The Quixotic Pastor

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Here We Go Again

I consider that often the prophetic edges of my ministry are expressed through letters to the editor of our various area newspapers.

For instance, here's a letter in one of my local papers, The Saginaw News, to which I responded:

Homosexual lobby
Editor, The News:

Had enough of ''homosexual deathstyle?'' Anyone who practices a style of living that eventually will kill them in the short or long run is living a ''deathstyle.'' This includes smokers, drug addicts and alcoholics.

I am an ex-smoker, so I know what I am talking about. I smoked off and on for 25 years and finally went cold turkey a little over a year ago and am now smoke-free.

Compared to homosexuals, smokers, alcoholics and drug addicts don't run around looking for special rights from the government to protect them. Homosexuality is not a human rights issue. It is a choice that people make to be homosexual, just as it was a choice I made to smoke, and a choice people make to drink to excess or abuse drugs.

Alcoholics can get help through ''Alcoholics Anonymous.'' There are numerous drug rehab and smoking cessation medications available. Many medical professionals consider alcoholism and drug addiction a disease. If these two deathstyles are considered a disease, why isn't homosexuality? Why would this deathstyle that caused the most devastating disease, AIDS, this country ever has seen be accepted as commonplace?

Today we have Hollywood glorifying homosexuality. Our schools are accepting homosexuality and teaching it as a viable alternative lifestyle, and now we have politicians proposing a protected status for a lifestyle that is killing people.

The question is, why would anyone support the deathstyle of someone they love? Do you really love them if you do? Should a moral society have to accept this or be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for opposing it? I think not. Don't be taken in by the lies and half truths perpetuated by the homosexual lobby.

Name and location omitted.

Here's my response:

Idea laughable

Editor, The News:

I read the Feb. 1 diatribe against homosexual persons with a mixture of amusement and anger.

Amusement because all of the gay and lesbian folks I know who have lived into their 60s, 70s and 80s -- many of them in long-term monogamous relationships of 20, 30, 40 years standing -- would laugh at his idea that homosexuality is more of a ''deathstyle'' than heterosexuality.
I have never met the writer, but I strongly suspect that my long-term monogamous relationship with my same-sex partner isn't any more a ''deathstyle'' than any relationship he has had or has with a significant other. Risky, unprotected sexual behaviors with multiple, unfamiliar partners or the sharing of needles is dangerous for straight people as well as gay people. I do not engage in those behaviors, and neither do most of the lesbian or gay people I know.

Anger, because the single most significant risk factor that homosexual persons face is the type of bigotry and misinformation that the writer and people who share his views espouse. According to the FBI, of the 653 hate crimes committed in Michigan in 2006, 52 were motivated by the perpetrator's perception of the victim's sexual orientation. (Of course, those are only the ones that were reported.)

Some people believe the lies, myths and stereotypes that misinformed people spread, and then feel justified in attacking those whom they perceive ''fit'' those stereotypes. Others will feel justified lobbying against the civil rights of homosexual persons, denying them employment protections and other rights that most U.S. citizens take for granted. Then, folks like the writer have the audacity to claim that gays and lesbians are seeking special rights.

Thanks for the opportunity to counter lies, myths and stereotypes.

Name and location omitted, although if you're reading this and paid attention to my profile, you know who I am.

Next, here's a counter-letter:

Political correctness?

Editor, The News:

In a Feb. 12 letter a person identifying herself as a clergy person also states she is a lesbian. She accuses some opposing her sexual preference as being liars.

Jesus tells those who judge another's speck when they themselves have a log: ''Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam (log) out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote (speck) out of thy brother's eye,'' Matthew 7:5.

What is the writer, a clergy person, preaching and teaching as being God's word? Evidently she is teaching ''political correctness,'' not God's word.

The Bible is God's infallible word and blueprint on what to teach, to believe and to live by. Jesus often quoted from the Scriptures and declared them to be the infallible word of God.

The lifestyle of homosexuality is condemned throughout Scriptures (Leviticus 18:22-24, 26, 28-29; 20:13,14-16; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Timothy 1:9-10). In listing sinful lifestyles, including homosexuality, the apostle states that such persons ''shall not enter the kingdom of God'' and adds: ''Be not deceived.''

After creating Adam, God created Eve, a woman, for the man. Of such God-ordained unions, the apostle writes: ''Marriage is honorable in (among) all, and the bed undefiled: But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge,'' Hebrews 13:4.

Thus, as taught in Scripture and in churches through the centuries, though some strayed, especially in recent years, all of us who engage in sex outside of the marriage bond and all of us who practice homosexuality need to ponder this: Does the clay, over time, become wiser than its molder and maker?

There's a couple of different tactics I'm considering for my response --when I compose it, I'll conclude it on my blog, but in the meantime, I certainly welcome your thoughts, O dear readers, all four or five of you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Page 123 Meme

Tom in Ontario [whom I remember from the Desperate Preacher's site] over at Tom's Been Thinking tagged me for the following meme:

"I don't know if you're into the ‘meme' thing. I was tagged and sometimes I'm a "follow the rules" kind of guy and number 5 says "Tag five other people" and you're one of the five blogs I read who hasn't already done this meme. So here it is. Do with it what you will."

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five other people.

OK, Tom and others, here we go. From Planets in Transit, Life Cycles For Living by Robert Hand. [How many pastors do you know who are amateur astrologers ...?]

The fifth sentence reads: "Be careful about games in which you and your partner manipulate emotions to gain power over each other." [I know the meme doesn't say to post this sentence, but it doesn't say not to, either ...]

Here's the next three: "Also be careful about feelings of possessiveness and jealousy, which are likely at this time. [Subhead: Moon Sextile Pluto] This transit arouses deep feelings and emotions. You desire experience at a very profound level and do not like superficial encounters."

Now, the difficult part of a meme: whom do I tag?

I figure that, if I tag someone who has already done this, they've done it so long ago that they're reading different books by now, and hence, able to play anew. So I tag ... well, that will have to wait until tomorrow.

P.S. --if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged! Comment and let me know if you've played.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Corporate USA

This past Monday, I began a temp assignment at one of the best known insurance companies here in our region and most especially in the Land of God's Right and Left Hands.

It has been just over 7 years since I last worked at all in Corporate America ... but I guess it is kind of like riding a bicycle. There's always new computer software to learn, always clothing and other guidelines to navigate, a cubie to personalize to some degree or not, jargon/lingo to master.

For me and others like me, there's always the added questions to consider --come out or not? Tell the truth about how I spent my weekend or not, especially as sexual orientation is not one of the protected categories on this companies' diversity/non-discrimination statement [and it would probably be a very cold day in Hell before it was included, unless the state makes it a mandatory thing.]

But this is not a particularly chatty working group, because the work we are doing is so detailed and requires one's full attention, so, thus far, no one has asked and I have not offered much information. But I am prepared to do so when it is appropriate.

A new issue for me is whether or not to come out as a pastor or not ... but I'll write more about that later --my lunch break is almost over, and I need to go call DH, who is really missing not having me work from home.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Five: The Water and The Word

Rev H Rod shares this timely Friday Five:

In this Sunday's gospel Nicodemus asks Jesus, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Poor old Nicodemus! He was so confused about the whole "water and Spirit" business of baptism.
For today's five, tell us about your baptismal experiences.

When and where were you baptized? Do you remember it? Know any interesting tidbits?
1st time as an infant, St. Augustine RC Church, Dallas, Texas
2nd time as a young adult by a UM pastor whom I now wish would have told me that rebaptism was unnecessary and helped me find a way to remember my baptism and confirm my faith instead.

What's the most unexpected thing you've ever witnessed at a baptism?
There was the time in seminary when one of the worship classes arranged for an infant baptism to take place during chapel. Because there was no font, the baptism was to happen in a brand spanking new, bright and shiny metal washtub, set up on a table. Pouring the water in the font was a part of the ritual ... which created a highly suggestive sound that everyone immediately recognized. We laughed ... then several of us made a dash for the restrooms.

Does your congregation have any special traditions surrounding baptisms?
A former congregation in the DFW area of which I was a part always had service at a nearby lake the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. The service always featured at least one baptism by immersion in the lake.

Are you a godparent or baptismal sponsor? Have a story to tell? Neither experience for me.

Do you have a favorite baptismal song or hymn?
"Child of Blessing, Child of Promise" sung to Stuttgart

BONUS: I practiced for my first infant baptism with my roommate's Shitzu, reasoning that she [the dog, not the roommate] was dressed in white, about the right weight, squirmed a lot and was kind of difficult to hold on to, just like a baby in a satiny baptismal gown. That was before I practiced with the infant himself.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tag! I'm it!

Heidi over at sh-OUT tagged me for a meme!

Thanks Heidi! Like you, this is the first time I have been tagged.

The rules for the meme are:

1. Link to the person who tagged you. [check]

2. Post the rules on your blog. [check]

3. Share six non important things/habits/quirks about yourself.

I hate writing with dull pencils
I collect small pieces of paper with notes on them ... but may never refer to them again
I don't mind TV commercials but hate radio commercials [NPR rocks]
I am obsessive compulsive about reading road signs
I often forget to trim my toenails --which is why I will be buying DH some new sox today.

4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.

I tag Rainbow Pastor,
Quaker Pastor, and
Processing Counselor.

5. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Creating Change Did, Part 2

Have I mentioned that I had been a part of the Host Committee for Creating Change since May 2007? I was one of the co-chairs of the Spiritual Needs Subcommittee.

I have met many wonderful people and have made some new friends down state.

Our duties were to make sure there was a Tranquility Room, a kind of spiritual drop in refreshment and meditation center, to make sure there was a Friday evening Shabbat service, to execute a Naming ceremony of our dear departed as a part of the opening plenary and to create an interfaith service.

Interfaith services can be really odd things. Sometimes, one gets a sense that the people who design them are just filling a certain number of slots to make sure everyone is represented. They can be something like a talent show, so to speak, or a variety show. It's the difference between a collection of pearls and a string of pearls.

We as a committee didn't want to do that. We wanted a service that had some movement to it, that appealed to certain common human needs for nurture, that would take people to a different place and accomplish some transformation. We wanted there to be revelation and beauty, encouragement for those journeying along the activist path.

We almost accomplished it.

Here are some things I have learned along the way.

1. Not everyone knows what an interfaith service is. Not everyone understands the difference between interfaith and interdenominational. Some people at an interfaith service, if given opportunity, will still insist that their particular spiritual/religious expression of faith is the only salvific way, or will use language that implies that, and not realize how hurtful that is.

2. No matter how carefully one plans and prepares, there will be surprise obstacles to negotiate, some as "big" as a missing grand piano, some as "little" as a missing jump drive.

3. How we say things is ever bit as important as what we say. How we do things is ever bit as important as what we do. If the process says something different from the content, people will remember the process more than the content.

There's so much that I have learned being a part of the Creating Change Hosting process.

These are some of the ideas that, thanks to Creating Change, I must spend some time exploring:

Access/Privilege. I participated in an exercise as a part of creating change where I experienced being denied access --to renting an apartment, getting a job, applying for a loan-- because of my gender presentation and also because of a language barrier. I was one of the lucky ones --I didn't start off in jail, which was also a possibility in the exercise. I wasn't as fortunate as some who were ushered to a "head table" laden with food and non-alcoholic wine. I was glad I had at least two privilege cards to pull --my education and my varied job experience. Did I pull them? You betcha.

How ableism, racism, sexism and heterosexism, gender rigidity, sexual rigidity is tied-in with patriarchy and privilege. Bp. Gene Robinson said [I think] that we are about the business of undoing years and years and years of misogyny and patriarchy in order to see justice done. Matt Foreman chided gay men who have nothing positive to say about women and do not allow women --and trans people-- at place at the power tables which exist in our community.

Unfortunately, I think because of the non-inclusive ENDA and for some other reasons as well, the Bi/Pansexual community got left out in many of the speeches I heard. My Bi/Pan friends continue to struggle with a certain lack of acceptance in the LGT community as well as the straight community.

Creating Change Did, Part 1

Create change, that is.

It has taken about 3 days for my head to stop exploding with the ideas and concepts to which I was exposed.

There for awhile I thought I would never make it there. DH's estranged father passed away the week before last, and, although she felt uncomfortable about going, we did indeed attend the funeral last Tuesday. [The ELCA pastor did a very nice job with that, by the way.] That put me behind in my preparations.

Then, a 13 inch snowfall created almost blizzard-like conditions so that I was unable to drive down Wednesday. I was really bummed out about that because I did so want to attend the all-day institute on faith-based organizing that took place the following Thursday. Fortunately, I know someone who was present for that event, so I'm hoping I can have a conversation with her about what she learned.

By the way, a huge shout-out to Rainbow Pastor, who let me crash at her place throughout this event, which was part of the fun. She provided me a bed and I provided her with transportation, since her car was having issues. I met some of her friends too --that was cool. They are awesome people.

I was part of a presentation team Friday morning, then filled in at the last minute as one of the presenters for the workshop I wanted to attend, on the non-violent method of communication called LARA --Listen, Affirm, Respond, Add On-- developed by Bonnie Tinker [the Executive Director of Loves Makes A Family] and others. I had had some training in the method, but wanted more ... well, I certainly got it! Some good ole' OJT.

Friday evening, I worshipped at a Shabbat led by members of one of Detroit's local reconstructionist temples --that was also an awesome experience.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Friday 5

Sally, one of the RevGalBlogPals from across the pond shares this:

There is so much going on this weekend that I thought I'd provide an options Friday 5!!!!

First: Superbowl ( someone explain to this Brit the significance)- love it or hate it?
5 reasons please!!!!!

What's fun about the superbowl: the commercials [usually], the parties, often the halftime show, watching people watching the game, wardrobe malfunctions and other unexpected events

What's not fun about the superbowl: the hype, that usually the game itself is a disappointment

Second: Candlemas/ Imbloc/ Groundhog day/ St Brigid's day- all of these fall on either the 1st or 2nd February.

1. Do you celebrate one or more of these?
2. How?
3. Is this a bit of fun or deeply significant?
4. Are festivals/ Saints days important to you?
5.Name your favourite Saints day/ celebration.

I'm thinking I would like to cultivate the practice of celebrating Saints days as a means of enriching my faith. I could care less about Groundhog Day.

I'm looking forward to reading everyone's posts on these questions.

Bonus- 2nd Feburary is also my Birthday- I will donate £1.00 for every comment on my Friday Five Post to the Methodist Relief and Development Fund.