Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hallowe'en Soul Wisdom

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

They say that.


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:

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.


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 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:

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 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,

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'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 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

"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."

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.