Unexpected Consequences

From the blog, An Unapproved Road, here is a great piece on the effects of American Idol finalists Kris and Adam and their relationship and because of that relationship (between a Christian and the oh so talented and presumed to be gay guy) there is a shifting in the culture.
Read: We Get to Carry Each Other
A couple paragraphs:

Countless commentators wanted the Idol competition to be about more than just singing. With Danny Gokey rounding out the Top Three, many wanted to make it a tally of endorsements for, oh, shall we call it “lifestyles?” You know, Danny (and likewise Kris, the dark horse bringing up the rear), the card-carrying Christian versus Adam the flamboyant one who hasn’t said he’s gay.
Let us pause to decode that snapshot of American pop culture. In social shorthand, those characterizations imply juxtapositions, i.e. a Christian can’t be flamboyant, and the one who “looks gay” can’t (or wouldn’t) be Christian; or, the one is restrained, temperate, and “good,” the other is … not. (Alternatively, the one is open, creative, and “good” — while the other is not!)
Whatever. Moving on now, to real three-dimensional people, and the reason Adam Lambert and Kris Allen are important to our spiritual health…
I know next to nothing about Kris Allen’s non-musical life, except that he’s married, he calls himself Christian and he’s done missionary work across the world. I heard about the exchanges among the other contestants that made reference to what is supposedly “godly” and right in relationships, but Kris’s name wasn’t part of that. I don’t know what kind of Christianity he practises, or how he envisions his God. I do know this: he declares himself Christian to the television audience – i.e. to the world; and he freely, publicly, verbally, and especially non-verbally, loves Adam Lambert like a brother.


For some, everything changes

There is a parishioner of St. Paul’s and a friend (she likes to get soaked during Eastertide when we asperge) who commented on this photograph. Her comments, wrapped up in her life as a black woman who has had (and continues to have) all kinds of connections and experiences, is just meaningful to me. She granted me permission to include her comments, here.
Recent photo of a little boy visiting the White House. He wanted to feel Obama’s hair because he wanted to know if the President’s hair felt just like his. Obama obliged. Priceless.
She writes:

Ya know I have seen that picture several times and did not understand the context. I am reminded of the time my knucklehead nephew (born in April 1980) was about 8, and (even though I am a Republican) I was astonished that he was very supportive of the President (Ronald Reagan) Then it hit me. That was the only President he knew in his lifetime.
When I was a small child (I was quite precocious, as you can imagine), I amused a neighbor lady with our “political discussions” about the results of the Korean Conflict (we predicted future involvement in the Asian theatre and Vietnam specfically), Brown v. Board of Ed, the emerging Civil Rights movement, and whether the President (Eisenhower) was a Negro (his mother was eventually proven to be a “quadroon”). Ah, those were heady times for this little colored child (already a Life Member of the NAACP).
My Father ran for Congress in the 50’s (as a Democrat; that is another story for another day), and remember his campaign literature: “Elect Brooklyn’s First NEGRO Representative!” He ran against Mrs. Edna Kelly, and when she won, she became the first female representative. And even though Daddy did not win, we got a new puppy after the campaign, just as he promised.
Fast forward. Of course, I loved watching and listening to eager young white young men campaigning for Obama last year. They would approach me, and ask if I was registered to vote, and when I would say I was a registered Republican, they did not skip a beat: “….but you are going to vote for Obama, right?”
And the arguments in bars! Saint Patrick’s Day 2008 at one of the more infamous Irish bars in Brooklyn, when all of the “youngsters” loudly proclaimed that they were voting for Obama, even if he was “Hawaiian”. And many of the “village elders” at the end of the bar muttered that they never thought that they would see the day that they would vote for that “colored lad”.
Because at the end of they day, folks saw that he WAS and IS the right choice.
I choose to focus on what a wonderful time we can look forward to for this generation (and the next) for most of the coming decade!

There are and have been experiences in my life that lend themselves to a degree of understanding of what others go through in this life, in this culture, in this time and age. Yet, there are things I will never understand intuitively, inwardly, intimately. In such cases, silence and humility remain the best course to follow. I hope I have the wisdom to know.

More “hooking-up,” less “committing-up”

I was listening to an NPR report this morning concerning changing attitudes among younger women and the “hook-up” culture. “Hook-up,” while meaning a variety of things depending on context, means in this context, basically, “one-night stands,” sexually speaking.
I heard again this statistic – younger people are putting off marriage until much later, men in particular are on average postponing marriage until age 28 or after. One of the people interviewed in the piece described the taking on by women of men’s attitudes toward sex, commitment, relationships, and “love.” So, hooking-up is becoming more commonplace and extending longer not only among younger men, but now among women. This causes me to think of a number of things:
1. I know of several secular studies that have been issued results over the last several years that all suggest that a primary indicator of whether a marriage will fail is if the couple lived together before they were married. If they lived together, they were far more likely to get divorced.
2. I’m saddened, frankly, that women are taking on the more beastial attitudes and actions that have long been the domain of men. Rather than the more stabilizing and civilization contribution the “woman’s way of knowing,” they are giving into the superficiality and non-committal attitudes of men (and we know where this has led with regard to single-mom households and the increased poverty rates among single-mom homes). Is this really what the women’s movement was all about?
3. What the consequences of this are going to be for society, for children’s development, and for the individual, interpersonal relationships of those caught up in a culture of “hooking-up?”
Now, there is always the tendency in the present moment to project into the future the consequences of present actions and attitudes, but the projections are based only on current understanding of things. So, projecting forward with our current eyes of understanding, it might well look bleak. Yet, for those for whom this is the developmental situation and condition of their lives, what the outcomes for a good, stable, fulfilled life will be is really unknown. Perhaps, in the transitional scheme of things, they will actually end up in better places than we are now. Who knows… It is disturbing to me, however.
I would rather see less “hooking-up” and more “committing-up!” I fear that the end result will be a lot more loneliness, anxiety, fear, and the losing of the ability to bond. Just look at what the “hook-up” culture has done to much of the gay sub-culture.

Slow, deep rivers and eddies

My continuing attempt to articulate what I’m thinking (painful, I know).
For over the last few thousands of years, since Abraham and our shared belief that he and Sarah were the beginnings of God interacting with humanity in ways that we historically understand, from the “trickle” of a stream that began with Abraham has develop a large and slow flowing river we call the Tradition (nothing to do with “traditionalism”).
Still waters run deep!
It is easy in a cursory way to see this river as being almost stagnant, but if we look ever more closely we recognize that, indeed, it is moving with a strength and a surety that is unequaled. The river is going in a direction, it is steady, it is powerful to those who take the time to understand it. There can be all kinds of analogies, but this is where I will go.
Despite how Man tries to control this river by building levies or barriers or dams and so on, the river will not be contained by the mere efforts of men and women. It will flow where it will flow. It will accomplish what it will accomplish, despite our most strenuous efforts to divert its affects.
People enter the river, people exit the river, while many on the banks misunderstand the purpose and power of the river. Others curse the river because it cannot be contained or controlled or manipulated by the designs of Man. The river flows where it will.
Eddies develop both within the river and just off its banks. What gets caught in the eddies has a very difficult time escaping, even as the river continues to flow, even as the eddies stay in the same place, even as some thing caught in an eddy, die.
Those who enter the river must learn to navigate its course. They must get their “river-legs” (or “sea-legs” or “subway-legs,” you get the meaning). They must learn to swim, well. They must learn to “listen” as the river “speaks.” They can fight against the current if they wish, but normally to their own detriment. We have seen again and again throughout the history of the last few thousands of years those who self-assuredly enter the river thinking they know, thinking they’ve figured it all out, only to meet their end. The river confounds the thinkings and the doings of Man’s best efforts.
At the heart of the Tradition, is this: Redemption – the reestablishment of relationship between God and man first-off and then the re-enabling of men and women to be in right relationship with one other. I’ve heard older river people talk about their relationship with a river, as if personified. For us who claim Christ, living waters now feed the river that maintains and is the Tradition. It is a relationship through which we are absolutely changed, transformed, re-formed out of the “worldly systems” that work on us and mold us (form us) in ways contrary to the Life in Christ – life as intended from the beginning and made possible, again. If we regard the Tradition honestly, I think, we will see that this relationship is established, developed, and nurtured through disciplines that when interred into have their way with us – God’s way. We are re-formed! We are enabled to experience God and life anew.
I think over the last century, particularly the last 50 odd years (and really since the dawn of the Enlightenment), we increasingly have given ourselves not to relationship, but to kinds of teaching, kinds of philosophies, kinds of theories, kinds of politics, kinds of methods, kinds of confessions, kinds of acts that all in the end still work contrary to the will of God in our communities and in our lives. Rather than give ourselves over to the re-forming disciplines of the Tradition, we give ourselves to the Ideas of Man – even ideas that attempt to help us explain all this god stuff.
So, we fight, we argue, we demean, we cast dispersions, we torture and kill over these ideas of ours as we move further to the edges of the banks of the river until we find ourselves caught up in eddies. We swirl around and around as our attention and our eyes focus on ourselves only, and we get nowhere. We keep on in this way until we don’t even recognize that we are no longer moving with the river, slow and deep.
Part of the great Tradition, a least as my understanding of our experience in Anglicanism might suggest, is to debate and argue about all manner of things. I think this is partly due to our Jewish heritage, remaining, among many other things. After all, iron sharpens iron. A river rubs a jagged rock smooth. Yet, instead of remaining in the main flow of the river, we find ourselves in eddies. We find ourselves in eddies of identity politics, political correctness, fundamentalism of the left and right, philosophies and theologies that have more to do with the hermeneutic of doubt and disbelief born out of giving ourselves to the Systems of this World rather than giving ourselves to the disciplines that keep us squarely in the river, on course. To stay the course is to allowing us to be re-formed, to be reshaped so that we know well how to navigate, how to swim, how to be in right relationship with God and one another.
So much of Anglicanism and The Episcopal Church are caught in eddies of our own making. The river continues, and we are seeing renewed expressions of the passing on of the Tradition to emerging generations. It is the same Tradition, the river continuing to flow, but experienced anew by new generations. Yet, we remain in our eddies because frankly at this point we have become blind to our own plight. In some ways, our eddies are more comfortable to us than re-integrating back into the river – even though to remain means stagnation, exhaustion, and a withering death.
I’m tired of it all. I’m tired of fighting. I want to step back into the river. I want to find people who want to dive in, head first. I want to be with people who are intentional in giving themselves to the transformative power of the Tradition, even if at present I or we don’t feel like it, or cannot ascend intellectually to what the Tradition demands, but that we think not too highly of ourselves and realize that there is far more to understand and to experience than we have thus far. We allow God to have his way with us.
Instead of coming to the Tradition and the classic Christian disciples and thinking we have to re-interpret them to fit into a “Modern world,” why don’t we engage the Tradition and the disciplines and allow them to reinterpret us! We yield in humility, rather than demand the Tradition yield to our great intelligence, our great coming-of-age.
There is nothing new here… all this is as old and tested as the slow moving river. I want the river, not the eddies. I want the relationship, not the systems, even as I try to understand it all through systems of thought. A “systematic theology” is important to consider, but it is secondary to the relationship. There is nothing sentimental about any of this, nothing nostalgic, nothing about longing for a past “golden era.” There is a gazing forward as the river flows, and I wish to give myself to the learning of how to swim, how to navigate, how to be in the midst of a deep and slow moving river of Tradition. Step out of the controversies and the fighting, out of the eddy, and into the living waters of the river.