Things I’ve been reading

A Point of View: Can religion tell us more than science?

Myths aren’t relics of childish thinking that humanity leaves behind as it marches towards a more grown-up view of things. They’re stories that tell us something about ourselves that can’t be captured in scientific theories.

Just as you don’t have to believe that a scientific theory is true in order to use it, you don’t have to believe a story for it to give meaning to your life.

Myths can’t be verified or falsified in the way theories can be. But they can be more or less truthful to human experience, and I’ve no doubt that some of the ancient myths we inherit from religion are far more truthful than the stories the modern world tells about itself.


Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.

“But wait! I don’t want that, either!”

Well, no.


The WORST way to start a home bar (and how to do it right)

I didn’t just start a home bar. In one night I purchased 20 bottles of liquor that I had either seen/tried/heard of, all which I assumed would make for good cocktails. No such luck. Not only was I completely out of my element, but my ignorance was so extreme that one or two of those bottles were so bad that they are still in my possession TO THIS DAY.


Leisure: what we are here for

“The vacancy left by absence of worship is filled by mere killing of time and by boredom, which is directly related to inability to enjoy leisure; for one can only be bored if the spiritual power to be leisurely has been lost.” Worship is in a sense pointless. It is not a means to an end, it does not produce anything: “the act of worship sets up an area where calculation is thrown to the winds and goods are deliberately squandered, where usefulness is forgotten and generosity reigns”.


The Pride of Busyness

Because to Lee, like so many of us, work had become the way he measured his value.

So we push ourselves harder and harder. We sleep less, we work more and we do indeed accomplish a great deal.

But in the process we begin to forget how to sit,

and think,

and breathe,

and pray,

and read for pleasure,

and have a real conversation with a friend, or family member or spouse

and savor a drink for its flavors and complexities, not its ability to chemically induce either wakefulness or sleep.

Here’s the dirty little secret of the gospel of busyness: It promises us a full and satisfying life, but, in the end, it makes our lives emptier. It uses us for what we can contribute, and in the process we live less, feel less, even love less.


Relig-ish: Hear Our Prayer

I do not feel a particular allegiance to the governance of this nation. I don’t pledge. I often feel like a stranger here. But I do experience the power of Place and the way deep calls to deep when we are in the land of our birth. I am a part of this place, and it is a part of me. That is why I am experiencing such discord–for we are not living the way of the cross.

We execute. We bully. We deny entire nations the right to exsist. We throw around our power in ways that are not in service to others.


The Heresy Of Silence – QuakerQuaker

In a sense, those who practice the prayer of interior silence view scripture as a vast and extended metaphor or allegory for the experience of inward silence. This contrasts with a rationalistic approach to scripture, which is non-metaphorical, and views allegory as a kind of betrayal of scriptural truth as allegory and metaphor undermine the necessity for a literal interpretation of scripture.

Some things I’ve been reading

I lieu of sharing my own thoughts, here are some other people’s writings that have impacted me lately.

Awkward from Carl McColman.

Jesus Walking On The Water: A Sermon Sarcastic and Serious from Nadia Bolz-Weber

Reading Revolution: 14 Marvelous Modern Libraries

Just Another Woman at Michfest from Alice Kalafarski

A Prayer for Humility by William Barclay

Greenbelt Sermon from Nadia Bolz-Weber

Worshipping God Through Our Sorrow from Caleb Wilde

Encountering The Monster That I Am from Peter Rollins

The Trash of the World: Paul And Universalism from Peter Rollins

“What We Need Is Here” by Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

The Queerness of Christ: And over Or

Two weeks ago, Shannon T. L. Kearns wrote an impassioned call for a Queer Theology Synchroblog.. His post got my wheels turning, and what follows is what I wrote in response.

Santuary Collective Empowerment Project.

I came to queer theory and deconstruction at the same time and experienced them in much the same way. In both I found that the binaries which defined reality were faulty delineations. I found that the messiness with which I experienced life wasn’t a defect of my own, but my experience of reality bumping up against the arbitrary walls of those binaries.

It started with gender. Nearly every association I had with maleness was like sandpaper on a good day and like a razor wire wall on a bad day. It took moving past the binaries of male/female, man/woman, masculine/feminine to get to a point where something in gender made sense. No longer was there this class and that class. There was a mass of relationships, like a tag cloud, through which I could move. Ultimately it was my identification as genderfucking and genderqueer that led to my finding anything comfortable in gender. It went from being a constraint to being a plaything, a medium in which to create myself. Queer theory was my entrance into moving past either/or into and.

And.

How could I not fall deeply into the and? When I named it, and echoed through my being. I suddenly saw it everywhere. It was at the core of my (polyamorous) sexuality. It was at the core of my spirituality. Since before I can remember I sang the praises of the God-and-Human who was life-in-death. As Patrick Cheng said, “I believe that Christianity is, at its very core, queer, and the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a deconstruction of basic binaries… That’s why for some folks, Christianity is so hard to wrap their heads around, precisely because it blurs so many boundaries.” I had been steeped in blurred boundaries my entire life, but never saw them. Indeed, the same forces that steeped me in them worked hard to deny that the blurring ever existed. They were hidden behind strict rules of behavior which clearly defined those within the boundaries and those outside, but once I saw in the center of my faith the explosion of the Creator/creation duality I could feel the very queerness of Christianity. In Christ was Creator-as-creation and God-as-human and life-in-death. The boundaries didn’t look blurred to me. They were exploded! I was no longer a soul living in a body. I was a nephesh, a life. Just as moving beyond man/woman brought me closer to my own experience, moving beyond Creator/creation and beyond soul/body brought me closer to my self and my God. It’s here that Queer Theologies have affected me most deeply. More than understanding gender, more than celebrating sexualities, more than understanding sexual ethics is the understanding that And takes precedence over Or.

In that last paragraph I counted more than twenty mentions of myself. How could I not mention myself so often in such a writing? But as long as I’m immersing myself in exploding binaries, why should I stop short of me/you? How far down this queer journey can I take those distinct categories?

Who am I?

In On Religion John Caputo discusses Augustine asking that question as well.

In your eyes, O Lord, he says, “I have become a question to myself.” So these two questions, the question of God and the question of the self, go hand in hand for Augustine. So much God, so much self: the more I am inwardly tossed about by what I love, the more I am tossed about by the question of who I am, in virtue of which this sense of being a “self ” is stirred up and intensified. That is why I think that I am being very Augustinian when I say: we do not know who we are – that is who we are. I do not question the self, but I treat the self as a question.… Who am I?, I ask with Augustine, and the answer is, I am a question unto myself. Who am I? The answer that comes back is another question; the answer is to keep questioning, to keep the question alive.

Even the boundaries that define the self dissolve into the question “What is the self?” The question is the important part, not the answer. The answered self is limited, defined and in opposition to the other. The true self is the self that cannot be answered nor defined. It is in relationship with the other, not in opposition to it. As David Dark says,

[T]he idea that any of us can have meaning alone or be the authors of our own significance or have joy for which we only have ourselves to thank is a death-dealing delusion… that implies that a strong, successful few of us might somehow gain our lives without losing them… I am because we are. Whatever self I can be said to have is the gift of self I receive from my relation to others.

I went down the queer rabbit hole when I questioned man/woman and I found my questioning not answered, but echoed by my God. I followed the question so far that I have become something that is not but is. There is no me that is not in relationship with you. I am only inasmuch as others are. I do not exist independently, but interdependently. I am undefinable as I only exist in relationship with you. My boundaries do not end where yours begin. My self is changed by its contact with you. I am made new, and once again I must ask “Who am I?”

I do not question the self, but I treat the self as a question… Who am I? The answer that comes back is another question; the answer is to keep questioning, to keep the question alive.

And that is the great gift of queerness and queer theology to me. I open myself to being changed by you, by your reality. I let down the patrol of the boundaries that keep me in and keep you out, not codependence, but interdependence. The queerness of Christ leaves me open to you, to us, to acting as Christ’s body, to a life in which our differences and our particularities are recognized, but not used as reductionist definitions of us. The queerness of Christ situates me in a world in which, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.”

Santuary Collective Empowerment Project.

Here are the list of other participants in the synchroblog so far:

Shay writes Queer Theology Synchroblog home.

Brian writes “Why Queer Liberation Must Be Queer Led”

Cindi writes Queer Theology From a Reluctantly Queer Theologian

Gabe writes The Queerness of Christ: And over Or

Christians for Justice Action write “Imagine the Possibilities Four Years From Now”.

Darrel writes “Queer Theology: Outside the Box” at the Blog of the Grateful Bear.

Ken writes Queer Theology.

Peterson writes Lazarus Come Out!

Mike writes Queer Theology Synchroblog #SCEP.

Cindy writes Creative Differences in the Image of God (this link opens a PDF)

Jules writes Being Queerly Forward

Vince writes Loving Promiscuously: A Queer Theology of Doing It

Alison writes Why I’m Queer Too

Sonnie writes God Made Me Queer

Ellen writes Through A Glass Queerly

Steve writes In Solidarity

“That’s so gay.”

I admit it, I don’t know how to respond to people using the phrase, “That’s so gay.” For years now it seems that people have been using this to mean “That’s stupid” or “That’s ridiculous,” and to me it’s so freakin’ obvious that such a use came from seeing gay people as stupid or ridiculous that I can’t even see how people can say it without being aware that they’re being insulting. It’s just so glaringly mean!

My feeling offended by the phrase has been met with “Well, language evolves,” and “I don’t mean homosexual, I mean stupid.” I can’t argue with those. They’re true statements. They simply don’t get to the root of why that phrase is so very fucked up.

The fact that language evolves doesn’t excuse us from looking at the forces pushing the evolution. Most slang develops to provide a signifier that the people using it belong to the same class. Often it’s a way that non-dominant groups create power, by molding the language to their culture. It’s a way of defining against, of building a shorthand that says “This person is like me.” One of the most obvious examples is among teenagers, for whom defining themselves against their parents and their parents’ culture is of supreme importance. Building slang, changing the meanings of words, these are ways that they say “I’m not you. I’m me.” As part of a person’s development, this stage is necessary.

Another part of the evolution of language is seen in reclaiming words that were once slurs, taking the power-over away from the words and using them as power-with the group that they slurred. Gay men referring to themselves as “fags” can be an example of this (though such usage can also be derisive). Claiming the words “dyke” and “butch” as part of a self-defined identity is another example. Words that were used to hurt can be appropriated by the people attacked with them and redefined.

“That’s so gay,” isn’t a reclamation. It’s use doesn’t come from a group whose oppression was evidenced in it’s previous usage. “That’s so gay” comes from the oppression itself. Being gay or appearing gay is so derided that it becomes a synonym for stupid or ridiculous. The driving force behind this evolution in language is homophobia. By participating in this evolution of meaning, we take part in furthering institutionalized homophobia. That’s not to say people using the phrase are homophobic, but they are participating in cultural homophobia, equating “gay” with “stupid.” The meaning the individual puts into the phrase doesn’t take away from that homophobia. The intended meaning being “That’s stupid” doesn’t remove the link made between “stupid” and “homosexual.” “I didn’t mean it like that,” doesn’t remove the force behind the words used.

But I’m left wondering how to confront the usage of such a hurtful phrase. Pointing out the roots of homophobia in the words seems to result in defensiveness and walls being throw up so that communication stops. Saying “I find that phrase hurtful, please don’t use it around me,” just means that at best I’m not going to hear it, not that I’ve actually been able to communicate what’s so hurtful about the phrase. So how do I say, “I’m not calling you a homophobe, but your language is homophobic and hurtful regardless of your intent,” in a way that people will hear it and understand and not feel defensive or insulted themselves. How do I set aside my own incredulity at people not seeing the insult in their words long enough for me to lovingly explain the insult?

That’s where I’m left stumbling. I just don’t know how to do that, or if it’s worth trying when people just don’t want to hear it.