Thursday, January 19, 2012

Contentious Debates That Hit Too Close To Home

So, for those of you who don't know, an amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution will be up for vote this coming November (for an article describing how this came to pass click here).  This amendment would add language prohibiting same sex marriage in the state of Minnesota.  Now, same sex marriage is not currently legal in the state and this amendment, regardless of how folks vote, will not make same sex marriage legal here.  Rather, its passage would prohibit any current or future judges or legislatures from allowing same sex marriage in Minnesota.

Yes, this would in effect put discrimination into the state constitution and for a variety of reasons, it is essential that folks vote NO on this issue.  It is also essential that folks reach out with love and compassion to anyone affected by the climate of hostility and fear which has already begun to creep into the state.  Because, same sex families are afraid.  They (we) are afraid that the attention drawn to same sex couples will increase the incidence of hate crimes.  Folks (us) are afraid that the passage of this amendment will lead to further laws that limit the rights of GLBT people in the state.  Folks are afraid for their children--afraid that their children will be denied the legal protections of two legally married parents.   Folks are concerned that Minnesota will begin to be seen as hostile to GLBT families and that people will leave the state for friendly climes (just as one of the reasons we left Ohio were state laws which forbid "unmarried" couples from jointly adopting children--which meant that no matter how we formed our family, in Ohio any children we have would only be allowed one legal parent).

Now, there are several organizations working to protect gay and lesbian families in the state.  One of these is OutFront Minnesota; another is Minnesotans United For All Families (they are doing amazing work) and another is the Episcopal Church in Minnesota.  Last night I had the privilege of attending a gathering at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in St. Paul of folks who are interested in keeping this conversation around the amendment civil and respectful.  The presenter, Mark Osler, gave a list of 5 ways in which we can keep this conversation in a place of respect and dignity (if you would like to read his sentiments on this issue click here ).

  1. Talk to people who disagree with you.  If you only talk to the people who agree with you, you will never have the chance to change someone's mind.
  2. Anger is valuable, but not as advocacy.  Dont lead with anger... It won't change minds and anger negates the power and persuasion of your point of view.  
  3. Start with common ground...for example folks on both sides say they care about family.  Face the same direction and find strength in your shared conviction.
  4. Affirm their interest.  For example, "it's great you care about kids...gays  and lesbians have kids.  Kids need security of marriage."  Or, if they are against abortion remind them that gay and lesbian folk adopt--and often adopt children with special needs or who are older and harder to place in homes.  Help them see it matters
  5. End with respect.  People remember the last emotion they felt in the conversation.  People change over time so end with respect so the conversation can continue.

Finally, he suggests reminding folks that Jesus calls us to love, not judgment.  And, that at the end of the day we must love one another.  

I will leave with a picture to illustrate why this issue hits close to home and why I pray that folks will vote no on this amendment

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"I Don't Believe in Jesus" (a post where I get all Christocentric on you)

Over the past 7 months I have been spending most of my time as a stay at home mom.  And, as a priest without an altar (I refuse to say without a call, because I most certainly do have one) I have had the blessing of getting to pick what kind of volunteer ministry I want to participate in at our new church.  So, like any other clergy person who gets to be a pew dweller I picked the fun job--kindergarten Sunday School teacher!

Every Sunday, following the 9 o'clock service, I head down to the basement to play, pray and teach for an hour.  I love it.  And, I love that I have the opportunity to help create a strong and solid foundation for some of our youngest parishioners.  

Currently we are in the midst of Epiphany.  And, this last Sunday, we read the story of the miracle at Cana--a story in which many exclamatory words were used: "discovery!"; "revealed!"; "finding!"; "understanding!"  And, as I worked to help them understand the notion of revelation, one of the kids decided it would be amusing to declare, "I don't believe in Jesus."

Now, there was a glint in his eye and a smirk to his lip.  And, I could SEE the double dog dare he was proposing.  And, I took a breath, because I had nine 5 year olds staring at me...waiting, just waiting to see what I would say.  So, here is the rough paraphrase of our conversation on Sunday,

Kid 1 (steely look to his eye and a smirk on his face) "I don't believe in Jesus"
Me "that's fine, but in Sunday School we learn about Jesus"
Kid 2 (with a giggle) "lots of people don't believe in Jesus"
Me "you're right, lots of people believe other things"
Kid 3 (stated with increased volume) "I don't believe in Jesus either!"
Me (growing exasperated because all I wanted to do was read the gosh darn story of the wedding at Cana from the oh so lovely and well put together children's Bible offered via the amazing archbishop Desmond Tutu) "that's fine, but we are going to keep learning about Jesus because we are in Sunday School"
Kid 3 "that's fun?!"
Me: "no I said, fine.  Fine, not fun.  You can believe whatever you want!  But, I'm going to teach you about Jesus so you can make an intelligent choice about what you believe!"

Grrrr, who said teaching kindergarten Sunday School would be easy?

Of course, this was before I had to confiscate one child's toy brought from home and after a rousing discussion of why on earth Jesus would serve the best wine last...notably, I refrained from telling them that one would customarily serve the best booze first because the inebriated guests wouldn't care about the declining quality of the alcohol as the evening progressed.

But, ultimately, this conversation summed up why I feel so strongly about faith education for small children--I want people to know what they are rejecting.  I want people to know the stories, the traditions, the trajectory, the history and the present.  I want them to know how Christianity has been used and abused, and I want them to know what it means to actually work (as a Christian) for peace and justice in the world.   And, I want these kids to have a strong foundation so that  if they do choose a different path they at least know enough about Christianity that they can make intelligent and informed decisions.  

And, in the midst of the politics of hate and waves of intolerance coming from folks who profess to believe in Jesus, I want these kids to be able to look people in the eye and tell them that Christianity doesn't teach hatred.  I want them to be able to show and tell that Christians are capable of love and acceptance.  I need them to know that there are progressive folk out their in the world trying to bring about justice and peace for everyone--and that some of those folk believe in Jesus.  I don't want them to throw out the baby with the bathwater...because the baby did no wrong.  The baby just lived and grew and loved and learned--the baby that grew into a man who embraced the world.

I want these kids to embrace the world and be open to the possibility.  I want to meet the challenge of cynicism (even in the eyes of 5 year olds) with the challenge of love in return.  I want to meet the contagion of peer pressure and group think with the radical notion that you are perfect exactly as you are.  I want to make it clear that no matter how hard you work to reject the gifts you are given that those gifts will still be given...gracefully and freely.

So, how does one follow up this kind of does a Sunday School teacher go on?

Well, you bust out the glue sticks and the goldfish crackers.

You have a snack and do some crafts.

You turn water into wine,

and, at the end of the day,

you hold onto the hope that if they can believe in love they have a shot at believing in Jesus.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

You Had A Question?

I was chatting with a friend whilst running today (28 degrees, off leash dog park, deliriously happy dogs!) and told her that my biggest obstacle to writing is feeling as if it's already been said.  There are a bazillion mom blogs, there are a zillion clergy blogs and there are a million glbt parent blogs...what more could I add to the mix?

So, I thought I'd throw it out there...what would you be interested in reading about?  Let me know, and I'll try to tackle the questions as they come up!  Inappropriate questions will be met with the comment "why do you ask?" *wink* questions huh?  Well if you think of any, get back to me!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012--Eschatological Yearnings

Raise your hand if you've ever heard anyone say "I just want 20?? to be over"...and then read on (and don't forget to geek yourself out with eschatology by following the linky).

Premillenial dispensationalism--in brief the notion that a period of destruction will proceed the coming of Christ.  This notion, declared a heresy in the early church, was popularized by the Reverend John Darby in the 1830s.  It's fascinating to me to read on this topic, largely because I think this desire for the "end" of all things reflects greatly on the times/places/contexts of the people who become entangled in these notions.  And, the popularization of these concepts reflects greatly on who we are both as a religious and secular society.  Feel free to put on the anthropology hat and read on for my oversimplified view of this all....

A view that I've been pondering since reading a Christmas card from dear friends who I love and miss o' so very much.  A card which stated that they hoped we were enjoying our new friends and our new home.  A card, that despite it's loveliness, made me sorrow and grieve.  A card that reminded me of all that we've lost in moving a third of the way across the country--a move that really HAS been the right decision but has not been a decision made lightly and came with its own costs.

So, as one thing ends another has begun.  And my take, and certainly not a take unique to myself, is that the idea of "end times" emerges when folk find the present so intolerable, that the only thing that could possibly make things better is the destruction of everything that is and the emergence of something totally new.  And, as we pass into 2012, I think many folks can relate to this desire for things to be made new.  New chances, new opportunities, do overs and resolutions...these are all aspects of the celebration of the new year that reflect this very human desire to have our lives and the world around us "fixed".

The difference emerges through how each of us perceive that fix to happen.  Is it internal or external?  The hand of God or our own hand?  Is it both?  For myself it's a bit of both--but not in tribulation and not in fear and destruction.  Rather, through the sense that God calls us beyond ourselves to carry the promises of grace, love and mercy into the world.   That we are the hands and feet of a Christ perpetually in this world--that we are the body of Christ and gifted the ability to love and do as Christ for our fellow folk.  And, we do this "with God's help"...not alone.

So, where are we with the weeping and gnashing?  Well, in short, change is hard.  It can be frightening and painful.  Church congregations changing and growing (or shrinking); family members entering or exiting; moving from the familiar to the new; new jobs, new roles, new.  "I will make all things new"...scary at best, revelatory at its heart.

So, will we be made new this year?  Will we embrace changes that bring us ever closer to love and hold each other close when the change seems too hard, too much or too frightening?  Will we hold onto the good and the true in the midst of the need for change in the world?

And you thought change was hard...
Big questions, big times and really, truly, good times at that.  So, here we are, the first hours of the new year...and I pray a blessing of hope and truth and transformation for all those I love, all those I've lost, all those I've found, and all those who are waiting for me.