One shoe off

January 20, 2009

“Praise Song for the Day”

The title comes from Elizabeth Alexander’s inaugral poem. You can find the transcript here.

What to say about today ….

Last night I walked in the Muskogee Ministerial Alliance annual MLK march, which culminated in a service at a local African American church. It was an enormous God-Party, because King deserves no less, but also because of the momentousness of the holiday falling on inauguration eve. I bought three over-priced Obama buttons from a teenage girl raising money for the local NAACP youth group. One moment that crystalizes it for me happened in the opening minutes. We sang a praise chorus that I’d sung before at my parents’ church, but had always dismissed as another kind of lame “Yay Jesus” song. But listen:
“Lord you are good and your mercy endureth forever!
Lord you are good and your mercy endureth forever!”

You Are Good – Israel & New Breed

I can’t even express the impact of singing these words on that night, the night before this day, and for the first time realizing a fraction of what they meant to the sisters and brothers standing next to me. It’s one thing to read those words from Scripture for the thousandth time, it’s another to sing them on the night before the culmination of a promise of God to an oppressed people.

Am I waxing too poetic, too dewy-eyed, glossing over the racism that still endures, that will continue to endure, in our culture. Perhaps. Am I spiritualizing? Undoubtedly. I’ve tended more towards that lately. I blame it on Shane Claiborne, whom I started reading after Obama got elected, when I decided that it might possibly be possible to change the world. So actually, I blame it on Obama.

Now, about Rick Warren. I’m no great fan of Rick, but I’ve known of him for years, and he used to pal around with my uncles at youth retreats. My grandma remembers him sitting at their kitchen table eating Oreos. I’ve admired his stand against poverty, racism, global warming and AIDS, even as I’ve been hurt by his homophobic rhetoric. The fact is though, if you’re looking at it from the outside, you don’t realize that Warren is quite moderate by current evangelical standards. If you were to imagine a spectrum of evangelical folks, from conservative to liberal, Rick Warren is quite a bit to the left of the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and only slightly to the right of people like Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis. I see in people like Warren a bridge that can bring evangelicals away from asshole Christianity and towards a more Jesus-like faith. Is he wrong about a lot of things? Yes, I believe so. But perhaps this reaching across lines, this breaking down of categories (Conservative Christians: “All Christians must be Republicans! Democrats are evil! Democrats hate God!” Progressive Christians: “All Evangeicals are Republicans! Keep them away from us!”) can be transformative not only for those of us on the left, but also for Warren and others like him, evangelicals who realize (and there have always been evangelicals who realized this) that following Jesus is not about a political agenda, but about compassion and justice. So, yes, to sum up, I’m not a big Warren fan, but I’m not all bent out of shape about Obama choosing him.

Enough with the defense o’Warren. Here’s a link to Bishop Gene Robinson’s invocation from the concert yesterday.

And here’s a link to an article that highlights one of the things that makes Obama most awesome: his bookishness.

November 5, 2007

That’s “traditional” marriage alright …

Filed under: family values,marriage,politics,poverty,rights,theology — Liz @ 10:53 pm

So the state of Oklahoma, faced with one of the highest divorce rates in the country, decided to pour money into a marriage initiative designed to encourage engaged couples to undergo premarital counseling, provide marriage enrichment courses and disseminate educational material about families and relationships. Prevent divorce, encourage marriage, support families. All that jazz.

O.K. Here’s the thing. Take your blinders off for a minute, especially if you’re married. I’m sure that YOUR marriage is absolutely wonderful, spiritually and emotionally and intellectually fulfilling, the best thing you ever did, etc. etc. etc. Of course it is. But the historical fact is, marriage was created NOT as some sort of fuzzy, warm, “companionate” (to borrow a term from my Psych 101 class in college) thing. Nope. Marriage was created as an economic and political instrument to ensure wealth, security and protection for family groups or clans. Family Group A and Family Group B decide to pair their children to offer protection from rival clans, economic stability, merging of assets, assure the birth of heirs, transfer wealth, assure that there would be plenty of offspring to work the fields … pick one of a myriad of economic and political reasons. And at its heart, of course, regardless of the power, protection or property transferred by the families, marriage involved the transfer of female property from one male — her father — to another — her husband. Unless you’re in extreme denial about the history of civilization, or just completely ignorant about it, you need to accept that this is the history of marriage.

Fast forward. I’m reading the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative page and all their “fact sheets” they have. And they have all these stats from research that Oklahoma State University has done. Any why should you get married, according to their research? Take a gander at the “Is marriage for me?” tip sheet. Why get married? So that you don’t have to do all the housework alone, it says. You can share the labor. Someone will be there to take care of you if you get sick or have problems. You’ll have more money because it’s cheaper to live as a couple than it is to live alone. How different is this, really, from the economic marriages of days of yore? (I know, I said “days of yore.”) Why are we so hung up — why are CHURCHES so hung up — on something that still works out to a matter of economics? And does it strike anyone else as kind of selfish? Save money.Don’t work as hard. Be taken care of. Oh, and there’s the better sex thing on their, too. Hmmm…

The fact is, the state of Oklahoma is getting a whole lot of churches in on their campaign. So, let me get this straight? Loving, committed same-gender couples DON’T fit in with the Christian view of marriage. The Christian view of marriage, DOES, however, gibe with the idea that people should get married (or people should be convinced to marry) because of what’s in it for them. Straight people who want to “save more money” or “have better sex” can get married. Lesbians who want to live out the rest of their days loving and giving of themselves to their soul mate, nope. Straight people who want someone to bring them soup when they’re sick can get married. Gay men who want to care for one another in sickness and in health, nope.

Yes I’m oversimplifying. Yes, it’s true that research bears out that people who are married and who stay married tend to be happier, do better economically, and maybe even have better sex. But it’s my contention that you can’t hold on to the so-called “sacredness” card AND the utilitarian card.

Much (possibly too much?) has already been written in the marriage debate. But I can’t help but insert that yes, the church should have something to say about relationships. Christianity requires that relationships be based on selflessness, love, generosity, concern for the other over the self. And lots of time churches spout that kind of rhetoric in premarital counseling sessions or marriage enrichment classes. The fact is, though, is that those are the rules that are to govern ALL of our relationships. For the Christian, marriage, if and when it happens, should really not be all that indistinguishable from any other relationship we have. And if that’s the case, if we approach all our relationships with the same self-sacrifice, generosity, kindness, love and deep sharing of our self, does the gender of the person we’re “married” to matter anyway?

October 19, 2007

Finding Allies, Part I

So I had a job interview on Wednesday (prayers and well wishes welcome) and one of the questions they asked was “What does building collaborative relationships mean to you?” I gave what I thought was a decent answer, and they seemed o.k. with it as well, but it was kind of a fluffy answer, one that didn’t really deal with the difficulties inherent in the whole “Building collaborative relationships” thing.

Last week for TEC 300 we talked with Rev. Tim Ahrens of We Believe Ohio, a diverse group of faith leaders committed to social justice issues. That got me thinking about finding allies and building collaborative relationships. Then, a few days later I saw on the news that CONLAMIC, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, had filed suit against the state of Oklahoma to stop the implementation of H-1804 (the Oklahoma Citizen and Taxpayer Protection act of 2007, which I’ve blogged about on here before). (By the way, the CONLAMIC Web site is mostly in Spanish. You can find an English translation of the press release about the suit here. (also of note — the news release is dated the 4th. I don’t think the T.V. weasels — as we not so affectionaltey called them back when I worked for a paper — carried it until the 10th? maye the 12th?)

After I heard the story, I rushed to log on to the CONLAMIC Web site. I was excited, as I usually am, to learn about Christian social justice organizations. So imagine my dismay when I clicked on their platform, that their top three points — their key priorities — read like something off of the Focus on the Family Web site. 1. A constitutional amendment limiting abortion rights. 2. Reinstating prayer in schools and 3. Opposing gay marriage and civil unions, and any attempt to “legitimize” relationships between same-gender partners.

Grr. Everything I despise about evangelical politics. Their other points — health care access for all, access to public education, respect for the rights of all immigrants, documented or not — were ones I agreed with.

Can I be an ally of these people with whom I share so many values, but with whom I am in conflict on several key issues? Is it too coldly utilitarian to collaborate with people on one issue and one issue only, when you disagree virulently on so many other things?

I think of something Jesus said. (Surprise, surprise). Some of his disciples come to him after seeing another exorcist casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They tried to stop him, they said, “Because he does not follow with us.”

Once again, we have evidence that Jesus doesn’t care much about affiliations. Jesus says, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50).

Jesus is often disturbingly utilitarian in the gospels. Disturbing to me, at least, because although utilitarianism has always appealed to my need for simple solutions, it’s always struck me as the least nuanced of going about life. I like to think of Jesus as more nuanced, I guess. Probably because I like to think of myself as nuanced. The gospel evidence is, of course, quite to the contrary (cursing the fig tree, anybody?)

So what do we do as progressive, justice-oriented Christians? Can we collaborate towards a common goal with those with whom we disagree on so much? Those with whom we not only disagree, but whose beliefs we find reprehensible. Who are, indeed, “against us” on several issues? Can I find common ground with CONLAMIC as they oppose this unjust, racist, evil law? Even though I find other of their views to be unjust, homophobic and yes, evil?

Beggars can’t be choosers, especially in the Bible Belt, and I fear that, for now, my answer is going to have to be “yes.” In the fight for justice right here in Oklahoma, I’m going to have to find common ground with those who think that my identity as a lesbian is morally reprehensible. It seems that I may have no other choice if I am to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

(More to come, by the way.)

October 5, 2007

“That may work in Tough-girl land … but not in real life.”

Editor’s note: This post acknowledges the existence of women’s reproductive organs and makes general references to routine medical procedures. As such, it may not be suitable for “more sensitive” readers. In addition, it is extraordinarily long, particularly for a blog entry. And finally, it’s overly confessional, highly personal and barely even tangentially related politics, theological reflection, or the current topic in TEC 300. Look for THAT kind of stuff sometime this weekend.

My apologies to all … the whole working thing has been very mentally draining — YOU try dashing from exam room to exam room asking middle-aged, respectable Latina mothers about their sexual habits , wrangling distressed children and trying to explain possible vaccine reactions to their mothers, and trying to come up with the Spanish words for medical terms you don’t even know in English. Do THAT a couple of days and then try to come up with a hundred-odd words on theology and politics and stuff.

Despite my excuses, I really am enjoying my work at the health department. The initial awkwardness of being the third person in the room during gynecological exams aside (if you ever find yourself in this situation, I offer you my little sister’s — who’s also spent some time interpreting — invaluable advice: “Stand by the head and you’ll be fine.”, it’s very cool to be a patient advocate, to help ensure that women (and children) are receiving compassionate and adequate care.

I’m enjoying it so much that it’s got me thinking (argh! not again!) about a change of vocation. I’ve developed a profound respect for the nurse practitioners with whom I’ve been working, so an inkling of a thought about going into that field has crept into my mind. (Those of you who know me won’t be terribly surprised … I change my mind about what I want to do every six months or so.)

What’s surprising is how out of the blue this is — I have never had any desire to go into the health care field (all those Paraguayan summer afternoons whiled away over my mom’s copy of “Where There is No Doctor” notwithstanding). It’s just never appealed to me as a career choice. So it seems odd to me that, standing at the head of the table while a woman gets Papped, I should hear a voice (I’m trying very hard to avoid any off color Moses jokes. You should too) saying “Whom shall I send? And who shall go for us?” (Operation avoid Moses reference a success; incidentally, the citation is Isaiah 6:8.)

I know this is not particularly “Public” theology, and I had intended to write about some stuff I saw on the news tonight, but I seem to have rambled on and on about this. I may as well try to make it at least slightly theological.

Thing is, I’ve never known exactly how to think theologically about vocation. That may seem odd, because the topic of vocation seems like it would be a theological no-brainer. The fact is, I grew up around people who would describe every decision they made or new step they took as a response to “God’s call.” I went to college at a school where some people seemed convinced that God was dictating everything they did, from “God told me to wear this shirt today for a reason, so that lady at McDonald’s would compliment me on it and I could tell her about our mission trip to Cabo and witness to her about Jesus.” to “God told me that you’re going to be my wife. Will you go out with me?” When I first began to sense a call, I wondered if I just lacked any other language to talk about trying to decide what to do with my life. Plus, it was never a very specific call. More of a “You should be doing something DIFFERENT” sense, and a vague pull toward seminary … and then I went to a visitor day at CTS and that felt good, so I decided to go with it. In general though, I’ve tended to live my life in a sort of haphazard way: following my bliss or reacting to situations that arose. The first took me to Chicago, the second brought me back to Oklahoma. Despite the fact that I have a sort of general direction in which I’m moving, I often feel like I don’t live my life with a great deal of intentionality. Is intentionality necessary to vocation? I’ve finally gotten comfortable with the idea of being “called,” but am I ever going find out what I’m called TO? Is it this?

The whole tone of this entry is getting far too confessional for my own comfort level, so I’ll leave this discussion here, for the moment. Tomorrow, look for the theology of Marion Jones and some thoughts on personal and social holiness (see, class, I’m getting there eventually).

Oh, by the way, the title comes from something the commentator (if that’s what she is. I’m really unsure of several people’s role on the show) on Judge Joe Brown said. It really has no relation at all to the post, or to anything. But I thought it would make a brilliant blog posting title, and figured I’d better use it before it got lost up there.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.