Thursday, April 5, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Thursday, February 2, 2012
(from Brian McLaren's blog)
Here's the Q:
How are you? In serious gentleness and fairness, let me say at the start, I'm not in your camp. I'm also not going to be venomous in my attacks...
[I am involved] with a ministry to the gays and lesbians; led by a couple of brothers who have found victory in Christ over their own battle with homosexuality. I pray for them regularly. They, indeed, are my heros!
I met one of them the other day and asked "should I quit interceding for you?". Of course he said "no" and then told me what to pray for. He, with deep shaking tenderness and concern said, "The church is softening its position on homosexuality". I've thought about this deeply and here's what's coming to my troubled mind.
Isn't this the ultimate act of betrayal? A couple of gentle warriors for Christ have come through to victory; and now the very institution that should be backing them up is turning her back on them.....
How can this be? I believe this should make us weep with Jesus and cause us to repent deeply... Troubled and in prayer,
Here's the R:
First, let me thank you for the tone of your note. Sadly, it's rare, I think, that folks any one of the many sides in this issue can ask a question or share a story like yours without implying insult and disdain for those "in other camps." So your gentleness and fairness are already a gift to readers of this blog. Thank you.
I think I should try to do two things in response. First, without delegitimizing your concern in any way, I should try to make it clear that the same compassion you have towards your two brothers motivates many of us to be concerned for the many brothers and sisters in our lives who are gay and have tried all available paths to "victory," and have concluded that for them, that promise of victory is a false promise that betrays them. In other words, I'm grateful for your compassion, and I'm quite confident that if you knew on a deep level a wider array of gay people, that compassion would force you to be concerned both for those who seem capable of sustained and authentic change (like your two friends) and those who do not.
And then second, I want to validate your concern based on my experience as a pastor and propose a way to be more compassionate to all lgbt people, and not only one segment.
We all come to this issue with many assumptions. Some of those assumptions aren't even apparent to us. When we surface the assumptions, we can at least discover where our deeper disagreements lie.
Many people share the assumption that their are two (or three) kinds of people: straight and gay (and bisexual). I used to believe this, but my experience as a pastor forced me to change that assumption. Now I believe that inborn human sexuality could be more accurately understood as lying along a continuum.
(This is horribly oversimplified still. And I'm aware that our understanding of sexual identity and orientation is highly contested - not just in religious spheres, but also in the social and biological sciences. I imagine that decades from now, people will look back on all our current understandings as terribly limited and unenlightened. But at the same time, we can only be where we are, doing our best to understand and speak the truth, which is always "the truth as we now see it." Also, I'm aware that there are a number of studies that provide a range of percentages for where people might like on any continuum of sexual orientation, so the numbers I'm about to propose are obviously only approximations or hunches based on a variety of scientific data. The words "about" and "or so" are important.)
If we picture people lying along a continuum rather than being lumped together in three distinct bins, I think that most of us - say about 80-90% - cluster towards the heterosexual end of the continuum. Then, another 5-10% or so are spread across the middle. Then, another 5-10% or so are clustered closer to the homosexual end.
For many if not most of us in the 80-90%, homosexual attraction rarely or never crosses our mind. We feel ourselves sexually attracted to the opposite sex exclusively, and our affiliations with people of the same sex are consistently non-sexual. For people at the opposite end of the spectrum, the opposite is the case. What we share in common is a deep sense of orientation, and to go against it would feel unnatural, unpleasant, even repulsive. Even if people in these categories could be habituated to tolerate and even derive pleasure from sexual behavior that goes against their orientation, that wouldn't remove the deeper orientation that they experience as being innate and unchangeable.
Many of those in the middle of the spectrum might be classified as bisexual. Their attractions are not clearly defined in terms of gender; personal attraction is what matters, regardless of gender. (There's another whole category we might call asexual - who experience little or no clear sexual desire - and they are often ignored or misunderstood in all the polarized debates.)
And then there are people who are naturally among the 90% who have been subjected to sexual and/or emotional abuse of some sort, or who through any number of environmental factors (chemical? parenting? nobody yet knows the mechanisms of such a process, if it exists) feel they have been brought into a state of sexual confusion or disorientation. Some people deny the existence of this category, but in my experience as a pastor, I met people who would say this accurately describes their experience, and I believe them.
My suspicion is that "ex-gay ministries" offer some help in the area of behavior-modification to people in these last two categories - bisexual people and victims of abuse. And perhaps that would describe your two friends. (By the way, people in the strongly homosexual orientation may, at a young age, manifest certain behaviors that molesting adults recognize and steer themselves towards, so just because a gay person experienced abuse as a child doesn't mean that their orientation was originally heterosexual before the abuse.)
All that's to say that I think ex-gay ministries, for all their good intentions, do real harm to authentically gay people by making a faulty moral diagnosis of their orientation (which I wrote about under "the authority question" and "the sex question" in A New Kind of Christianity), by raising false hopes about the possibilities of change, and by employing techniques that in the end only intensify their feelings of failure when "victory" either never comes or doesn't stick. But at the same time, I do not doubt that there are innately heterosexual people whose sexual identity has been damaged, or bisexual people who want to live as heterosexuals, and for them, ex-gay ministries may provide help - even though I think their moral diagnostics (including their way of using the Bible) are faulty. Perhaps one could also add to this group innately gay people who would rather live in lifelong sexual tension than be forced to leave a conservative religious community in whose belonging they find rewards that compensate for their sexual frustration. And perhaps one could also add to this group innately gay people who have married heterosexually and who, for love of spouse and children, feel they have a moral obligation to maintain a heterosexual marriage even though it requires them to go against their natural "hard-wiring," so to speak.
But I must add an experience I've had that would not in any way negate your experience with these two good friends in your ministry, but that deserves to be taken as seriously. I've met several people in this category over the years, but let me share one memory ... sitting in a fast-food restaurant with a woman whose husband had been an Evangelical pastor for most of their marriage. As she shared her story, I felt as never before the agony of another kind of betrayal no less real than the one your two friends now feel.
Before she met him, her husband knew himself to be gay, and like many good Evangelical Christians, he believed it was sinful and so he struggled against it with all his determination and spiritual fervor. Leaders in his Christian college fellowship counseled him and prayed with him, and helped him achieve what they believed to be "victory" over homosexuality. As a result, a victorious "ex-gay," he went to seminary to prepare for the pastorate. There he met and married this woman.
The only problem was the victory was only on the level of stopping homosexual behaviors. No matter how he tried to "perform" sexually in their marriage, the wife knew that he wasn't truly attracted to her as a woman. They had a son, and everything appeared outwardly to be victorious, but inwardly, they were both in deep pain.
I can't forget her emotion and conviction as she said to me, "Can you imagine what it was like, every day of my marriage for over twenty years, to know that the man I loved was faithful to me in the sense that he didn't run out and have affairs, but that he found me sexually uninteresting and even, truth be told, repulsive? Believe me, it was horrible beyond words for what it did to me, what it did to him, what it did to our son to grow up in this kind of superficially-functional but deeply-fraudulent marriage."
Add to this the necessity of keeping up the appearance of a happy Christian pastor's family ... and gradually her husband sank into depression, had to leave the ministry, and eventually, they divorced. As you can imagine, there were tears falling at our table as people ate their fast food around us.
"My life, my potential for a good marriage, was stolen by a religious system that forced my ex-husband, whom I love and respect to this day, and for whom I have nothing but compassion, to deny what he was and pretend he was something he was not. Never forget, as you speak out about this issue, about all the people like me and my son who are unacknowledged casualties of this system."
Now I should add that I know other stories where marriages like this have worked quite well, including among close friends who I know well enough to know they aren't just putting up a front. So I can only conclude (I may be wrong, but I'm simply telling you the truth as I now see it) that the men in question were towards the middle of the spectrum to start with, rather than over on the exclusively homosexual side.
So, I wish there were a way for Christian communities to accept and support brothers like the two you work with who wish to reorient sexually, without creating nightmares like the one I learned about that day in the fast-food restaurant. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that some churches and ministries will help people at some points on the continuum, and some will help people at other points on the continuum. It would be nice if each could do so without condemning the others. I don't think that's too much to ask.
I want to affirm once more your compassion for the two men you work with. And I hope readers of this blog will also hold them in compassion - and you, as well, as you share their struggle. As I explain in my newest book,Naked Spirituality, the practice of compassion is one of the most important spiritual practices ... learning to (as you said) "weep with Jesus" and so feel with God, embracing your two friends, the woman whose story I shared, and everyone wherever they are on this or any continuum, holding them with the tenderness and empathy in which God, who knows every story in intimate detail, holds so profoundly every human being, and every living creature.
So thanks again for sharing your story and your question. I hear it, and I feel it, and I won't forget it. And I hope you can hear this story as well. May we all keep listening and practicing true compassion, for without compassion there is no true righteousness or holiness.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
There is nothing we’ve imagined
that is not just a reordering of what we’ve seen.
No place or creature is original to the mind of man.
But the mind of man is an original of the place it woke up to.
Your thoughts are the mechanics of the arrangement of your
memories of senses,
in play with the longings inborn, waiting to haunt a body of thoughts.
And so, we get our stories.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The truth of God is being told at every moment, by everything.
If it seems a lie, it is not a lie, but a half told truth not yet realized. (sometimes I think our fear of lies is fertile ground for lying)
A rich man happy in his riches is a half told truth:
the honest story of man's search for meaning, his temporary belief in
his present comfort, his many beautiful things,
the certain and coming erosion of that joy, and
his necessary movement to find new happiness, or certain misery.
Sometimes that movement is jumping deeper into the half told story:
more things, more riches will appease the relative boredom of purpose
that comes with achievement...
but again, it is the first half of the story, the repetition of an exposition already told.
It is God sewing into us an insatiable desire for meaning, for true mingling-belonging in the universe that cannot be owned, but only belonged to. And the hunger to own is just the bastardized craving of being one-with. How the rancher, when he owns the land, feels it a part of him, and extension of his arms.
I see God telling the truth in everything.
Each day dies at dark and mourns until it is reborn again in blinding sharp white glory sunrise.
Everyday we must die to our self and believe the night lasts only so long as to reflect
on our death, and then believe in the coming sun.
The seasons also tell us of this true cycle of spirit.
The tides tell us.
The stages of human life and aging tell us.
And the sun, what a story of God:
It is the source of all life,
It is the marker of day and the opposite of night.
If you abuse it, if you get too close it will kill you.
If you stare at it too long, without reverence or bowing your head,
you will go blind.
How obvious it must have been to ancient people to worship the sun.
And the truth continues: if you try to find energy from other sources,
like oil and your own toil, you will some day run out...
and you will surely destroy the planet and the place you call home. Maybe not today,
but this is a half told story.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
to requote a hero of mine:
We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them
i am a piece of a focused machine that has deployed US troops
to help pursue a warlord, a mass murderer, a leader of a rape-cult,
a child destroyer, and potentially kill him and his commanders
i believe Joseph Kony is a human being with a childhood and a soul
our call is to arrest him. But we understand that in forceful arrests, he may resist,
and in that situation, he will be killed
i accept that I may be, in a way, killing a piece of a man
or many men
i accept that i could be instrumental in the death
of an american soldier fighting for congolese victims he has
no national interest in protecting
and that that exemplifies a selfless hero
and that we don't see those very often
i believe in action
and i believe in monsters
and that all human beings have the potential to be monsters
i believe in the chance of redemption, and a trial and life in prison is what we demand
and i believe in peaceful resistance to the detriment and even death of myself,
from regimes that are mistaken and capable of hearing the overwhelming voice of the people
but i also believe in sociopaths who use human beings as fleshy-holsters for their machetes. for a dark dark dark that can move into the mind of a man and turn him into a force of nature
i believe in human beings no longer capable of persuasion. or said differently, the patience it would take to continue discussion would enable them to kill another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another as I wade in blood with a megaphone saying 'please'
if a brain injury can render a man incapable of speech and motor function, could not a spiritual injury render a man beyond the reach of words and reason? resolute to destroy other human beings and amused by their begging tears? by spiritual injury i may mean brain injury. just that more important part of the brain
at that point, his prolonged days on this earth are a hindrance to his redemptive crash with the Lord.
this dark line can only be manifest in his actions and the exhaustion of diplomacy
i am crass because war is crass and to kill a man even a monster is crass
i am not the first to struggle. much greater men, Bonheiffer. Lewis. taught me these things. as did the victims.
and i believe we cling too desperately to life
like nasty bundles afraid to die
and the people most noble understand this
and the people most powerful understand this, and that power can be used for evil
and sinister spirituality and magic and murder and the LRA
and G-d understands this better than i. that when our flesh falls
He has something to do with it
that every knee shall bow
but if i am the wall, or the builder of the wall, that blocks the wave from the town
then so be it.
i would rather save the town
and stand before G-d honestly mistaken
than sit beneath the tree and write of the shame of it all
as i keep my legs pulled tight so as not to touch the blood
for we are too afraid to die, yes
but we cannot be afraid to live
and a monster makes the world afraid to live.
and a monster invites the world to produce heroes that will sacrifice their comfort
and maybe even their lives to define nobility, equality, virtue, and sacrifice
i believe the physical life matters,
i think the spiritual life matters more
but i don't know how that ties in to all of this.
but i am acting on lofty words, and have been, and believe there is virtue there.
may G-d have mercy.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
The many layers of a picture and the people frozen in the space behind the subjects
Unless the layers are the subjects and perhaps every picture is a painting of the insane
history of the universe that brought those souls to be standing behind those eternal souls
‘there are no ordinary people, only eternal souls becoming gods and monsters’ or somethinglikethat cs lewis said
i think about that a lot as i ignore a jabbering homeless woman that looks at me with distant eyes dehumanizing me as a pocket-book-preppy-asshole-with-spoiling-parents
as i dehumanize her as the result of a long string of short-sighted-self-serving-corroded-willpower-weakness-decisions
and she tells me some weak and tired lie that once probably sounded real about a bus ticket to see her children and i might buy her something at 7/11 although
i probably wont because i’m rushing somewhere far less important than the state of her life
and as with everything I am, so enter the mitigating factors of: my belief that a free society must give people the right to suffer from their decisions, and my spread-too-thin lifestyle of care can destroy me and more importantly them as they see in me a promise i cannot fulfill… blah blah
there are no ordinary people.
Monday, September 5, 2011
My skin is thinner and my jaw is set,
My bones have set and my muscles grow long and thin,
And I am a man now with the whimsy of a boy
and a fox and a canyon.
How pleasant that I sink into this body
and the wisdom of time, with wonder and whimsy intact.
I want to take off the garments made by shaky rotten wooden legs
that creak and sway.
shake them off as when you throw your arms back and fling the sleeves back and
thrust your chest to the sky
and walk up stream with some few souls.
and make a promise to my cold creek skin
to never grow tired and bitter
at a world that will not bend.
When I don't pour them into something, they mist away.
and your comments (especially those kindreds that find this a place
to connect with me) mean a lot to me.
But if anyone prefers, I'm gonna start doing this on tumblr too...
maybe even switch completely over to tumblr bc I like the aesthetic more
and I found a widget that sucks all your blogspot posts into a tumblr automatically.
just saying. just staying. just swaying.
From Seth Godin:
A hundred and fifty years ago, adults were incensed about child labor. Low-wage kids were taking jobs away from hard-working adults.
Sure, there was some moral outrage at seven-year olds losing fingers and being abused at work, but the economic rationale was paramount. Factory owners insisted that losing child workers would be catastrophic to their industries and fought hard to keep the kids at work--they said they couldn't afford to hire adults. It wasn't until 1918 that nationwide compulsory education was in place.
Part of the rationale to sell this major transformation to industrialists was that educated kids would actually become more compliant and productive workers. Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn't a coincidence--it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child labor wages for longer-term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they're told.
Large-scale education was never about teaching kids or creating scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system.
Of course, it worked. Several generations of productive, fully employed workers followed. But now?
Nobel-prize winning economist Michael Spence makes this really clear: there are tradable jobs (making things that could be made somewhere else, like building cars, designing chairs and answering the phone) and non-tradable jobs (like mowing the lawn or cooking burgers). Is there any question that the first kind of job is worth keeping in our economy?
Alas, Spence reports that from 1990 to 2008, the US economy added only 600,000 tradable jobs.
If you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, they will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do.
Do you see the disconnect here? Every year, we churn out millions of of worker who are trained to do 1925 labor.
The bargain (take kids out of work so we can teach them to become better factory workers) has set us on a race to the bottom. Some argue we ought to become the cheaper, easier country for sourcing cheap, compliant workers who do what they're told. We will lose that race whether we win it or not. The bottom is not a good place to be, even if you're capable of getting there.
As we get ready for the 93rd year of universal public education, here’s the question every parent and taxpayer needs to wrestle with: Are we going to applaud, push or even permit our schools (including most of the private ones) to continue the safe but ultimately doomed strategy of churning out predictable, testable and mediocre factory-workers?
As long as we embrace (or even accept) standardized testing, fear of science, little attempt at teaching leadership and most of all, the bureaucratic imperative to turn education into a factory itself, we’re in big trouble.
The post-industrial revolution is here. Do you care enough to teach your kids to take advantage of it?
Saturday, September 3, 2011
I sit beside my sister today, she is fresh home,
and grasp a gift of adulthood.
When you see the woman as you see the stranger,
studied for what she is, her face a unique mystery
of shape and familiar structure. I see my face in hers,
and I see a face that is new to me.
and so I put on the shelf of nostalgia
the bundle of inconveniences,
as children see their siblings, as only in relation to them.
And I see her for what she is, or at least partly.
What a wonderful gift of age and distance.
Friday, September 2, 2011
If you catch me with blood on my hands,
when I am forty,
with a cul-de-sac comforter
and plenty of soft and malleable money in the bank,
If you catch me with blood on my hands,
because my heart has hardened to the softness of empathy,
and my cage is not the earth and the handiwork of G-d
but rather the ends
of my real.estate.
If you catch me with blood on my hands,
please come to my gilded door,
and throw red paint on it.
but first knock,
so that if I'm home
and if I can pull myself up off the leather couch,
you may paint me as well.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Friday, August 19, 2011
How do you digest a hurricane? How do you swallow the moon and the earth lit up by the moon? Some things are too big, too inextricably bound up in the world to be consumed. I want to know The Fourth Estate. A conference designed to spark an ideological movement: a commitment to global citizenship and responsibility to justice. I want to analyze and categorize it. But it cannot be held in my hands because there were too many miracles in the orchestra to hold.
Each individual experience, the unique events of every life and the wash of one video on one pair of eyes and a speaker’s words on another. I will never know the stories, the ruffles of the heart that were the very moment of a life change, or the seed falling in the crack of stone, invisible for years, only to grow into a mighty tree in years I will not know.
I held the face of new loves, cried with them as we said goodbye, I hugged a million works of art and wrote my name in books that will hold the words of great men and women not yet written.
I spoke with my heroes, listened to them address and articulate a future and a present and the human condition.
I heard great minds give credit to science for life, to God, to something more but not quite God. Each man, each woman bringing her motivation, the deeper hunger, to the stage, inviting each member of The Fourth Estate to take the wild wonderous magic of living seriously, the profound duty to examine the phenomenon of existence and behave with intention. Intention is everything.
If these members walked out a bit dizzy, stumbling over thoughts too big for the brain, we have done our job. If these members walked out convinced of nothing except the dignity of human beings and a desire to protect that dignity, then we have done our job.
If these members exchange self-serving profit for life-serving purpose, if they see their lives as part of a living body, and not an ignorant cancer, we have done our job.
If we prioritize worthy things, and marginalize unworthy things. If we celebrate beauty and mystery and belonging, and if we critique abuse, the rape of the human soul and the natural world, the fragmented fiction that my choices are separate from yours… then we have done our job.
If we stop blaming injustice on laziness, culture, and history, and start solving injustice with love and focused attention, then we have done our world a service.
And if there is a God, He will be well pleased.
As I traveled the east coast in an RV, celebrating Brady’s bar exam, exploring the Carolina’s and sitting at Lincoln’s feet in DC and walking the streets of New York with Orion (a fresh poet’s eyes seeing the temple of man for the first time), I carried with me the glory of The Fourth Estate. The sense of purpose, the crater of impact scarring my face and shoulders with value. It was a haunted drive, my thoughts present in the Charleston rain and above the clouds in the lingering ghosts of the prior week. It was the perfect meal: swallowing the moon with brothers of chosen blood and adventure, digesting the hurricane that circles inside me, wrecks the islands of doubt and rests its quiet eye over my heart.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
This is what I'm writing for work. It is the manifesto for an ideological movement of citizenship and global identity.
Every generation is invited to endow its share of history with a name. It begins with recognition. If the events of the day are marked by a growing contrast: the comfort of some is removed by a widening chasm from the tragedy of many, and the voices of the dying are hushed by the hands of the wicked, such a day is set to end.
This recognition is followed by response. First, by bold symbolic action, usually by the young.
Then, in the audience of the effected, a proper articulation of the problem emerges. Then a movement of change, often sweeping so quickly the Establishment fumbles to trace it.
We are at such a time.
The Fourth Estate is a recognition of human identity in the face of global connectivity and the responsibility that flows from it. It is a blueprint of the future founded in humanity's bold endeavor to seek a more perfect peace, a more perfect unity, and a more honest expression of success.
We have always experienced empathy for our neighbor, our family. In a novel age such as this where the stories and faces of humanity writ large are brought to our living rooms, our eyes and our ears, and what's more: our products and consumption touch the globe as a whole: this empathic responsibility has outgrown its ancient limits of proximity.
It is a coalition of minds that believe there are no national boundaries, no laws, no man made rules that trump the law of common humanity written on the heart. It is not something new, it is the proper expansion of something old, truths that are self evident, God-breathed, and manifest in the history of discontent:
We believe all men are created equal, and that justice for some is not justice for all. We believe that human evil is the responsibility of all men. When we turn our face from horror, we bless it to continue. We believe our task is to live the simple and true things, and work them out no matter how hard: that men and women, no matter where they live, are equal. and loved. and worthy. and that we are all connected, not just in a complicated global exchange of goods and commodities, which is undeniable, but in a human web of innate value.
And these things define us: We are not the intellectual elite. We are not the bored idealists in the lounge chairs of comfort. We are the young people on the sidewalk. We will sleep where we fall and work until our hands are raw, connected like never before to the central nervous system of mankind.
In the face of a modern world that is inextricably connected in a web of exchange, we accept the responsibility to protect those that are victimized by extreme cases of injustice. It is not 'their' problem. It is a humanity problem.
We believe in starting with the specific to prove the universal. We are starting with Joseph Kony, the rebel leader of the Lord's Resistance Army that has systematically abducted children to fight as soldiers in his rebellion.
We will not ignore his murderous campaign simply because his escapades do not impact us economically or threaten us militarily. We will respond because he destroys human life.
And our responsibility to protect does not invalidate our national identity. We believe in the pride of cultural expression and society. But we do not believe in the fiction of self-interest in isolation. Our choices echo to every single corner of this globe, and we should respond with reason and temperance.
To the degree in which society denies the affect of its choices on its own citizens and those of its neighbors, is the degree it will fall victim to history as a failure. As a decaying monster.
It is about rejecting the concept of the 'other,' the belief that 'they' are the problem and 'they' are out to get us. We understand that 'they' are us, and we are 'them.'
When we acknowledge the mystery of value in every human life, and witness to such, we thrive, and succeed, and protect one another.
We choose to stand up for that belief. We will fight for it, expand our talent, exhaust our bodies in its pursuit, and define a generation of human belonging.
We are The Fourth Estate.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
- Kalle Lasn