereof.

Paul Finkelman, a professor at Albany Law School's Law and Public Policy, recently gave a lecture on the question of whether or not John Brown was the nation's first terrorist. You can watch it here: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/289567-1

This blog entry is not about that exact topic, but about Finkelman's definition of terrorists.

"Terrorists are willing to take lives, destroy property, without regard for the guilt or innocence of the people they are harming, without regard for whether innocent bystanders are harmed by these things."

In addiction to car bombings in the Middle East, he includes certain similar acts by anti-abortion activists and animal rights activists.

Now, as this was just a way to create a definition of a "terrorist," I'm not certain that his goal was to editorialize on these matters, though I do have to wonder why he chose to let out his own astonishment that, say, a car bomb in Los Angeles set off by a member of the extreme end of the "animal liberation front" (a misunderstood group too often blamed for such things) will destroy wildlife as collateral damage.

Moving away from Professor Finkelman's speech, I'd like to delve into this topic on my own. I don't want to suggest that anything I write from here on in this entry is something that Finkelman would disagree with. I don't know that, and that is not my concern in writing. Rather, impressions on animal rights activists are often colored by perceptions of the more extreme actions, and so that is what I would like to address. In briefly searching to discover how frequent such acts of violence committed by animal rights activists actually are, I couldn't find anything. I also don't know how common are similar actions by anti-abortion activists.

In debates on both topics, it is too common to point to such incidents as indicative of the nature of the respective movements. While I do not have statistics, I think it is fair to say that these are the extreme elements who engage themselves in such activities, and not anywhere near the majority. We see the same thing in arguments over religion, and censorship, and pornography, and drugs.

Not only is this dishonest, it's a way of denying the humanity of people who have heartfelt convictions. I see more power and harmony in trying to understand each other's passions and perspectives than in demonizing. As I am an animal rights believer, I can tell you my reasons are based on compassion, strong emotion, and logical reasoning. All mixed together. I am not a demon.

I don't endorse acts of violence or even necessarily acts of destruction of "property." If an activist knows what s/he is doing, however, the liberation of animals from factory farms, laboratories, and similar facilities, I am in full support of. If an animal is suffering in a lab or farm, then even euthanasia is better for them. They cannot free themselves, so they do need the help.

It's also true that, in a world so strongly based on profit-building, one of the best acts of change can be economically based. But such things are difficult to activate at a large scale. Certainly, if tons of people refused to buy any animal-tested product, animal testing might wither away as an accepted practice.

Changing social attitudes are frequently only semi-effective. While we have laws regarding civil rights, there are still significant numbers of people still opposed to them for various reasons. Sometimes its on the merits (or lack thereof) of specific policies, but sometimes it is still based on an -ism, a prejudice, even a hatred (we use that word too often). That's why direct action is frequently necessary. We are committing and supposedly benefiting from atrocious actions, and without a mass animal revolt, we are the only ones who can stop it.

Most of us - I would say a massive majority of us - do not seek these ends through violent means. Please stop associating the entire movement on those who do.

Peace and all good.
Andrew

Monday, November 16, 2009

Transition (not noun, verb, adjective, but something more than all of these)

Photobucket

Image found here: http://tarotbyarwen.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/wheeloffortune.jpg

Maybe it was ten years ago when a group of friends and I did a tarot exercise in which this was "my card." I don't remember if we drew these cards at random from the major arcana, or if we determined them in some other way. Heck, I remember very little about that experience, except we had fun.

What I do remember is this: there is a stage at which one is at the end of something and at the beginning of something new.

Supposedly my soul is at that place.

I was telling my mother recently that I wasn't sure if I was an "old soul" or a "young soul." A palm reader a long time ago told me I was a young soul, because I didn't have lots of lines on my palm. Well, I was 13 or so, so I could be wrong about that.

Maybe more accurately, as I often feel old and naive at the same time (in a spiritual way), I am in both places.

I don't know what I'm ending and what I'm beginning. It's not physical death, but perhaps this lifetime, or epoch, or whatever, is a transitional time.

It's very uncomfortable.

I saw "Where the Wild Things Are" yesterday. It's not a simple kid's movie. Max, the young star, is in a stage of growing up...definitely still a kid (eight or nine perhaps?), still full of imagination, but also full of that energy that doesn't know where to go. Kind of a frustrated mania. The world doesn't respond according to the wizardly wimsy of a child's mind. Max goes into another world in which the creatures he encounters are easy to subdue, and they are excited about his strange, stream-of-conscious dictates. They eagerly agree to build a complicated city with tunnels and magical powers, and participate in a rumpus, and a dirt-clod fight.

But the creatures are not puppets. They have emotions - they are in many ways like kids. They don't always act the way Max might want them too.

Max is struggling with reality vs. fantasy, with growing up, with pent-up volcanic oozing kid-ness. It's not a moralistic movie, a predictable formula movie, a condescending or patronizing movie. It's primal and real, real, real.

I had a tear-duct geyser at several points while experiencing this masterpiece. Where the Wild Things Are is about transition...no, not "about"...it IS transition. There is no thesis or metaphor, even though it applies to leaving one's parents on the way to life in adulthood, to encountering middle age, to changing a career, to breaking up with (or falling in love with) someone, to getting seriously ill, to dying.

I know this crisis mode. I am Max. Max did not remind me of myself, or illuminate my self. He unlocked my heart and crawled inside and we adventured and raged and cried and laughed together.

The postscript is that I felt moved to go to Mass today for lunch, and I went back and forth between the Episcopal Mass that starts at noon and the Catholic one that starts at ten minutes after. I'm fortunate that I work so close to two different traditions who have daily Mass.

I decided that I didn't have to stick to my promise not to return to the Catholics, so I started down the street to the cathedral. Then I was easily deterred. I had no money in my pocket for the collection plate, and walking a few blocks to church might wear me out for the walk from the bus stop to home later, and besides, why the heck do I want to sit through a Mass anyway? The money machine was closer, so I went there, got some cash out for the next couple weeks, and turned back to work. I remembered the childish lecture about the proper way to receive Communion. I remembered how easy it is to turn on the "I'm so sorry, Lord" faucet whenever I participate in Christianity. How every prayer must include contrition. I used to fall asleep at night trying to get the whole prayer formula down...acknowledgment (thou art great), contrition (I'm so sorry), thanksgiving (for this and for that), and supplication (please give me this and that). ACTS is the abbreviation.

They don't want you to forget anything I guess.

I rarely even got to the thanksgiving part. I guess I see the point in the formula (though contrition is an odd thing...perhaps for another blog entry).

So, hey, church, my first instinct in the choice to go to Mass was - guess what? - that I should go to confession and be oh-so-sorrowful that my anger with the pope and the church leaders has led me astray or something.

But, see, I'm not sorry, and I'm not going to force sorrow onto myself so I feel worthy to take Communion.

Not gonna do it.

And that's when I remembered the Tarot.

Peace and all good.
Andrew

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Book - St. Basil the Great's "On Social Justice"

This book looks great.

Whenever I see things like this I feel Orthodox. Arg.

http://www.svspress.com/product_info.php?products_id=4154

Homosexuality in Saudi Arabia

I came in to work this morning to find out that the company I work for, a large international architectural/engineering firm, is going to assist in building a skyscraper in Saudi Arabia.

My first reaction is, great, we're getting our profits from a country that executes queers.

So I decided to look into that subject, and found this:

http://atheism.about.com/b/2004/03/13/homosexuality-in-saudi-arabia.htm

Yes, it's an atheism blog, but it links elsewhere as well. Even though the danger of arrest and prosecution is always there, apparently things are changing. And in a country wherein the law is so fluid, and contrasted to the strange approach the U.S. is taking towards equality, indeed things could go in many directions.

Now, that blog entry was written in 2004. In 2007, this article appeared in The Atlantic:

tp://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200705/gay-saudi-arabia

I don't know if a United Statesian could adjust to the closeted lifestyle of a gay person in Saudi Arabia. It's kind of "don't flaunt, don't get arrested" there. Sort of. It's also a place that considers the homosexual act, rather than the identity, at least at the time of the article I just referenced. Sex is rampant, while a focus on identity (gay orientation) is discouraged. What to make of the attitude towards women as described in the article, I'm not sure. But as someone whose spiritual path always seems to have strong roots in the Middle East (I've never been there, but Jesus, Nazareth, spirituality of the desert), learning about life there seems to be a magnet for my attention.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What's the difference?

What is the difference between following the party line of the Roman Catholic church, and "100% faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church"?

(That's a quote from someone replying to a comment I made about people following the party line regarding gay marriage).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hell, Purgatory, and Other Means of Hating Ourselves

I don't believe in an eternal place that is impossible to escape.

I also think that the whole Purgatory hellish sin-purge thing is outdated and totally negates the power of God.

God CAN handle "impurity." It's not what goes in, it's what comes out. Jesus said so himself. We don't need to be cleansed for a billion years just so we can be in the presence of God. What, did Jesus only feel safe to be around imperfect unbathed humans because he had the human flesh barrier between him and his godliness?

Do we presume to assert that his skin and muscles and fingernails and organs and blood vessels and bodily fluids were not also in some way "God"?

Seriously?

If we must be purged, I think we do it here. For me, it's pretty literal. When I'm letting go of something rather toxic in my psyche, or going through a big transition, I tend to have at least one rather horribly violent vomit session.

I see neither a logical nor intuitive connection between the loving, perfect God, and the need for us to be squeaky clean in order to achieve "salvation" (another term with all sorts of interesting definitions).

Peace and all good.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Roman Catholic Church - Ta-Ta Bitch!

I'm watching the results trickle in on Question 1 in Maine, which would trash gay marriage and take away equal rights from my queer brothers and sisters in that state.

It's very close, but as I write this, the margin has gone up from 50-50 to 51-49, in favor of the people who want to spit in our face.

I don't live in Maine, but I take this personally.

I take this personally because my church, the Roman Catholic Church, fought for this to happen.

I take this personally, no matter what the outcome, because it can still be this close, in spite of everything.

I take this personally because I'm gay and I am supposedly an equal citizen in this country.

I don't think I'll be able to forgive my church for this. No more.

Put your money into the basket, it can go to crap like this.

Fuck you, church. I'm done with you, for the very last time.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hallowe'en Soul Wisdom

Hallowe'en night, the dead are close to us.

They say that.

They.

And they may be right.

We are fascinated with the stupid stuff.

"The witches have cursed the candy supply."

I think maybe not the witches...they're thinking of Project Mayhem. Not an easy mistake to make, unless they haven't seen Fight Club.

And the candy, the pure molded shit we smoosh with our molars and send careening down into our bloodstreams, is big business.

Do we worry about Nestle? They do horrible things. But we buy their candy, and give it to our kids.

The Daily Show did a pretty astute clip regarding the futility of boycotts, or at least the frustration of attempting them:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-october-27-2009/whole-foods-boycott

But enough about consumerism. In the cold Hallowe'en desert night, we can drive to a desolate area, and sit under the moon. We can make magic happen. But I'll probably stay home, remote control in one hand, bottle of wine in the other. The magic dissipated many years ago. The veil between the physical world and the invisible world, be it thick or thin, I don't think it registers anymore. I don't feel anything.

Maybe tonight can be my new year's. Tomorrow, push away all the chemicals, the people-pleasing, the games, the existential focus on materialism. Why wait till tonight? I think I'll start now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Disengagement Just Happens. Freedom Just Happens.

This is personal.

Something happens:
A priest says something stupid about the proper way to take communion.

Something that small is usually not enough, but if it's compounded by something big, it usually is enough:
The pope welcomes disaffected members of another denomination of Christianity into the Roman Catholic fold, on the basis of a negative rather than a positive.

The drifting begins.

Sometimes it's very depressing. Not this time. It was just drifting. "I'll go over here, to the Episcopalians."

But no, that doesn't seem right. No click.

Drift, drift. Peacefully arrive at:
Full disconnect.

Disconnection from the church. Disconnection from concern about said disconnection.

Float some more.

Feel attraction to the more purely spiritual energies, the elements, the spirits, the music and tools of magic, the freedom of exploration.

This time it is a pleasant breeze. Sometimes it is a cool river, but this time, a breeze.

I am a feather in the breeze. Not caught by it, but freely IN it.

It's not a path, necessarily, but a state.

Disengage. Pull the plug from the base of my spine, from the hole in my neck.

Intrigued by, attracted to Kundalini. To something that smells better, has more energy, more promise.

The door in the prism of my heart is open in true wonder.

The light.

Peace.

And all good.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A note about slavery

I'm currently reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, and he points out (on page 28 of the 2003 paperback printing) that slavery in the colonies was "the most cruel form of slavery in history" because of two factors:

"...the frenzy for limitless profit that comes from capitalistic agriculture; the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white was master, black was slave."

And while we think sometimes that we already understand what slavery in the American colonies was like, to get a very real first-hand account, I highly recommend that anyone interested read "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano."

"Interesting" is an understatement!

It's an accessible read, it's contemporary to the times, and Equiano experienced not only U.S. slavery, but also Caribbean slavery.

New thoughts on "Fight Club" (the movie) - SPOILERS WITHIN

Okay, so I just finished watching Fight Club again, first time in almost ten years. (I saw it several times back then, and the DVD has sat on my shelf for many years since. It was time to revisit.)

These thoughts are for those who have indeed watched the film already. It gives away too much if you are planning to see it. There's your warning!

My earlier feeling was that this movie metaphorically described how to get out of rut, out of the matrix, so to speak.

Watching it this time, I really started to wonder what to do with the brainwashing aspect of the Durden plan. The new recruits are head-shaven. Slogans are shouted into their faces over and over and down the line, passed on. You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake. You are not...you are not....

You have no names...

And then, even when he tries to point out that it's not true, that they do have names, it becomes another slogan. His name is Robert Paulson....

Animal Farm...the initial pig who dies, but first gives a big speech, essentially the Karl Marx of the book...his words are perverted by later pigs, until they become as bad as their original oppressors.

Fight Club seems to be doing something similar, though in the end, yes, no one gets hurt by the exploding buildings, but still...

It's happily not simple. Which makes it not a nice neat metaphor after all.

It's making me think about the film's intent more. Yes, it still blows me away in some ways. But most of that comes from the first act, as Roger Ebert describes in his review:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19991015/REVIEWS/910150302/1023

I think he is too dismissive in his review, but if I toss aside his desire to turn his observations into criticism and his refusal to try to see a bit deeper his own cynicism, he provides some insights. I don't share his critique of the art, but it is nice to notice that someone else sees the Fascist parallels...

Is Fight Club more about Nazism than about freedom?

I'm thinking it's very possible. And how difficult it is to know the difference between freeing yourself (hitting rock bottom) and deciding that you are a victim (the middle children of society, or whatever).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian - Episcopalian, Anglican, Catholic

Many of you have patiently observed and smile-n-nodded as I have taken the dizzy spiral of religious seeking. I could try to give a timeline; it's boring or boggling or both, so feel free to skip to the paragraph after if you want!

Baptised Catholic...lost specific faith definitions at age 12 when they told me you can't get out of hell once you're there...agnostic through adolescence but got confirmed Roman Catholic anyway...Occult for a while...back to Catholic...then Pagan...then Catholic, wanted to be priest...then experimented with EVERYTHING....then Catholic, wanted to be a priest again...then moved to Denver...then Catholic, then Wiccan, then Orthodox...back to Albuquerque...officially became Orthodox via Chrismation...back to Wicca...then Episcopalian (received even)...then nothing for a while...then Orthodox for a month...then nothing again...now lately been going to the Roman Catholic church.

And I'm sure I missed something there. Oh yeah...some time with the UUs and the Religious Science paths...

I look at all of these paths with positivity and love. I think they all work in many ways. I disparage none.

Belief-wise, Episcopalian is for me. This has been the case for some time. But I didn't feel at home without my church of birth. Cradle Roman Catholic here. Raised on Vatican II churches. Great music for a while (yes, folky, with guitars, but they were great songs) though not every parish utilizes the good stuff.

I noticed a couple things coming back to the RCC (Roman Catholic Church).

1. Almost every sermon mentions or dwells on abortion. It would seem there is no other real passion among the church leadership anymore.

1a. Except putting money and effort into defeating any gay rights initiative in civil society, and berating us gays for, well, being ourselves.

2. The archdiocese here is having this men's course. How to be a Catholic man. Accepting the leadership role in the family. (This is Catholic? It sounds so...right-wing Christian) Women should encourage men to take on this strong leadership role.

3. There is a lot of focus among the laity about "error" in liturgy, and how the only real Mass is Tridentine. This is a belief among friends of mine online, many of them.

4. There is still compassion for the individual among the priests.

5. The pope is worse than the one we had before I left. I say that from my own perspective. This one is almost a crusader, "investigating" nuns, forbidding gays to become priests, generally making faces in public that are scarier than Dick Cheney's.

5a. Pope's behavior does not surprise me. Ratzinger has always been like this.

Still, this is my church. The RCC is made of the people, who are bigger than the sum of the parts, and about whom I care more than I do about the Vatican. The Vatican should care more about the people than itself too.

I was so set on sticking around. They aren't gonna drive me out!

(I'm pretty sure the Papacy would like we dissenters to leave, however, if we aren't willing to pickle our brains in the brine of dogmatism.)

Now, we have hypocrisy. That's what this is:

"Yo," says the pope, "you Anglicans who prickle and burn with umbrage over women and gays in the clergy, you are welcome here, for we are a sanctuary for you, who are righteous and intolerant of such evils. And, hey, you can keep your wives too."

See, if you are a faithful Catholic, and want to be a priest, you cannot have a wife. (Hell, even if you want to be celibate, but are gay in orientation, you can't be a priest, because we just cannot have a person who might seduce kids...oh, wait...never mind...).

But if you convert because your underwear is itchy, you can have all kinds of privileges.

I can't help but wonder if this is a way to get more priests in the church without having to change the rules and allow married priests.

The church is growing among the intolerant and conservative (not always the same thing, but usually). It is shrinking among the free-thinking. I'm sure the Pope is gleeful about this, as his creepy visage takes on its sinister grin.

Is it time for me to finally let go of my childish clinging to the church of my youth? Is it time to cut the string for good? Is it possible for my heart to fully grow into a more liberal path and work to make it my home?

Orthodoxy came close, but only in pockets, wonderful independent churches who were very gay-friendly and often shunned by established jurisdictions (especially among those members who converted from something else).

What attracted me to the Episcopalians originally was that people prayed together, took communion together, no matter how they differed in matters of dogma, morality, even theology. The Creed and the Book of Common Prayer bind the people together. And hey, you can intepret that as you do. No pressure to accept specifics. They don't even seem to mind that I don't say the filioque.

If my understanding is faulty, someone please let me know.

But the next service I attend will be Episcopalian. There, I won't be adding funds to anti-gay initiatives. There, I can love God without worrying if I'm taking communion correctly. There, I can accept the Eucharist without worrying if I should have gone to Confession first.

There, see, God and I can have a relationship without some crazy guy in Rome getting in the way.

Peace and all good.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Finding meaning

I go through periods that I call "so what?"

You know, nothing really matters. The world is pointless and absurd, and therefore so are our endeavors. Or dreams and goals and actions and emotions.

Hopelessness and depression. What else to call it?

"So what?"

A couple of months ago I dropped out of school, in despair of the job market. See, I wanted to be a history professor. Or, really, I wanted to be a historian, surrounded by that which I love, the human journey, the mysterious corners of a thousand years ago, the reasons that Reagan became president (and what that event wrought thereafter). The globe is beautiful. Right there is the Mediterranean. Do you know how much happened there which made the current world possible?

See England? Voltaire loved it and wrote about it. He inspired people who ended up doing good and terrible things because of what he wrote and said. Rousseau, same time period, French, inadvertently inspired revolutionary movements not only in the United States, but in South America as well.

It really does matter.

It matters because it's interesting. Inspirational. Terrible. It makes *today* seem more *worthy* of my energy. I don't want to just wake up each day, go to work, float through it, pay my bills, go home and eat a lot of food before going to bed again.

I don't care if I become a history professor. But I am going to study history. If you and I live long enough, you can, if you choose, call me Dr. Werling someday.

The drive for finding meaning leads some to church, some to charity, some to career.

I found it ages ago, back in World History class. 12th grade. Mrs. Barbara Murdoch is one of my saints. I'd love to have a photograph of her to place near my altar, so I may show her respect. I should find her and tell her that. She doesn't know how much she shaped my sense of wonder, my love of academics, my interest in living.

Peace and all good,
Andrew

Friday, October 16, 2009

Salvation separation?

I loved Stephen Colbert's comment a couple nights ago, about how the cross can be a symbol both for those who are Christians and those who are going to hell.

So one group of Christians, anyway, says that you have to do the Jesus Prayer to go to heaven. Something like, "Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner and ask you to be my lord and savior." And you have to mean it.

Another says you have to be baptized and go through a purging after death in order to get to heaven.

Another says that you work with God, and God is working to save you throughout life.

Does this make Christians severely split?

Or is it all symbolic anyway? One priest told me that he believed that heaven is so glorious that, when faced with the choice of acceptance or rejection of Christ when the door of Heaven was opened to him, even Adolph Hitler chose heaven.

I think Hell, in the end, is empty. Even Satan is hanging out in the summerland. We're all together for eternity. And we're happy. Bite me, gloomy types.

Monday, October 12, 2009

St. Paul and the Nature of the Bible

A general question was brought up at a blog I follow over on myspace (Click here): how should Paul be understood, and in what way (if at all) should we Christians follow his teachings?

Paul was a gifted, thoughtful writer, to be sure. A key to shaping the early church.

I personally don't base my faith on "taking the bible as a whole inerrantly etc. etc." We must use discernment. For one thing, Paul himself only wrote some of the letters attributed to him. Scholars have pretty much agreed that he didn't write Ephesians or Colossians, for example. Among others.

When Paul wrote about homosexuals in Romans, it's obvious he wasn't given any divine insight into the concept of sexual orientation, only studied with any real seriousness in the 1900s and beyond. Like most of the Bible, the specifics in his teachings have little application to us in in the modern Western world. We need a heavy amount of interpretation to find value in his discussions on slavery, or women in church.

I'm one who considers the bible to be a collection of books, all written by humans, inspired by God but not directed by God. If I am inspired to sing God's praises when I beyond a beautiful landscape, that is not God singing God's praises...it's me, inspired by God. I don't even necessarily think God intended for me to sing those praises. I'm inspired by what I behold and experience and interpret. That's how I think the Biblical texts were written. I believe that the canonization of the various works that became the anthology that we call the Holy Bible is an artificial construct, originally put together for convenience, and then placed in an order which suggests the inevitability of events from other events.

Hence, the nature of God, the behavior of Yahweh, the reasons for Jesus Christ's presence and activities on earth - this was interpreted by the writers based on what they experienced, what they were told as the stories were passed down. What I have before me in a Bible are those interpretations and literary presentations, and I too must then interpret and discern for myself how to understand God and God's mission with humans and with Creation in general.

Hence, that's how I read Paul. His letters reflect his experience, interpretation, and possibly political aims, in relation to Jesus. I could choose to just put all the responsibility on Paul's shoulders and take him literally. It's easy; I'd just say that God told him what to write. Instead, I wrestle with it, and do my best to be in communication/relationship/interaction with the books in the Bible. The Bible, for me, is neither a book in stone nor the only medium for coming to God. There are the gospels which never ended up in the Bible. There are other texts considered sacred in other religious paths. There are trees, and movies, and novels, and scientific discoveries, and babies, and music, and rabbits...so many ways to approach God. My spiritual path must be living. Living waters, as they are called. To drink of those waters, for me, means to dive in and really experience them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Coming Out - Big Explosive Wormhole to Freedom

In the fall of 1989 I came out to my friend John, via a cassette. We were friends since fifth grade, and as we we went to college we stayed connected for a few years via spoken letters on cassettes. Looking back, that was the perfect thing. Our friendship was partly based on the chemistry of verbal interaction, in a mutually developed sense of humor and appreciation of the ridiculous which still informs the person I am today.

After walking all over the campus with my portable tape player, which my parents bought for me for recording lectures but ended up being used solely for letters such as these, I did a build up that made obvious what I was going to say: "I'm gay."

Putting it into the mailbox pretty much sealed it.

Technically, the first person who knew for a fact that I was gay was a counselor at school, with whom I had already made an appointment and saw before the letter got to John's possession. But John got to witness the vulnerable first step.

After that, I confided in a couple more friends, but that was it, until 1991, October 11, National Coming Out Day. There was a listserv mailing list online called "Gay Net" which was for college queers and which was very active with lots of readers. I sent a simple message that said something like, "Today is National Coming Out Day. Here I am, coming out."

There were waves of acceptance from this. For the next couple years I slowly came out to more friends and family on a personal level. I was never rejected for it, was very fortunate to have a flexible and very loving family who adjusted very quickly to a new knowledge of who I am. My parents even sent a coming out letter to the extended family members, coming out as parents of a gay son.

Yeah, I'm pretty lucky!

Coming out made it impossible for me to lie. I stink at lying. It's a skill I'm trying to relearn as I rebuild some boundaries these days, due to other issues I haven't come to grips with yet.

But coming out led to a renewed awakening of my spirituality, my cradle church, and I went to a priest at the local Newman Center (a college-focused ministry; these are parishes that exist near universities to minister to the students) about returning to the faith. I felt the Holy Spirit's blessing as I walked away from that meeting.

I told the priest I was gay too.

I was a gay Catholic, and I am today as well.

Coming out is a remarkably, explosively freeing event. It can even create freedom in an instant, like a wormhole (do you like my clever blog-entry title?). It also, I learned, can lead to a little bit of grief. It is a separation from the way things were, even if the way things were lacked, well, goodness. I didn't find that grief to be overbearing or even a big deal. It was just adjustment.

They say coming out is a lifelong process. I'm not officially out at work. I mean, a bunch of people do know, of course, though they haven't said anything. How could they not know? But I never came out. The four-plus years at my job in Denver were the same way, though I think fewer people knew there.

There are many ways to come out. I'm a pretty honest person, especially on the internet. The way for me to come out now is to move from the self-focus to the other-focus (without losing centeredness in the heart). By giving I am more fully being. By receiving I am able to more fully give. Connection without enmeshment. Honesty without neediness.

I'm out. Are you?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Engaging and Approaching the Bible - Rewriting It?

Obviously the conservative bible is a silly idea, and if they want to
waste their time and money on such a thing, I figure it's there
problem. And hey, as I'm not one who really holds the Bible (as it
is) as sacred really (I know that's weird for a Catholic to say), I
think it's probably a good thing. At least they are engaging with the
text and being creative with it. Okay, more likely they are trying
very hard to force the bible into their own weird mold of what they
want it to say. I'm being generous here.

Thomas Jefferson did the same thing, of course, which is a fun thing about him.

Stephen Mitchell, who is not a Christian (as I recall) wrote a
fascinating book called The Gospel of Jesus, in which he goes on
recent scholarship AND his own instinct to pull out everything that
doesn't seem to fit in the Gospels. Interesting and at the very least
encourages active thinking and engagement with the Gospels.

Allow me to share this link to what I think is a BRILLIANT essay on
this. It really helps me in its explanation of a good way to approach
and engage with the Bible. I really encourage everyone here to read
it.

"The project, as it turns out, indulges in an error common not just to
conservatives, but to liberal believers and atheists as well. Namely,
these conservative ideologues seem to think that the Bible should tell
them what they already know, rather than challenge their beliefs."

http://www.religiondispatches.org/blog/religionandtheology/1892/because_the_bible_has_a_liberal_bias/

Seriously...follow the link. It's the best blog entry I've read in some time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Coexisting with Those Against Us

Perhaps we are simply being normal people when we react with anger towards those who are in a state of "againstness" towards us, particularly when they are yelling at us. We gay people deal with it all the time.

Much of it comes from the Christian "right wing."

When they use the military vocabulary (soldiers, spiritual armor) in a spiritual sense (this is a very foreign concept to me, but I understand there is a Pauline verse that fuels this kind of thing), I get nervous.

If they are soldiers against me and my queer sisters and brothers, should I be a soldier too, a defensive soldier? What would that look like?

And the more immediate question: are the actions of people such as these worth addressing at all? You know, I find that when I don't watch Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, the right wing seems less threatening to me. I think it's because of all the attention they put on them.

If he won't disclose church attendence, that certainly means it's miniscule.

Something that just crossed my mind. How about a movement of queers with the message: "We love you"? As in, openly gay people who, as a group, feed the homeless, hold community events, help kids in need, etc. etc., who also make a point to be loving towards the folks who are so outraged by our existence. Not judging, debating, trying to change them. Just being humans with love in our hearts.

Then maybe some of them will change their minds of their own accord.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Frankenberry on Wood, "Liberal or Literal?"

RE: "Liberal or Literal? James Wood, Terry Eagleton, and the New Atheism" by Nancy Frankenberry.

Not sure what to do with this article. It's certainly insightful.

My problem with much "new atheist" critique is resulting from those who espouse it in forums online, the ones who accuse me of accepting dangerous fairytales in lieu of "reason." I haven't read Dawkins or any of the others, with the exception of a brief excerpt from Harris, which I found very easy to refute and so didn't bother reading more.

The literalism I run into in daily conversation online, then, is a dismissive insistence that it's all mythology (as if mythology itself were foolish) and only serves as escapism or deflection of responsibility.

It ignores deeper experiences of those of us who are religious. As a liberal religious person, I have problem with neither the divinity of Christ and existence of spirits NOR the use of reason and science in the material world. It's easy to reconcile the two, because religion for me is not about explaining away everything. It's about getting deeper, getting energized.

I'm glad that atheism is getting airtime, and that atheists are speaking out, particularly against those who would turn the U.S. into a theocracy. But those who wish to convert us to atheism are missing the point. I am not dangerous, I am not deluding myself. I am living more fully than I would be if I rejected religion and spirituality altogether.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pro-Life Politics and St. Francis of Assisi

The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi seemed like a good day to get off my butt and go to my first Sunday Mass in over a month. He is the saint I chose (who chose me?) when I was Confirmed back in 1988. And if I ever do answer that calling to a religious order (secular order or otherwise), there is a good chance that it will be a Franciscan one.

Today also happened to be a church-wide anti-abortion day.

If this was unintentional on the part of whoever decided the latter, I don't find it accidental.

The priest this morning gave a long, thoughtful, and I thought sensitive discussion on human life issues. He did not budge from his perspective on abortion and while I do question some of the comments he made, I can find no fault with his approach and delivery.

It was very political. That's fine too.

I think, however, that this "issue" is poorly served by thrusting it into the political arena. Reducing abortion cannot be achieved through legislation. And the last thing we really need is another reason for the courts, cops, and lawyers to get into our lives.

Compassion for all is more important to me, personally. Compassion for the mothers, especially. It's been said a million times, but it doesn't hurt to reinforce the fact that among those people who have been through the abortion experience, it's pretty rare for their attitudes about it to be marked by casualness, indifference, joy, or celebration.

I respect that.

The priest also mentioned stem cells, which is also more complex than most people acknowledge. He mentioned euthanasia, which I don't think is anyone's business but the person who wants it. He mentioned war and the death penalty. It's rare to have a pro-life sermon or discussion in which all of this is put into parallel. I appreciate that.

No mention of St. Francis of Assisi except in the announcements before the Mass started. They're blessing pets at some point today.

But the connection isn't hard to make.

Francis wrote a lovely piece, The Canticle of the Sun. Read it here (it's short!): CLICK.

Pro-Life I am. May the life of Creation thrive. May we cooperate with that. May we encourage the health of the planet and universe.

Pro-Life I am. May we move in compassion in our treatment of all creatures, human and non-human alike.

Pro-Life I am. May we extend that not only in our physical and material decisions, but in our spoken and unspoken interactions, and may we nurture our hearts to grow in love.

Pro-Life I am. May the Living Spirit of God recognize itself in us.

Peace and all good.



Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beware the Scrupulous Scowl

And believe me, it's a scowl.

Fr. X, back in 8th grade. Weekly mass for us kids. The only thing I remember about his sermon? "I watched you walk into God's house and not one of you said to Him, 'Good Morning.'"

You bad, bad, pathetic, worthless little Catholics. You didn't do it right. I'd like to smoosh you with my little thumb.

It's 25 years later, and I've spent a lot of time reconciling my independent nature and emotional upheavals and creative instincts with the church of my cradle. I often go to Daily Mass. It's good for me. Doesn't even take half a day for me to get discombobulated at work and all it takes is a half-hour of Mass and I am able to be normal again.

People can call me a lot of things in relation to my faith journey, but "insincere" is not one of them.

I've also got a bit of OCD. If I cut myself, the worst thing I can do is get blood on anything, especially another person.

So in the communion line this past Wednesday, I scratched my ear. Apparently I scratched too hard. I was afraid there was blood on my finger. For me, even microscopic blood is enough to trigger my compulsion to NOT let you touch my hand.

If that doesn't make sense, I can only ask that you accept that the urgency is real.

So this was my left hand. I'm right handed. I put my right hand on top of my left to receive communion from Father Y, then I bring my hand up to my mouth to take Communion. No, this isn't elegant. But even though I'm about to chew up this host and allow it to pass through my digestive system, I'm sure as heaven not going to get blood on it.

Communion ends. Before the final blessing, Fr. Y stands up and offers a bit of information on the proper way to receive Communion. Hey, I don't mind education. It's not something I remember. Proper way to receive Communion. To me it was always about mindset. Reverence. Gratitude. That sort of thing. Communion has always been the highlight for me. It blows my mind.

So imagine:

"The proper way to receive communion is to put your non-dominant hand over your dominant hand, then take the communion with your dominant hand and put it into your mouth. Those of you who play games and keep it in the same hand and bring it up to your mouth in order to gulp it down are not doing it correctly."

Playing games? Gulp it down?

Sorry Father, but it's God who knows my heart, not you. Bite me.

And it's not like I can go take communion from him again. He'll be watching me.

It's bewildering to me. Here is the priest I'm always pleased about when it's his turn to do the daily Mass. His sermons are simply yet unique and insightful. I went to him for confession once and thought he was amazing and very caring.

And then this crap. Who pissed in your Wheaties, Father?

It sucks sometimes, when spiritual leaders get all *human* on you.

But because I'm not back at the church in order to second guess my every move, in order to scrupulously and anxiously make sure I jot and tittle my way to heaven, I must reject his admonishment. Not the information within it. But yes, the insulting and demeaning assumption he made. I'm sad, but I won't be going to his Masses again.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ecumenism: one church?

I don't argue about there being one church.

I'm not so convinced that Catholics have everything "right" about the "truth." Because we are human it is difficult to know if our interpretations are correct. Do we think Ratzinger is right about everything? If not, why do we assume that the early church councils were right about everything? A lot of those things were dictated by Constantine, who was only possessed of a very rough understanding of even basic Christian belief at the time he was alive.

I have faith in God, and the best place for me to meet God is the RCC. Because relationship requires more than one party, I need to do what I can to be as receptive as possible. I find it easiest to do that in church. I don't assume that the church is infallible, though I do not have any problem, and even like, what the church teaches about Mary (as the two times papal infallibility was invoked involved her).

Again, because of our humanness our understanding is limited. It is necessarily shaped by our experience, studies, personality. The U.S. black church's understanding of Jesus' mission is partly shaped by the history of slavery and subsequent oppression, for example. In the U.S. in general, a do-it-yourself kind of country, telling people to just go to church and trust councils and encyclicals to explain the truth is a pretty unrealistic expectation.

Just like it's unrealistic to expect me and many of my fellow and sister Catholics and Orthodox Christians to use only the Bible and our own (again, necessarily) imperfect interpretive abilities to understand that truth.

We do what we can. We do our best. Theology is not a perfect science. And I really don't think we will ever be "one church" again. We can be at peace with that and pray for each other, or we can wring our hands and get into flurrious conniptions about heresies.

No thanks. This is about God, who I frankly doubt gives two figs about much of this.

Peace and all good.

PS: did you notice the word "flurrious"? Did I make that up? Gee, I sure hope so!

We do what we do. We do our best.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ecumenism? Why?

I'm not sure what drives ecumenical efforts.

Is it to heal the schisms?

Is it so we simply get along? Or is it to create a universal communion among all Christianities?

As a Catholic, I find that the vocabulary and even some of the concepts of the more evangelical Protestant groups is foreign to my own experience and beliefs.

I don't even think we speak the same language half the time.

(No, I'm not pretending to speak for all Catholics.)

Are we all Christians? I remember someone in a class I was taking tell the professor that he would like to write a paper discussing the differences in marriage ceremonies between Catholics and Christians.

I thought, hey, I'm a Christian. What are you implying?

But it doesn't matter. "Christian" is just a word. I don't really care if we all agree. My suspicion is that we all have different means to effectively approach God. What I need for that endeavor is not going to be realized at a Sunday service which is predominantly a pastor spending an hour analyzing a chapter of the bible verse-by-verse, or through speaking in tongues. A lot of people I know cannot handle the sitting and standing and kneeling that happens in a Catholic Mass.

All well and good.

They do their thing, I do my thing. It doesn't even matter if it's to the same end.

I'd rather have the divisions than have people all try to fit into the same church to the point wherein there is one church that somehow incorporates everything into it. If a priest at a Mass started having altar calls I'd have to stop going.

Just sayin'. Hey, look at what's happening in the Roman Catholic church now, from the Vatican itself. It's going as conservative as it can. If one believes EWTN, party-line television for the modern Catholic fuddy duddy (though I do love their music programs, and the Rosary programs they feature), we're about as fun-loving as a plastic-covered couch.

Try to integrate the rest of conservative Christianity into the Church, and good grief. Well, let me just say no thanks.

I tend to think there are good reasons we have different Christianities. Let's just keep it that way. I know I find it hard enough as a gay liberal cradle Catholic who finds comfort in his home church and either ignores, rejects, or "gives to God" the more dictatorial aspects of the Magisterium. No additional pressure. Please and thank you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rosary v. Gin

Getting drunk gets you that neat tipsy feeling and might do something temporarily about emotional turmoil or hangups. Then if you don't pass out it tends to make things a bit worse, where you feel like crap and the morning is that much more difficult to face, and you're sluggish the next day and frankly, it's not much fun anymore.

I know, I didn't use "I" language in that paragraph. I meant "I."

I find that saying a Rosary has a calming effect as well, and no negative after-effect.

Just something I notice.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What do I mean by "Dark Magnet"

Folks talk of balance. You can't have creation without destruction (or vice versa), they say, or light without darkness.

The darkness attracts the light too.

It's an imperfect metaphor. Darkness perhaps reveals the light more than attracts it.

Looking for God in the Dark Corners, Without Permission

That's what I'm doing with this blog. Rather, that's what I'm doing in life, and sharing about it by writing it down, here.

I am a Roman Catholic, who has decided to approach God with the faith of a child. I need church, but I don't need dogma. I need God, but I don't need to be dictated to by humans.

I have explored many faith paths, both within and outside of Christianity. I think God is in all of them.

Because religion is the attempt to connect with God collectively.

It's fine to have heroes. It's finer to be in touch with God in your heart.

My eyes and heart are open, and I hope that anxiety and tendencies toward religious scrupulosity will be lovingly transformed into peaceful wonderment and acceptance. I'm glad we have priests, bishops, and even a pope. None of them, however, trump God in the heart. Not for me anyway.

I hope as this blog proceeds you will be moved, edified, or inspired to explore. Please don't condemn. Heresy is an overrated concept.

Peace and all good.
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