Take Bread Together, With Wayfarers and Wastrels

A pastor recently stood at the stage of the American Baptist Biennial meeting in Kansas City. He stood up during the business meeting to say something he had on his chest. On his reading of that day and our present moment in our lives together, our denominational beliefs were insufficient.

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Has Fat Gotten A Bad Rap?

Oh man WordPress allows reblogs now

The Dish

A new book claims so:

[The Big Fat Surprise author Nina] Teicholz describes the early academics who demonised fat and those who have kept up the crusade. Top among them was Ancel Keys, a professor at the University of Minnesota, whose work landed him on the cover of Time magazine in 1961. He provided an answer to why middle-aged men were dropping dead from heart attacks, as well as a solution: eat less fat. Work by Keys and others propelled the American government’s first set of dietary guidelines, in 1980. Cut back on red meat, whole milk and other sources of saturated fat. The few sceptics of this theory were, for decades, marginalised.

But the vilification of fat, argues Ms Teicholz, does not stand up to closer examination. She pokes holes in famous pieces of research—the Framingham heart study, the Seven Countries study, the Los Angeles Veterans Trial, to…

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It’s not our fault people weren’t listening

A friend clued me into a HuffPo article about this thing Dan Savage is up to. Long story short, it’s an “It Gets Better” project in which Savage’s “NALTs” get to say to a camera that they aren’t bigoted.

I’ll have to think about whether I want to do this, or even support it. To be honest, I have a problem with Savage’s NALT stuff. It reminds me a little bit of conservative Christians who demand that Muslims denounce extremist Islam, all while the fact that many Muslims do denounce extremism on a regular basis and their denunciations are simply ignored by those who demanded the denunciations in the first place. I am part of a Baptist organization, the Alliance of Baptists, that has been vocally supportive of gays and lesbians publicly since 1993, well before many other  denominations, and regularly condemned anti-gay bigotry in public statements. I’m also a part of an organization, the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, that has been working on these issues since the days of American Baptists Concerned, decades ago.

Savage’s complaint about NALTs always seemed to be more that non-traditionalists didn’t have a good public presence, which relates far more to our being sidelined as credible voices of USian Christianity by more conservative Christians than to some failure on our part to vocally denounce anti-gay bigotry in Christian community. Dan Savage only got told “we’re not all like that” so many times because those of us in the W&A communities had been so thoroughly excluded from places of power for so long that we had no platform from which to make our denunciations resonate. When Dan Savage assumed that our Christianities were synonymous with these Christianities we didn’t follow, we were understandably upset that our efforts were being ignored not only by our co-religionists, but by the LGBTQ community we either were allied with or were part of ourselves. And we told him so.

I get where Savage is coming from, but the idea that the people Savage called NALTs were somehow only privately so, in a “just-between-me-and-Dan-Savage” kind of way, always seemed a frustrating sleight of hand that belied the relative power imbalance between traditional and non-traditional Christian communities. I’m just not sure if I can in good conscience support popularizing a term that I think is dismissive of non-traditionalist Christianities.

But I can see the good in the effort, all the same. Perhaps it is a vehicle for the heretofore diminished media capability of the Christian W&A movement to actually get some credit for doing what it’s been doing for decades in the midst of a thoroughly oppressive broader church environment. I just think Savage would do well to remember that most NALTs have not been quietly wandering through that environment. We’ve been kicking and screaming.

On Deterrence

I’m currently working as a chaplain in a clinical pastoral education program at a hospital on Chicago’s south side.  When I started, I worked in the emergency room.

My second week on the job, a boy was brought in.  I won’t forget him, because when I learned his birthday, I learned that he was almost exactly as old–or rather, as young–as my little brother.  It does something to you when a boy as young as your brother is on a bed before you, his whole body shaking, his side ripped open by a gunshot wound he suffered while going from his home to visit a friend.  It means you don’t forget.

A guy had walked up to him and shot him.  Simple as that.  He was surrounded by friends when it happened, too, friends who helped him get to the hospital.  And when he got there, I had to hold his hand, and pray with him, and help him call his mother when his fingers were trembling too much to use the touch screen on his cell phone.  He had a mother, oh yes.

He was shot in a part of town with plenty of “concealed carrying.”  Whoever shot him knew that.  The perpetrator saw him there, surrounded by friends, and an educated guess would have told him the truth: that someone in that group was carrying a weapon.  Probably more than one person had one.  And they most certainly knew how to use it, and use it well, even without the proper credentials from the state.  And yet that individual, knowing the risks, knowing that return fire was not only possible, but probable, walked up to that young man and shot him.

I hesitated to share this story.  I have removed anything identifying because of the confidentiality of the pastoral visit, and hesitated to share because the body of that boy was as sacred as any I’ve encountered, an image of God struggling through pain to hang on to life and safety.  But maybe my sharing his story, even in this truncated form, can lay bare the real meaning of the Greek word martyr. It means witness.

It’s an story worth sharing, because it is worth remembering the next time someone tells you that the way to prevent crime is for everyone to carry a gun.  Because in this part of Chicago, many, many people are.  And yet a man still walked up to this boy, this boy surrounded by people who could credibly be assumed to be “packing heat,” and put a bullet in his belly.


“Comfort ye my people,” cried the tenor, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

For the hundredth time, I heard the music pivot, and I heard the words of the Prophet on the lips of a young man I do not know, and the proclamation rang forth.

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low.  The crooked straight and the rough places plain.”

And for the first time hearing this music, I heard it.  It reduced me to tears and prayer.

I am the mountain; at times the valley.  There are rough places in me, there are crookednesses that must be straightened out.

The world is filled with the lowly, teeming and yearning for their deliverance.  The world is filled with the 1%.  In my society I am not one of them; in other societies I am wealthy beyond measure.  There are injustices and evils, roughnesses, wickednesses, crooked roads of systems and sins that destroy the vision of this world.

But I was reminded in the pivot of a tenor’s voice that the highway we build is through our hearts and through our worlds.  It does not conform to the strictures of the terrain, wind and wrap around and twist and climb mountains and plunge through valleys.  The highway we make for our God in ourselves and the world exalts the meek and lowly, humbles the proud and powerful, rebuilds what is broken, and smooths out the sufferings of the world.

We predict and wait in Advent upon a Christ whose birth drives out the fear, that proclaims good news, a Christ met by poor and rich alike, a manger in the meanest cave exalted to the most sanctified space in creation.

There is much in my life right now that stands in need of healing and wholeness.  There are worries.  I cried when that music pivoted, I wept at its beauty and its truth, and my tears were both contrition for my faults and joys at the promise that God-with-us in Christ has promised to build Her great highway through the center of our heart, and our world.

Advent began for me, truly, this night.  Maybe a bit late, if the church calendar is to be believed, but thanks at last be to God.

Thoughts on something sad

I came across the following post this morning, and it really breaks my heart. In it, “Cop’s Wife” explains the aftermath of a simply beautiful post she made around Halloween, “My Son is Gay.”  The new post, “Epilogue,” is about the way the church preschool where she took her children kicking her out for that post…accusing her of violations of the Eighth Commandment.  I recently preached my first real sermon on the Eighth Commandment.  Doesn’t mean I know everything about it, of course, but enough to know that it sounds like the pastor in this case is misjudging the semantic between the terms “exercising Christian chastisement towards a violater of the eight commandment” and “finding flimsy pretext to abuse a parishioner.”  This is what the pastor did:

The second discussion was a face-to-face meeting during which Squirt was present. I was handed a printout of the church’s response. There had been a meeting with some Elders, and they decided I’d broken the 8th Commandmentand not followed Matthew 18. I was told that some members were worried that I was “promoting gayness.” I don’t even know what that means. The words I had written were not promoting anything other than unconditional love and tolerance. My post was about bullying and how my son was treated. My post was about a 5-year-old child. Pastor said he “tried to be mad at me, but couldn’t.” I didn’t and don’t understand why he would want to be mad at me. Again, Boo’s well-being was not mentioned.

There’s some of this that I won’t touch.  The whole “promoting gayness” thing, well, these folks are wrong and I have no intention of fighting that battle with them.  On this point, what they have to say about gayness I hold as wrong and thoroughly without charity, and with 1 Corinthians 13 as my authority I will interlocute with them on the subject no further.

But what is striking to me is the invocation of Matthew 18.  I assume that the verse the church is considering highly is 6: “‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.”  Which probably means the church thinks that dressing up as a woman will somehow make this child gay, and thus be an occasion for stumbling.

Yet in the post as it was presented, the child came forth with the desire to be Daphne.  The child conceived the idea; and when he had doubts, his mother encouraged him to face the world bravely, and not only that…in so doing she evinced a clear conviction that the world did not have to be a place where children and adults abuse each other for any reason, heaping ridicule on one another, but rather supporting and building each other up.  Such a evidenced faith in what the world can be is, in my mind, a hallmark of what Christians claim the world is, in that it is the end towards which the created community moves.

But I’m getting farther afield than I intended.  The verses the church is presumably citing in defense of its bald-faced abuse miss the beginning of the chapter, 18:1-5:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

The pertinent points are two: a five-year-old boy has chosen to dress up like a woman for Halloween.  What might it be like if, instead of punishing or preventing him, we thought of how we might become LIKE him?  There is a beauty in his act, an innocence of circumscribed and socially-constructed gender roles, to act in this world as if rules of outward form and performance are unimportant and adhere only to the movement of the spirit in the moment.  Would that all God’s children were gifted with such wise innocence!

And the second point is more pertinent: in rejecting this family from their church and thus their church preschool, as the epilogue suggests, this church has willed NOT to welcome this child, or his two siblings.  That’s, on my counts, THREE separate Christs that this church has rejected, if we are to take Matthew 18:5 as seriously as Jesus does.

And so the only question remaining is, how does this pastor sleep at night?

So far, so good

Well, being vegetarian is actually going pretty well. Breakfast has mainly been something like a bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese and/or a banana with peanut butter. I have some oatmeal and got some walnuts to toss in with it, but I haven’t made that yet because I’m often running out the door in the morning.

I also used to hate oranges, namely because peeling them was messy. But I’m starting to really appreciate the process of peeling an orange; especially the ones out of the Grounds of Being fridge. They are always way cold and I like oranges at more room-temperature, so there’s this process of slowly rotating the orange and letting my hands speed up its warming, so by the time it’s done it’s about the time of day that the 6:30 breakfast is done. And the process of peeling and then cleaning an orange of that white stuff takes time and care, and is actually productive in that it gives me something to do with my hands during Schweiker’s lectures, helping me stay more focused on Thomas Aquinas. I believe staying focused on Thomas Aquinas may actually be the final cause of an orange.

Lunches have been mainly boca burgers. It’s nice to have them, because I normally don’t eat lunch, which is actually not a very good thing to do because it messes up your metabolism, according to people I know who know things about this and tell me them. But boca burgers are quick and easy and I get tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after about two days worth of eating them.

I’m planning on making Manda Ratatouille sometime soon, maybe next Saturday. On Thursday was when I had the fish, a really great crab-stuffed sole filet that I had in my freezer, leftover from the stuff my parents sent me for Gandalf Day. I have another one left, I think I’m gonna save it for a night when I feel like eating a more robust meal. And Ruthie and I went out last night to get veggie burritos at this place nearby, where we also talked about if certain people were gay and how BDSM might actually be an example of being actualizing to good. Every once in a while the other people in the burrito place I think overheard us so eventually we left because the dirty looks were unbearable.

And so yeah, it’s gone well so far. Tonight I don’t really know what’s on the menu, but I have some mirepoix that I chopped and set aside a few days ago, so I’m thinking I might take that and make a soup. Or maybe make egg drop soup, but I’d have to go to the store to get some scallions and sesame oil, so…maybe not. I don’t really feel like buying anything right now.

That’s it. Also I have a sermon to write on forgiveness so…gotta do that.