Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Angry and Ashamed

Images are beginning to come out of Russia that are breaking my heart as the Russian Orthodox population, suppressed and oppressed for decades under communist rule, seems to be turning into the oppressor against their LGBT brothers and sisters. If the rhetoric from the Putin government sounds terrifyingly like extreme right wing religious propaganda from here in the states that's because it IS extreme right wing religious propaganda imported from the states.

The 2014 Olympics are scheduled to be held in Sochi. I think that the IOC needs to bring its considerable influence to bear on this matter and I think that all sane nations need to boycott these games should the Russians continue in their brutality. Especially since these laws do not only apply to Russian citizens. If you are an LGBT person vacationing in Russia right now would be a spectacularly bad idea. Do we really believe LGBT foreign athletes will be safe from persecution, prosecution and detention?

What makes me ashamed, rather than JUST angry is that we, American Christendom, have exported this HATE to our brothers and sisters in Russia. Our graceless, hate filled, anti-GLBT rhetoric is no longer just killing our OWN children in droves but it's now killing people we've never met half a world away. I am concerned that this monster we have created may actually now be too big for us to stop. In Russia, just like in Uganda, the seeds were sown by a hate-mongering "pastor" named Scott Lively. I refuse to link to him but here is the LINK to what the Southern Poverty and Law has to say about him and the damage his "work" has wrought worldwide. He is currently facing a lawsuit because of his "work" in Uganda. Does the "Kill the Gays Bill" ring any bells? That little gem is the direct result of Scott Lively and those like him.

It is VERY easy in a country with constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of religion and speech counterbalanced by the principle of the separation of the church from the state to dismiss and overlook the potential for damage these wolves in sheeps clothing are capable of doing but as we are seeing world wide the time for ignoring these fools and hoping they'll go away is long since over. The voice of a handful of extremist evangelicals like Scott Lively set this mess in motion, the collective voices of the sane majority is the best chance we have of stopping this beast before it becomes history repeating itself in a modern replay of the atrocities committed by Hitler against LGBT persons during the holocaust.

It is time for progressive Christians to stand up and be heard. We are a rapidly growing segment of the Church and we have held our tongues and silenced our prophetic voices long enough. Some of us have been able to see for years where the "hate the sin, love the sinner" rhetoric was going to lead. I have never been more saddened to be right. People. Real people. People created in the image of God and beloved by him JUST AS THEY ARE are once again being persecuted and DYING because of our complacency. It is time to say ENOUGH!

Get involved with Amnesty. Get involved with The Trevor Project. Petition the IOC and the White House about our continued plan to host/participate in the 2014 Olympic games in Russia. Whatever way you can make your voice be heard, do it! Our LGBT brothers and sisters around the corner and around the world deserve no less.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Matters of Privilege

Last night I had the awesome experience of an evening out with the incomparable Miss Bella Duballe (Connie, Connor, Brandon, Karl and Skip...y'all missed out!) and driving home from the club about 1 in the morning I asked, because I am insatiably curious, why drag? In the context of answering the question the issue of empathy for what those of us born women go through to conform to the ever changing ideals of beauty came up and we ended up in a conversation about well, privilege basically.

As a biological male, Slade has things that he never has to worry about UNTIL he becomes Bella. Those are things that I, as a biological female, must always hold in the back of my mind. Things like, "Is it safe for me to walk down the street in this outfit?". Things like, how far is the closest parking to an event space and is that parking going to be safe after dark? Not to mention the thousand little things that just seem to be part and parcel of being a girl. Like shaving my legs and donning uncomfortable support garments, and HEELS (torturous evil things clearly invented by men!) and make-up that can sweat off and leave me looking worse than if I hadn't worn any in the first place (which is why I usually don't) when I go out in public to a dressy event. When Zaria comes out to play and I dance in a public space with my Desert Rose shimmy sisters, we ALWAYS have husbands or boyfriends along with us because some people seem to think that it's ok to put your hands on the bellydancers. We live in a "rape culture" where the responsibility is not on men to not rape but on WOMEN not to get raped. All of these are things that male privilege pretty much exempts everyone with a Y chromosome from.

As a straight person I have things I never have to worry about that must always be in the back of the minds of my LGBT friends. Things like how to provide for my partner in the event of my death or how to set it up so my partner can make decisions for me should I become unable to...that's EASY for me...it came along with the package when I signed for my marriage license. In our state (along with many others) I certainly don't have to be concerned that displaying my partner's photo on my desk (assuming he's fully clothed) could be a firing offense...but my LGBT friends do. I don't have to worry about being denied or evicted from housing because of who my partner is. I don't have to think about how to tell my family that I'm *gasp* Straight. No one is going to send me to "reparative therapy" to try to make me into a lesbian. I'm not going to lose my church family when they find out who I love...O, Wait, scratch that. That one I did have happen...because I love my LGBT friends. Still, by and large, straight privilege, makes a million things easier for me than for them.

Both of us in the conversation are white, educated, middle class. Each of those generates its own level of privilege. Neither of us is overly likely to be shot because we were wearing a hoodie and carrying a bottle of tea and a bag of skittles for example. I live in a predominately black neighborhood. My next door neighbor has three fine sons. I fear for them because of what happened in the Trayvon Martin case. It absolutely PISSES ME OFF the garbage I am seeing coming from my friends celebrating the verdict. Because it shows that they have 1) no basic human compassion and 2) no understanding at all of the privilege that they enjoy simply by virtue of the accident of their birth.

I'm also Christian...and anyone who tells you that there isn't privilege attached to being culturally christian in this nation is an idiot and/or a bald faced liar. I will NOT go on another of my rants about our false persecution complex because it's old news to anyone that reads here. Still too many of my peers are unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge our christian privilege. Yesterday I sat on a panel in a getting started meeting for homeschoolers, SECULAR homeschoolers, and they are not welcome as members of the area homeschooling association because that association is explicitly and exclusively "christian". Which means, in practical terms, that they cannot access the collective power of 3000+ member families when it comes to creating things like band programs and sports teams and political action for their children that the "christian" families of MHEA control. I've been in job interviews where the question "where do you go to church" has been asked (illegal by the way) and the wrong answer would automatically disqualify a candidate no matter what his or her qualifications. So yes, christian privilege DOES exist and because I am Christian I benefit from it.

But I also benefit from a privilege that most WASP's like me don't...In my life I have a Bella Duballe and I have a Slade and an Austin and a Skip and a Kal and a Brandon and a Connor and a Beth and a Jennifer and a Leann and a Jeff (living) and another Jeff (gone but NEVER forgotten) and a Michael and a Jonathan and a Will and, and, and...I could go on and on and on listing the amazing gifts of LGBT friends God placed in my life over the last 4 and a half decades...but I have neither patience or space to do so. And they've been willing to share their stories with me and to welcome me into their lives and to become a part of mine. And I have a Bobby, and a Leon and a YY and a Teena and an Adrian and a whole Men's Athletic Dorm of African American athletes that I lived with (pretty much literally) for 4 years who would plop down at the desk beside my camera station and talk to me about what was going on with them and would let me ask questions that were probably, no in retrospect certainly, stupid and racist...It was Bobby who first taught me about privilege and opened my eyes to its existence.

In the wake of things like the Trayvon Martin case and the unjust verdict passed pronouncing George Zimmerman "Not Guilty" I find myself forced to examine my own privilege and pondering how to create a society where our differences don't define us. I don't have the answers but I think becoming aware of the reality of the ways we ourselves are privileged must be a crucial part of the equation. I also think knowing and listening to the "Other" is critical. It is said that "familiarity breeds contempt" but in my experience familiarity breeds compassion. We need to move out of our privileged bubbles and get to know our "Other" and listen to their truth. It's the only way we're all going to survive this world together. Because we're damned sure not going to survive it apart.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

EC13 - What does Pikachu have to do with Emergence?

Looking over the schedule for EC13 I encountered a term I've seen a couple of times before but never really knew what it meant or for that matter how to pronounce it. It was called Pecha Kucha and, being southern, in my mouth that sounds a whole lot like Pikachu. So the Pikachu presentations they became.

I had a horrific headache by the afternoon of day one, I hadn't slept well the night before, pre-conference excitement, and so when the first set of Pecha Kucha presentations began, I was dozing in the lobby and missed many of them. I woke when I heard my friend Jay Bakker's voice as he started to give his and moved quickly into the cathedral to support him as he spoke and see what he had to say. I can't capture it any better than this blogger did but I will say that the tight format of 20 slides, 20 seconds each worked beautifully. We are hoping to explore this method in the Mississippi River Outlaw Preachers group soon. Anyway, I was awake to hear Jay, Doug and one more which I have now blanked and then to see several of the presentations the second day. I'm hopeful that they will somehow be collected and share either via youTube or somewhere.

In a lot of ways I think the Pecha Kucha is an ideal medium for the message of emergence. We are, to some degree, a product of the digital age and either early adopters or natives of the digital world. Our attention spans aren't quite what they probably should be and if you don't grab our attention quickly you've lost us. 20 slides, 20 seconds each, total talk time 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Its a sermon for the twitterverse...not that that is a bad thing. The beauty of these little gems is that they do lend themselves so easily to our internet world. Also they require us to keep the main thing the main thing. If you only have 6 minutes and 40 seconds there isn't a lot of time for rabbit trails.

Distilling the messages of Emergence: Inclusion, Hospitality, Love, Compassion...into those not quite 7 minutes requires thoughtfulness and focus in order to be done well. Like the 140 character twitter limit requires conciseness of thought in order to communicate effectively. Is it surprising that these are the mediums we find carrying the message of Emergence out into the digital universe?

If nothing else, Emergence Christianity has a higher than usual number of creatives and geeks among its ranks and these Pecha Kucha things appeal to both sets. I got more of a boots on the ground vision of what was going on in the Emergence world through the "Pikachu" presentations than probably anything else the weekend of EC13. The focused passion of the presenters stood out to me. I think we might need to see more of that kind of thing in the future.

Monday, January 21, 2013

EC13 - Beginning to Process

It's been ten days since EC13 and I think I am ready to begin unpacking the event. Having spent much of that time in bed recovering from gastroenteritis I haven't been able to do much other than think about it and read what others were saying about it and marvel yet again how when you put four people together in a room you'll get at least four different versions of what took place in that room. Now multiply those people by 100 and imagine the variations of experience that took place at EC13.

I worked behind the scenes. Sometimes that vantage point is a bit like being behind the curtain with the "great and powerful OZ" and seeing that the wizard isn't all he's cracked up to be. Heck, most of the time that's what the behind the scenes vantage point is to be honest. None of us, not even the wise and wonderful Phyllis Tickle, are without our broken places and blind spots. It is part and parcel of being human. That said, I've been somewhat baffled by the brouhaha regarding the final session. I think many of us are in danger of hearing through our own baggage and perhaps over-reacting to what we think we heard.

Yes, Phyllis did say that birth control radically changed our society in a way that was detrimental to the sola scriptura role of women as the keepers at home. Can we honestly deny that? We know that at some visceral level or we wouldn't be so outraged at the rhetoric coming out of the Tea Party and their ilk as they try with all their might to undo the progress we have made as women by usurping control of our reproductive rights. Whether you liked what she had to say or not it is truth that the advent of legal birth control and later of legal abortion brought about historical change in our society so significant that we are still fighting in 2013 to keep it.

Perhaps if Phyllis had left it at that, if she hadn't tied it into the raising of children and the transmission of the faith, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Something I have noticed though is that a lot of us are ok with women having the right to do whatever we want...as long as what we want doesn't include being a full-time wife and mother. What the Bible called a keeper-at-home. Somehow when that role is the one that is chosen it is seen as colluding with the enemy. For Phyllis to hold up that role as one that perhaps we threw out prematurely in this 500 year rummage sale was tantamount in many circles to raising a red flag in front of a bull.

I am a woman who has chosen the role of keeper-at-home, at least for this season of my life, and I never cease to be amazed at those who say that by doing so I am "wasting my degree", among the kinder of the accusations I have had leveled at me in the last decade and a half when I left the career world to come home and raise and homeschool my daughter. I've had to develop a really thick skin over the past 15 years just to be true to who I am supposed to be at this season in my life. For ME what Phyllis had to say was life-affirming. In a world culture that tells me daily that I am wasting my talents, indeed robbing the world of something it seems to believe it is owed from me, hearing that there is still value in the work of keeping a home and transmitting the faith to one's family was water in a desert place.

So perhaps that part of Phyllis's message was not for the greater Emergent conversation. Perhaps that part was for me and for other women like me that were present in the cathedral that day. Perhaps not. I only know how I received it. That does not make what anyone else received from it wrong. Let us continue to converse and consider this issue with grace for one another, grace for Phyllis who was very ill and grace for this thing we call Emergence that is really still in its infancy and will continue to suffer growing pains as it finds is identity apart from those who have "parented" it thus far. Emergence isn't Phyllis...or Brian, or Jay, or Nadia, or Doug, or Tony...it is both bigger and smaller than the individuals who have been identified as its leaders thus far and while it figures out what that is lets be patient and gentle with each other. If a message doesn't speak to your reality feel free to let it pass, someone else, a desert rose perhaps, may need it more than you know.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Un-Con Blog - Year 5 Begins: Where do we go from here

When I began this blog 5 years ago I'm not sure I had a direction in mind. I wanted it to be organic. I still do. I just think that like an organic garden needs constant attention not to revert to a field of weeds this blog is going to benefit from some more regular attention. So it is my intent to blog here weekly this year and see what happens.

Early in the history of this blog I wrote in a post titled  "I Have Found My Tribe" about a group of folks called the Outlaw Preachers...at the time I barely knew any of them other than my friend Connie...since that December gathering in 2010 they have become my family. We gather weekly for a community meal, we've had other gatherings of our own and partnered in gatherings with others (the most recent being the Emergence Christianity Conference this past weekend in Memphis which I will be blogging about in another post very soon) and we've bonded to one another as we've shared joys and sorrows together. We've celebrated births and mourned deaths. What I quoted in 2010 has become even more true, we are "a family bound by having walked through hell together and being willing to continue to walk through hell together." 

Consider this my disclaimer though...the views here are not necessarily the views of the Outlaw Preachers (I don't think there is such thing as an official OP point of view actually) as a group. They remain, as always, my own contemplations and ramblings, just hopefully on a more regular and intentional schedule.