The City #5

So, last night some of our Home Group (St. Paul’s) went to see one of our group members, Kelly Upshaw (The Hope Trust), perform at Union Hall in Park Slope. He did a great job!
On the walk back home, Fr. Cullen and I were passing by Carroll Park when suddenly these three guys suddenly start running, one falling and getting back up, then right behind them came this cop, radio in hand, followed by a police van with lights aflashing.
The three guys ran into the park, and the cop is shouting into his radio that they are going into the park. The park is a full NYC block – quite nice actually, but not big. Suddenly, all these sirens and lights converge on the park from all directions. One, two, and then three policy cars, another police van, and then an ambulance came into view, wheels screeching. Two more out-of-breath cops run from around the corner as pedestrians pointed and shouted to the police that the guys ran “that way, that way, that way.”
We just kept walking and watching. What more could we do? Cop cars were whipping around the streets in every direction. Then, we heard this crash and I thought for a moment that it was a gun shot. I think one of the cop cars, going backwards very quickly, sideswiped one of the cars parked along the street. The smell of burning rubber started to fill the air.
As we got to the opposite corner of the park, heading for the Rectory, a few of the cop cars and policemen converged on the next block. We noticed that they got one of the guys, pushing his hand-cuffed, bad-boy self into the car. This morning after Morning Prayer, Fr. Cullen said he walked his dog afterwards and a couple streets down they had apprehended one more. He said, “He was just a kid. He had no look of anxiousness or fear…” The cops stayed around for around 45 minutes.
Drama in Brooklyn.

Strong argument?

An argument the Religious Right continues to use against high-court rulings in states like New Jersey and Massachusetts concerning granting same-sex couples equal civil recognition of their relationships is that these accommodations are court-imposed – a tyranny of an unaccountable and activist judiciary. They claim that the responsibility for granting State recognition should be the domain of the legislatures, the people, only, and the courts should have no part in the establishment of what will be recognized as true “marriage.”
I agree that the legislatures of the various states are the places for the creation of laws. The courts are charged with interpreting the constitutionality of those laws. The problem here is that when the courts decide cases contrary to the will of the Religious Right, their recourse is to denigrate the judiciary. That is a dangerous road to take – the attempt to place in the public’s consciousness suspicion and mistrust of the vary institution that is charged with protecting our rights. This tactic will come back to bite them, no doubt.
They use this argument as a primary justification for their campaign to enact through state referenda amendments to state constitutions that (will) define marriage only as state-recognized unions between men and women, and to deny same-sex couples any accommodation that resembles marriage.
This seems to be a very weak basis for their arguments – or rather a weak justification for opposing the courts. They pin their hopes on the feelings of “the people” and those who represent them. What happens to their position when the tide of public opinion changes? When public opinion changes to favor some sort of State recognition of same-sex relationships and state legislatures begin approving laws that reflect this change, what will they then do? What then will be their argument or justification for opposing State recognition of same-sex relationships?
Basing arguments on a foundation as fickle as public sentiment is a foundation built on sand. When the strong winds of public opinion shift and blow in another direction, their campaign will fail. They would be wise to stir-up public opinion based on some other sort of rational. So, my question is whether they understand this or whether they truly have such a strong sense of the “rightness” of their cause, or as Stephen Colbert might say, “truthiness,” that they believe public opinion will never change to such an extent?
Constitutional amendments have been passed and rescinded. The new amendments to state constitutions baring recognition of same-sex relationships will be another example of this; it just depends on who extensive is the public hysteria, stirred up by their propaganda, over this issue and how long it will last. Their position may be arguable, but the foundation upon which they base their argument is not strong – it is profoundly weak.

Man, will this get someone’s knickers in a twist!

This video on YouTube will make the Religious Right go into apoplectic fits. (originally Via Father Jake Stops the World, and then onto Elizabeth Kaeton’s blog)
Things are certainly different in the Netherlands.
I’ve wondered whether the decline in church involvement in much of Europe is a process of shedding the cultural and religious baggage that has so weighed down European Christianity in order for a more Christ-centered form of the faith to develop. I don’t know, but perhaps.
Then, will we have to suffer through a similar thing here in the U.S.? So much of what passes for the faith of those who claim to follow Jesus Christ is culturally American rather than that of a way of being and living that is alien to this world and its systems. Do we need to die to this form of “Church,” in whatever tradition, before we can simply be in God’s way of being?
What might this video and this young man singing about his two fathers suggest? To some, travesty, and to others it may mean much needed progress.

Finally, I’m in one place

This past weekend, I flew to Ohio and drove back to New York with the stuff I had in storage in Ohio. For the first time in four and a half years, all my belongings are in one place. At one point a few months ago, I had stuff in five different locations. That isn’t a good thing!
Now, all I have to do is get everything organized and try to answer the pertinent question, “Why in the world did I keep this?”
Aimee Mann writes in her song, I’ve Had It, that “when things are really great, it just means that everything is in its place.”
So, now, I’ve got to find everything’s place!?

Tell me where I am wrong!

Okay, so I’ve been having this ongoing debate/discussion/whatever-it-might-be-called on a post at Titueonenine.
What have I said that is contrary to the Word of God or the way we should be responding and reacting to one another as followers of Christ? I realize that most of the Church universal will disagree with those who call for a re-evaluation of how the Church has traditionally interpreted the few verses of Scripture that have been traditionally considered relevant for the debate over homosexuality. That is a given. What about the rest of it?

The City #4

Well, Lord & Taylor is getting ready for Christmas, already. The lights are going up outside their main mid-town story. Time continues on…
This morning, I can say is the first time someone on the street has called me a “fucking pervert!” Pardon my language. I was walking along and saw this youngish lady walking briskly towards me. Nothing unusual about that. I noticed that her face looked hard; hard in the sense of someone who isn’t happy unless they are complaining or perceive themselves to be unhappy – ya know what I mean. Anyway, she was nicely dressed and all-things-considered not bad looking.
So, as we passed each other the coat (I presume) she was carrying and slightly flinging by her side hit my leg. No big deal, right? Well, all of a sudden I hear, “Watching it you fucking pervert.”
I just ignored her and walk on, but I thought, “If she only knew.” Frankly, if she did know that I would be almost the last person who would be acting perversely towards her, she still would have hurled some sort of invective towards me.

‘do not be’

I’m reading a book by James Alison, a British theologian in the ‘Catholic’ tradition, entitled Faith Beyond Resentment: fragments catholic and gay. Alison’s approach to theology and Scripture, particularly related to how it is all actually lived out, amazes and challenges me. I heard him speak at last year’s Trinity Institute. The one thing I truly appreciate about him is that he admits he could be wrong – and that fact can has significant consequences. In fact, that is one reason he converted to Roman Catholicism from British Evangelicalism – within the Catholic theological make-up, there is the freedom to be wrong.
This quote comes from his personal experience in dealing with false accusations from some Roman church authorities as they tried to get him expelled from a theology teaching position in Brazil over his honesty about being gay and his calling upon the church to begin an honest and open conversation about this issue. He then recognized his own complicity in the “mechanisms” that lead the whole affair. (There was never any accusation of behavioral problems. He remained chaste. It all revolved around hearsay and the openness of his beliefs.) What follows is his reflection and change of mind and heart that came during a Jesuit retreat right after the incident. What he describes happening to him and his way of thinking and being can be applied to any of us, gay or straight, for it is the process of dying and of rebirth within God’s way of being.
Here is a quote:

“Where denial, mendacity and cover up are forces which structure a reality, the search for honest conversation is, of itself, the worst from of militancy…
“Well, my reply, while formally correct, allowed me to hide from myself something which my various accusers had perceived perfectly clearly: that I was myself on a sort of crusade, that I had a zeal, and that this zeal of a prodigiously violent force, powered by a deep resentment. In fact, I was wanting to create for myself, taking advantage of the ecclesiastical structures which sustained me, a space of security and peace, of survival. Thus I hoped to avoid what I had seen happen to gay people in country after country: social marginalization, destruction of life projects, emotional and spiritual annihilation. That is to say, my brave discourse was a mask which hid from me my absolute cowardice of soul, for I was not prepared to identify myself fully with that reality, which I knew to be mine, with all its consequences. At root, I myself believe that God was on the side of ecclesiastical violence directed at gay people, and couldn’t believe that God loves us just as we are. The profound ‘do not be’ which the social and ecclesiastical voice speaks to us, and which forms the soul of so many gay people, was profoundly rooted in my own being, so that, au fond I felt myself damned. In my violent zeal I was fighting so that the ecclesiastical structure might speak to me a ‘Yes’, a ‘Flourish, son’, precisely because I feared that, should I stand alone before God, God himself would be part of the ‘do not be‘. Thus I was absolutely dependent on the same mechanism against which I was fighting. Hiding from myself the fact of having despaired of God, I wanted to manipulate the ecclesiastical structure so that it might give me a ‘self’, that it might speak to me a ‘Yes’ at a level of profundity of which the ecclesiastic structure, like any human structure, is incapable. For the ‘Yes’ which creates and recreates the ‘self’ of son, only God can pronounce. In this I discovered myself to be an idolater. I had been wanting to negotiate my survival in the midst of violent structures, and negotiation in the midst of violent structures can only be done by violence. The non-violent, the blessed of the gospels, simply suffer violence and parish, either physically or morally…
“And then, at root, what began this whole process of beginning to untie myself from the idols I had so assiduously cultivated, what I had never dared to image, the profound ‘Yes’ of God, the ‘Yes’ spoken to the little gay boy who had despaired of ever hearing it. And there, indeed, I found myself absolutely caught, because this ‘Yes’ does not take the form of a pretty consolation for a spoiled child. Rather, from the moment it reached me, the whole psychological and mental structure by which I had built myself up over all the previous years began to enter into a complete collapse. For the whole structure was based on the presupposition of a ‘No’ at the center of my being, and because of that, of the need to wage a violent war so as to cover up a fathomless hole. The ‘I’, the ‘self’ of the child of God, is born in the midst of the ruins of repeated idolatry…
“But it was exactly this that, at last, I was learning. [from Col. 3:1-3] The whole of my previous life had been marked by an absolute refusal to die.”

Oh, if we all would be willing to die to self and to die to the systems of this world, and to allow God to bring rebirth and renewal to our souls, to our ways of being, to our voices and lives, we might truly be able to change the world – or at least be a sweet smelling fragrance to the stench of a pain-filled and dying world.

iPod Shuffle – 10:00 am

Here are the songs given to me by my iPod set on “Suffle.” I’m not quite sure why my iPod keeps givning me, generally, the same artists over and over again since I’ve got far more than these lists seem to suggest. Go figure.
1. Sufjan Stevens, Romulus, from ‘Greetings from Michigan…’
2. Skott Freedman, Been Waiting For, from ‘Some Company’
3. Kate Bush, You’re The One, from ‘The Red Shoes’
4. Sigur Ros, Gong, from ‘Takk’
5. Various Artists, Down To The River To Pray, from ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’
6. Rick Astley, Cry For Help, from ‘Free’
7. Smashing Pumpkins, Untitled, from ‘Rotten Apples:Greatest Hits’
8. Cowboy Junkies, ‘Cause Cheap Is How I Feel, from ‘Best of the Cowboy Junkies’
9. Sarah McLauchlan, I Love You, from ‘Surfacing’
10. Halloween, Alaska, All The Arms Around You, from ‘Halloween, Alaska’
11. Sugay, Changes, from ‘Copper Blue’
Fr. Jim Tucker of Dappled Things:

The rules, for bloggers who want to play:
Get your ipod or media-player of choice, select your whole music collection, set the thing to shuffle (i.e., randomized playback), then post the first ten songs that come out. No cheating, no matter how stupid it makes you feel!

Can we fully imagine God?

Fr. Jake references a critique of a new book, and then offers comments on the relationship between they mystery of God, our limited ability to understand God in His fullness, and those who demand an absolutist system of belief and how secular atheists tend to stereotype all Christians according to the very conservative and absolutist sort. It is an interesting post. Read it, if you will.

The War on Terror

While listening to NPR this morning, I heard a news piece on the changing strategy of this administration for “The War on Terror.”
What struck me, as I think about my own reactions to things and the common responses we make as a nation, is the idea of where we go first within ourselves and within our national psyche when we respond to events and threats. Do we go first: to force, to negotiation, to acquiescence, to isolation, to dialogue, to the old tried methods, to the trendy, to the violent, to the verbose, or to the hypocritical? What is the nexus of our reaction: pride, haughtiness, fear, confidence, humility, true concern for others, cowardice, selfishness, arrogance, or intentional ignorance? Our better selves, or our worst selves?
There were two approaches, two worldviews, two mindsets battling for attention right after 9-11 as we searched ourselves for the right response. One approach was that of empire, force, dominance, and arrogance. The other may be based on a sense of self-absurdity that requires humility. We could have approached this tragedy and the complex issues surrounding it with a response by which we are able to convince the majority of people who we see as the “problem” of our way, our perspective – peace, freedom, co-existence, development, mutual respect if not agreement. It can be said to be a battle of minds, ideas, or beliefs. It seems that the way of Rumsfeld eclipsed the way of Powell. Military vs. State.
We settled for a “War on Terror,” rather than a battle of ideas and ways of thinking for the hearts and minds of those “other” people. We settled for a war that requires no sacrifice on the home-front, just our sons and daughters in foreign lands and the countless killed in other own countries. Are we more secure or not? Are Iraqis better off – really? My hope is that we will in fact come through this in one piece and that Iraq will develop into a stable democracy. Yet, only after undeniable failure is this administration finally willing to consider that “staying the course” will only make things worse. A new way of thinking is needed – perhaps the way of thinking that was rejected in the beginning.
There are those who will fight to kill and with whom there is no mutual agreement possible – they will kill to achieve their goals. They are tyrants and dictators. These people are not the majority of Arab and Muslims, but the majority could come to sympathize with the terrorists. If we choose to respond and react like those who will kill and destroy to achieve their ends, we become like them – unworthy of the respect, cooperation, or allegiance of those found in the middle of the crisis and on the battlefield.
We have been losing the battle of ideas, of minds, of affections over the past years because we try to be tougher and more menacing then the terrorists. We have become like them, and we have lost the minds, the emotions, and the respect of Arabs, Muslims, and much of the world. I really don’t care whether we are liked or not, but I do care whether we are respect for our integrity, honesty, consistency, and willingness to seek solutions that enable everyone to be a piece – perhaps not agreement or acceptance, but at least at peace. Idealistic?, perhaps, but we really do need a new way of thinking about the situations we are in worldwide.